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'American Idol': The Riddle of the Sphinx

It's Hollywood week, so naturally "American Idol" opens in pretend-Egypt with host Ryan Seacrest sitting atop a sphinx with Hayden Christensen, star of the Fox flick "Jumper," about how the hotness gene is somehow connected to the ability to travel without having to suffer through airport security. Through the miracle of corporate synergy, Seacrest and Hayden are magically transported to the "Idol" auditions scene, where Seacrest suggests Hayden and he get together afterward. Secure in the knowledge this extremely uncomfortable moment will cause millions of "Idol" fans to run right out and see this flick over the weekend, Fox gets to the business at hand: winnowing down a pool of 50 contestants to just 24 semi-semifinalists.

Cut to scene of carefully lit judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell arguing about the mixing and matching of their semi-semifinalists and then they're done. It's time to break it to the contestants.

As in years past, contestants will have to take the Elevator of Unbearable Suspense, then walk the Hall of Terror to get to the Folding Chair of Horror in which they must sit to learn their fate.

Ronald Hodge goes first.

Ronald Hodge gets whacked.

Oh no!

Not Ronald Hodge!

We have absolutely no idea who he is, having not seen him for a nanosecond on the show to date!

This is such a shock!

Nina Shaw. Gone.

Mycale Guyton. Gone.

Lisa Aukerman. Gone.

Devastating losses, to be sure, had we any interest in these total strangers. Which we do not.

Ah, but here comes someone we know. Carly Smithson, the Irish work-visa-challenged former professional singer who sold, like, only 300 albums.

Carly Smithson (Fox)

Paula bats Carly around like a mean old cat with a little tattooed mouse, making her sit in the Folding Chair of Horror while she prattles merrily on about how the judges look at the competitors' personalities, how they present themselves, that San Diego was not Carly's "shining glory," she came to Hollywood and had some really nice moments and then became that shy girl with self-doubts. Simon tells her to shove a sock in it.

"I think she wants 'yes' or 'no,' " is what he says, now that I think of it.

"I think you should be quiet, Simon," snaps Paula, who proceeds to spout some drivel about Carly knowing who she is as an artist, while we curse the Writers Guild of America for taking off the negotiating table its demand to represent reality series.

Finally, having exhausted her supply of pabulum, Paula breaks it to Carly that she's one of the semi-semifinalists.

"You tortured her," Simon admonishes. Right as usual.

Delusional David Cook and his crayon-red receding hairline get through, which gives the lie to the producers' statement that this year's group is the most talented ever.

Amanda Overmyer, the rocker nurse who sounds like a chain-smoker, turns out to be a respiratory nurse. We love the irony and that she's through to the semi-semifinals.

Amanda Hawkins. Buck Smith. Gone. Gone.

Again, we have absolutely no idea who these people are, but we're happy for them that they're being executed quickly and humanely, rather than discovering the hard way that Idolettes who have received no airtime during the auditions phase are always quickly given the heave-ho by viewers.

Ah, but here's someone we know.

Brandon Green, Fingernail Hoarder. He's also cut. Nope -- can't work up any outrage. We're happy he can go home and get that much needed therapy.

David Archuleta, former "Star Search" winner, gives a totally unconvincing performance as a modest kid, telling the "Idol" camera he's always doubted his talent and thinks all the people who lavish praise on him are "kind of tone deaf" and are just being nice to him " 'cause I'm so little." Millions of "Idol" viewers at home experience simultaneous rising nausea.

David Archuleta (Fox)

Naturally he's through to the next round, though the judges try to make it sound like it was a tough call, with Simon saying they took into account the fact he's only 16 and they "have to spend a little more time on people under 18 to make sure you are confident enough with what could happen next."


Pretty blonde kick-boxing, horse-selling Kristy Lee Cook, former kinda professional singer, is told she's made it to the semi-semis. Ditto No Smokin' No Cussin' No Drinkin' Brooke White who, contrary to what we were shown the previous night, made a hash of her piano performance in Hollywood, causing Simon to cringe. How he went from cringing to that "you have this whole Carole King/Carly Simon thing going on" rave, we don't know.

Danny Noriega, who "knows who he is," gets through as do Luke Menard and Jason Castro, who will learn the hard way that without airtime during auditions weeks they are as good as dead in this competition.

