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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some thoughts on tonight's broadcast of the Season 9 premiere of American Idol

1. First of all, this is Simon Cowell's final season as a judge. He's a unique personality on the show and on television in general, and American Idol will be lacking without him. Fox will undoubtedly try to fill his shoes with another abrasive middle-aged man with a sharp tongue, but it will be a step down no matter what they do. He's irreplaceable.

2. Oh yeah, Paula Abdul's gone. I barely noticed. Now there's only one inarticulate babbler left behind the judges' table. Speaking of whom....

3. Randy Jackson manages to be rude even when complimenting someone. He usually sounds something like this: "Y'know, dawg, when you first came in, I looked at you and I was all like, I don't know if this is gonna be good, but you worked it out, dawg, you did a'ight." Also, someone needs to help Randy grasp onto the concept of numbers. This "one-hundred-and-ten-thousand-billion-kajillion-yes-you're-going-to-Hollywood" stuff is getting out of control.

4. The new judge, though she won't be joining the ranks until the Hollywood rounds, will be Ellen Degeneres. I love Ellen, and am excited to see what she brings to the table because she's witty and talented and often hilarious, but shouldn't they have gotten somebody from the music industry? Like, I don't know... Deborah Gibson, or one of the Bangles?

5. Kara DioGuardi is one foxy lady. And kinda scary.

6. Round 1 of the auditions took place in Boston. Do you think the show's music producer saw the irony of using California-band Augustana's 2006 single "Boston" as the episode's theme song? Or was he (or she) just like, "Hey, the song's called 'Boston'! Perfect!" Remember, these people are trying to get out of Boston and go to California. For my part, I think they should have gone with a certain native Boston band's 1976 classic "Foreplay/Long Time." Check out the lyrics:

It's been such a long time
I think I should be going
And time doesn't wait for me
It keeps on rolling
Sail on
On a distant highway
I've got to keep on chasing a dream
I've got to be on my way
Wish there was something I could say

(Or, you can listen to it in my playlist at the bottom of the page.)

It doesn't get any more theme-appropriate than that.

7. The guest judge for the Boston auditions was Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham. Again, why not secure a Bostonian? Donna Summer or James Taylor would have brought some clout to the proceedings. It would've been way cool to bring on Tommy DeCarlo, the current demo-and-a-dream singer for the band Boston. Or, get Boston native Conan O'Brien. I hear he may need the work.

Not that I'm complaining, really. I never noticed before tonight how strikingly, naturally beautiful Victoria Beckham is when she's not striking a pose and being all posh. She also brought a very welcome sense of decorum, which nicely complemented Scary Spice DioGuardi. And, boy, is she tiny!

8. Best performance of "Ring of Fire" ever! Johnny Cash has nothing on... whomever. (I'm being waggish, of course. It was awful.)

9. It's come to my attention that having those outstandingly awful contestants audition on television is tailor-made "reality TV" by the producers. Not that these are not actual, real eccentrics with big dreams and little talent. I'm sure they are very real and painfully actual. But every contestant has to go through a preliminary audition before ever reaching Simon and the others. Otherwise, those three or four "face" judges would have to sit through thousands of auditions, which would take much longer than the two days allotted. Which means that those prelim judges are obligated, maybe even contractually, to send through the worst of the worst so that prime-time TV can have its reality train-wrecks. This seems somewhat disingenuous to the contestants and manipulative of the audience... oh, right, Fox Reality. Of course, without such a process, the world would have gone on spinning in ignorance, forever deprived of William Hung and Bikini Girl.

10. I really am just a sucker for this show. But there is something about the shared experience of live television, and about event programming and even serialized drama in general, that appeals to me. It's the idea of being connected, however inconsequentially, with millions of other people around the country. It's one of the reasons I still prefer to watch Saturday Night Live when it's live, even though I know it will largely suck, to be in that moment with the rest of a vast audience. It's why I like to see a potential blockbuster film in a packed theater on opening night. Plus, as a bonus, when it comes to Idol--I just love having something so ripe for criticism before me. It's an outlet, and sometimes even a creative one. (And a much better outlet for my unbridled sarcasm than close friends and immediate family.)


Charles Beach said...

I applaud your courage and the nausea-free condition of your digestive system which enables you to sit through two hours of some of the worst singing ever recorded. I usually begin watching AI only when they reach the finalists, because then there are people performing who may actually be able to sing better than I can. Last night, because I was chatting with another friend who was watching AI, I deviated from my normal practice and watched a little. A girl sang a plausible rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (weird only because the lyrics point to a male-only vocalist), but she was immediately followed by some Yahoo who couldn't even carry a tune in one of those humongous cruise ships.

I look forward to hearing your assessment of the finalists. And of Ellen the judge in reality, as opposed to the idea of Ellen as a judge. (I have never been convinced of her talent, but her previous media forays--sitcom and talk show are not among my preferences.)

Michelle G. said...

I agree with you on almost all of this-- Cowell cannot be replaced. I liked that Posh Spice was there, because it seemed like she maybe knew Simon from before (don't all British people know each other?) so she sort of put him in his place a few times--always a good thing.
I don't think Kara is scary but she is not intimidated by the boys. :) And Randy is sort of a doof. I hate how he gets all mad almost and then says YES. Why don't you just say no if you don't like someone? It's like he is constantly trying to please Simon. Wimp.

Kapricious T said...

I wouldn't call it "nausea-free," but it's about the same nausea-to-song ratio as when I listen to pop radio. I think the thing I most enjoy is seeing the reactions of those whose dedication to their dream has just paid off. The tears, the laughing, the celebrating--maybe I'm a sap, but it makes me feel good.

Ellen Degeneres has some good stand-up routines, though I couldn't possibly tell you off the top of my head which of her routines can be found in which of her specials. I never watched her sitcom. I wouldn't have been allowed to watch it when it was on the air, especially after her character announced she was gay.

Kapricious T said...

Michelle -- I agree with your assessment of Kara. I very much enjoyed watching her stand up to Bikini Girl last season, because that chick needed to be taken down a few notches. I like that she isn't intimidated. But she herself can be intimidating.

Kapricious T said...

Dr. Beach -- I got a kick out of your capitalization of the term "yahoo."