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'Idol' in Omaha: Corntastic

"American Idol" holds auditions in the country's heartland for the first time, and discovers Omaha is "famous for its corn," which is so important they decide to lead the show with this breaking news.

"They grow a lot of corn here," we see Randy Jackson telling fellow "Idol" judge Simon Cowell.

The educational part of the show over, they get down to auditions.

Starting with Chris Bernheisel, who is a Los Angeles producer's dream Heartland Person.

He brings the judges plush toys as gifts. He brings them a photo album filled with pictures of him with first-edition winner Kelly Clarkson. He tears up explaining how he's waited years to audition for "Idol" because he never had the money to travel to those big cities where auditions were held. He says unintentional double-entendres, like: "I feel like I could explode and happiness is going to go flying everywhere." He says " 'American Idol' is about giving people a second chance at their dreams," putting to shame legions of cynical big-city bloggers and TV Columnists who've been on a tear about how many of this year's contestants already have varying degrees of professional music careers. Second chance -- who knew?

Naturally, Chris has no singing ability and, when so informed, begs to audition to cover the red-carpet happenings at the next "Idol" finale:

"Welcome to the season finale of 'American Idol.' You've been with us from the first note ... now, America, you decide."

Simon tells Chris to call the local Fox affiliate and tell them they want to see him covering the finale for their station.

Chris tells the camera he "just won the lottery ... See you on the red carpet -- God bless!"

Jason Rich, who works on a farm, forgets the lyrics to his song -- three times, and yet gets sent through to Hollywood, where, just guessing here, he's going to choke. Which brings us to the annual medley of people who forget the lyrics to their songs.

Rachel Wickler is a singer-arm wrestler, who wrestles show judge Paula Abdul and host Ryan Seacrest -- but Simon won't play. Rachel sings a country tune competently, but Randy nicks her for doing a yodel-y thing with her voice because, yeah, that never works for a country singer.

Sarah Whitaker is dressed up for a screening of "Rocky Horror Picture Show," only this is not that, so she does not get through even though she used to be a professional wrestler, Lady Morgue, with a fake British accent -- like Britney -- and a demonic laugh. "You're just really strange, Sarah," says Simon, the only judge worth listening to.

Sarah leaves the audition room, but Ryan enters, wondering why they didn't put her through. Simon, peeved, demands Ryan take Paula's place so he can learn the hard way how tough it is to be an "American Idol" judge. Which is a set-up, surely, because the next person to audition is the best on the episode, Samantha Sibley.

Samantha has a nice, jazzy voice. Ryan goes first and tells her he likes her voice but she needs to work on her self-confidence and stop spinning on the mark. Paula storms back into the room and says, "Since when does that matter -- it's about singing," and Simon says that's exactly his point, too, and he guesses Ryan's learned now how hard it is to be a judge.

Only then Paula and Simon tell Samantha exactly what Ryan said, but they call it "your showmanship needs improvement."

And all the while the judges are making fools of themselves, Samantha stands there looking like she's wondering why someone of whom the New York Times said a couple of years ago her debut at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room was "akin to discovering signs of spring in the first crocuses poking their way through the soil" has to put up with these clowns.

Good question. Second chances.

Angelica Puente is this year's contestant desperate to get a parent's approval. She gets sent to the Hollywood round and then has to suffer through the traditional Phone Call to Estranged Parent. Dad comes through, telling Ryan his daughter has always been his American Idol. Nice save, Dad!

"Idol" gets the last laugh on Chris Daughtry, who was quoted the other day saying the show had hit the skids, by showing clips of him now and calling him one of the competition's "biggest success stories," even though, of course, he didn't actually, um win, didn't even come in second and is, in fact, the most successful fourth-place finisher ever -- selling more than 3 million copies of his Daughtry band's album, and, Ryan says "encouraging rockers to step up and take their shot," though I'm thinking Daughtry would tell it differently.

Anyway, that includes David Cook, who is, I'm pretty sure, the first rocker to ever audition for "Idol" in an argyle sweater vest, though his hair is fauxhawked, kind of, and the bangs have been dyed Brenda Starr Orange.

Leo Marlow is the last auditioner of the trip to the Heartland. He has a good voice and the added benefit of saying right off the bat, "I think my mom said, 'I raised the perfect homecoming queen -- too bad it wasn't one of [my] daughters,' " so if he wins he won't have to deal with those pesky "are you gay?" questions to which "Idol's" second-season year success story, Clay Aiken has had so much trouble finding just right snappy comeback.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 30, 2008; 7:26 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Next: 'American Idol': Miami Sound Machine


Idol is getting better every week because they are showing way more winners this year. I actually think I'll follow through to the end, rather than tune out after the auditions. Didn't care at all who won last year.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 30, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Chris Daughtry: Talk about biting the hand. Not including other Idol winners, but how many other new artists already have a built in fan base BEFORE his first release. I've heard snippets of his CD, it sucks and I'd venture to guess that most of those 3 million CDs were bought by...Idol fans.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 30, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Just fyi, the link on the WPost homepage that says it leads to the fabulous deM instead links to "The Three Wise Guys" blog. Why, why do you webfolk not love the Lisa?

Posted by: Phillygal | January 30, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Brenda Starr! What a great reference.

Posted by: arlington | January 30, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

To American Idol: Omaha is a city of a half-million people. Yes,corn is grown in NEBRASKA, but not in Omaha!

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Posted by: An333D | April 6, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

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