Shaun Barrowes -- who? -- won't have to find out the hard way 'cause he's out.

Alexandrea Lushington and Ramiele Malubay make it. But Miami Sound Machine Chick Lorena Pinot does not -- ouch! Ditto Farmboy Drew Poppelreiter, who tells Randy, Paula and Simon this means he won't miss turkey season.

Former professional singer Michael Johns is a semi-semifinalist, which hopefully means more "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Paula tries to torture Syesha Mercado:

"How do you feel about where you stand in this competition, blah, blah, blah," says Paula.

But Syesha is armed with the perfect comeback line: "I don't know -- I'm just waiting for whatever you guys have to say."

Paula tries to attack from another angle: "What word is inside your name?"

(Hint. The answer is not H-A-M or C-A-D. It's Y-E-S.)

Did you know Paula could spell? Me neither.

"You made that very confusing for her," Simon scolds. Again -- always right.

Robbie Carrico, boy-bander/possible Britney boy-toy turned rocker with razor phobia, gets through.

The producers are running out of time. Paula's running out of words she can spell. Simon's running out of patience. Garrett Haley, Kady Malloy, Chikezie Eze, Amy Davis, Alaina Whitaker and Jason Yeager all zip through to the semi-semis.

Asia'h Epperson reminds us -- again -- that she lost her dad the day before her audition. We are officially over that. But she has a good voice so we're not displeased when she's put through.

David Hernandez likewise, though Simon tells him he's going to have to work much harder if he's going to have any chance. Sounds ominous, except he got airtime in Hollywood.

Lives in Car Guy a.k.a. Josiah Leming, is next to take the Elevator of Unbearable Suspense to the Hall of Terror to sit in the Folding Chair of Horror. He tells the camera he thinks he's going to be put through to the semi-semis. But, sadly, we know he's a goner, because they only have one more guy slot left, and that slot is always decided by making two guys simultaneously take the Elevator of Unbearable Suspense, walk the Hall of Horror, and sit in Twin Folding Chairs of Horror. He takes it hard.

That leaves just Colton Berry -- who? -- and Running for Governor Guy, the extremely likable Kyle Ensley. Colton makes it, Kyle does not, which, Simon wants us to know, makes him very, very angry because, while he thought Kyle wasn't a very good singer, "you have something I thought people would have enjoyed."

So, all this time we thought the annual Idolette Dweeb Guy was put into the competition over Simon's objections when, turns out, he's the guy behind the tradition. That Simon has hidden depths.

Of the last two chicks competing for the one remaining chick slot, Cardin McKinney and Joanne Borgella, Seacrest says, "there was no doubt both girls had the talent," as we see a clip of Joanne screaming and Cardin flouncing around off-key.

Inexplicably, they choose Joanne.

Vote for your favorites among the final 24 on "American Idol."

By Lisa de Moraes  |  February 14, 2008; 7:24 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Next: 'American Idol': Top-12 Guys Do the '60s


As usual, dead on analysis.

All I can say is: Carly Smithson?!?!? Nooooooo!

Posted by: WoW | February 14, 2008 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Syesha - showin' off her shoes...

Posted by: Rob Iola | February 14, 2008 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Paula is just s-o-o-o tiresome.

Posted by: shelley | February 14, 2008 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I was really really unhappy that they cut Josiah - I thought he had a lot of potential and was really a true undiscovered talent, which is what I think the show is supposed to be about. . .

Posted by: Anonymous | February 14, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone think this group is really that much better than previous contestants?

But whatever.

My money is on the "Star Search" winner, and (not a chance it's her real name)Kristie Lee Cook .

Posted by: Justin | February 14, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I read the entire thing and found one nice comment...

Former professional singer Michael Johns is a semi-semifinalist, which hopefully means more "Bohemian Rhapsody."

That was pretty impressive from my favorite idol basher. I was a little dismayed that you managed to insult a contestant who lost her dad the day before her audition. Do you really think it is her fault they bring it up? I am pretty sure it is the Producers who ask the questions and have her talk about it. A little sympathy might be nice!

