'American Idol': Sensitivity Training
To the uninitiated, the Best of the Rest auditions episode of "American Idol" may look like leftover bits and scraps collected from earlier episodes in which the competition's judges visited audition cities around the country. And Wednesday night's so-long-it-lasted-into-next-week bit, in which "Idol" judge Simon Cowell learns how to hold a broom, did nothing to change their minds.
But serious students of "Idol" know the Best of the Rest episode is super-important. Serious students know contestants with whom viewers have not bonded tend to get the fewest votes -- and the hook -- in the early voting. Serious students know the Best of the Rest episode was conceived as a way for the producers to let viewers get acquainted with some of the wannabes the producers would like to see get through to the final competition.
Such as Amy Davis, who tells us that growing up with a family "lower than lower-middle class" -- we think that means "poor" -- has given her an "extreme drive" as we watch footage of her shaking her booty for the "Idol" camera.
Watching the judges interview the other contestants for the job of American Idol is like a training video from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on What Not to Say to a Prospective Employee During a Job Interview.
Amy's interview, for instance, went like this:
"You are in a very good place right now," Simon says.
"Yes, you are in a very fantastic place," judge Paula Abdul adds.
"And nice shoes!" adds judge Randy Jackson, pulling out the traditional "Idol" euphemism for, um, "shoes."
"Thank you!" Amy gushes with extreme drive.
"You're a very pretty girl," says Paula. "What is your ethnic background?"
Amy is not very good, but they put her through to Hollywood because they like "the possibility" of her "vocals."
Which is this season's new euphemism for "nice shoes."
And here comes Cardin McKinney, who is a total letdown, given all the blather about her in the blather-o-sphere. In her black-and-white photos on all those fan blogs, she looks very hot. In the Best of the Rest episode, she's a bit of a frump in a shapeless wrinkled red dress, and her performance is very small-town nightclub act. She tells the judges she's a "server." "Server" is to waitress what the Screen Actors Guild's "female actor" is to "actress" a.k.a. The Same Thing.
They put Cardin through because they think she can "grow."
By "grow" they mean . . .
And plus-size model JoAnne Borgella. By "plus size" they mean "like the majority of people in the country." Which gives Paula permission to tell JoAnne she thinks her size has "always been an issue for you," adding patronizingly, "I think you're stunning."
How about Alesha Stelzl, who has a voice like Dolly Parton's, only she tries to sing like Celine Dion.
Paula and Randy tell her she sounds like Dolly Parton -- Simon thinks they're crazy. Randy and Paula tell her to go learn a Dolly Parton song and come back. Alesha does not know who Dolly Parton is, but she learns a few bars of "Islands in the Stream" and comes back and she sounds -- like Dolly Parton. So Randy and Paula put her through to Hollywood, even though she lacks Dolly Parton's "shoes."
"I hate to admit it -- you were right," Simon tells Paula and Randy about the whole Dolly Parton thing.
Randy and Paula are stunned. "This is the first time it's worked out," Paula gushes. She high-fives Randy.
Chikezie Eze is back -- he auditioned last season. He's at least as good as any of the chicks the judges put through this episode, but Simon doesn't want him to go to Hollywood because having heard him sing he feels he knows all about Chikezie. Even Paula can't make sense of that and she and Randy put Chikezie through.
But perhaps the most offensive interview was that of Danny Noriega, also a previous season rejectee, who says he's going to sing "Proud Mary" to which Randy replies, "Of course," and Paula adds that Danny knows who he is.
"Of course" and "you know who you are" appear to be this season's euphemisms for "we think you're gay," replacing previous seasons' "too Broadway."
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