Posted by: wow! | February 14, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Didn't American Idol have a clause that stated the the contestants could not have had a recording contract in order to participate? I remember there was some drama after Kelly Clarkson won that some people thought she had a recording contract but she really only recorded a demo that never went anywhere.

Posted by: Hmm... | February 14, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The best group of "american idol"??? WHAT??
You have got to be kidding. I have only been watching AI for the last 2 seasons but come on??? I was shocked to see some that made it versus some that didn't.

Gonna be a loooong season.

And that last move between Joanne and Cardin. PLEASE! Joanne could blow much better than her. Some "suspect" choices.

So thankful that Big Brother is back!

Posted by: sonel | February 14, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Does Idol get a free pass on the horrible editing of this week's shows? We're led to believe that Hollywood is broken into "Day 1," "Day 2," etc. but Simon's outfit changes multiple times within the same day, only to re-appear in a different order on the next day. The worst editing error, however, was when the final two contestants are before the judges and the judges ask, "Are you the last ones?" They reply, "No, there's still two more," which of course there isn't after the show's been edited.

Posted by: Matt | February 14, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Matt, I caught that, too! Confused me for second, there.

Posted by: Ally | February 14, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I have to say I was really peeved that they cut Josiah. They spend the whole time talking about how they want a more "contemporary" sound, and they need people to sing newer songs, then lo and behold they get the guy who sings Coldplay--really well, and they cut him for a bunch of Carly Simon, Celine Dion, Brian Adams sound-alikes.

Posted by: ouch | February 14, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Pookster - it was a wooden chair a la Marlo, not a folding chair. That's ok, you were dead one with everything else!!

Posted by: furniture man | February 14, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I for one am glad that car-boy was eliminated. Although he is original, he isn't a very good singer yet, he has trouble with pitch and timing and keeping his voice quality steady. Definitely a second-rate Blake Lewis. I think he has a good voice and should work on it. Given a couple of more years (he has 12 more years of eligibility after all), I think he could be a really good performer, but he was too raw and unpolished to deserve the chance this year.

Regarding the "last two" comments, the problem is that they take 12 guys and 12 gals. They just flipped the order they showed the last two guys and the last two gals. Not great, but not horrible. But otherwise, I do agree that this was a really sloppy edit job.

Last, it may not be the "most talented"
but it is head and shoulders above last seasons mediocre crop of semifinalists. There were several of the top-50 this
year that got cut that were much better than some of the top-12 last year. Since last year was our first year watching AI live, I can't speak for the previous seasons.

Posted by: Dadwannabe | February 14, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Didn't American Idol have a clause that stated the the contestants could not have had a recording contract in order to participate?

Posted by: Hmm... | February 14, 2008 10:26 AM

The key there is that they can't CURRENTLY be under a recording contract. It says nothing about the past.

Posted by: Dream Out Loud | February 15, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

The key there is that they can't CURRENTLY be under a recording contract. It says nothing about the past.

Posted by: Dream Out Loud | February 15, 2008 09:19 AM

And this is why it is trickling out that Kristie Lee whatever-her-name-is (the girl that supposedly sold her horse to get the money to make it to audition city) actually had a recording contract and cancelled it so that she could audition. It turns out that she had left Oregon (where she supposedly lived and sold the horse) several years ago and is currently residing in Texas and had that contract.

What gets me is when contestants for a pop reality show lie about things like that on national television. Don't they know that with several million people watching that some of them know how to use Google?

Posted by: Dadwannabe | February 15, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I like lives-in-a-car-boy a lot. A LOT. That said, I am actually not at all surprised he didn't get picked. As one poster pointed out, he is still getting his pitch and timing (but especially pitch) under control. And he definitely needs some more maturity/toughness. But most of all, he's simply not right for the competition - he should be in a band, writing original material and honing his craft by touring, touring, touring. (And since he lives in his car, the lifestyle won't be a shock as it is to some others!) Great, interesting, intriguing musician, but a musician, not a "pop star". (Blech.)

Ironically, all of car-boy's tics and quirks should annoy the hell out of me, I think Coldplay makes the whitest, most safe-and-boring music on earth (I CANNOT STAND THEM!), and I HATE when Americans sing with British accents. But somehow, he makes it all work. Huh.

Posted by: J | February 15, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

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