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"Idol" Overhaul


What has Fox done to our "American Idol"?

They warned us this season would be more aspirational, less cutthroat, in keeping with the times, but kicking off in Phoenix with Louie Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World" over shots of judge Simon Cowell actually smiling, the traditional Weeping Winners reel --- and a rainbow? Plus: shots of Simon winking. A shot of a huge man in a pink bunny suit picking Simon off the ground in a Big Bunny Hug. The treacle is running in rivers.


Photo: Michael Becker (AP Photo/Fox)


"I am the voice in the crowd that needs to be heard," some wannabe Idolette says to the camera.

"I am a dream," declares another.

"I am a superstar in the making!" boasts yet another.

This show is not about the destination, "it's about the journey itself," host Ryan Seacrest warns.

The've added a fourth judge and now the show looks like "The View." "Idol" newcomer Kara DioGuardi has major recording chops, and was presumed to have been added to ratchet up the Paula Abdul crazy, but, in the first episode at least, she adds little to the returning mix of Abdul, Cowell, and Randy Jackson. As in seasons past, Jackson seems to have had some kind of a makeover -- this appears to be his Botox season.

Fortunately, the "Idol" producers still feel compelled to service fans of the Spectacularly Lousy and the Surprisingly Good Auditions.

Very first seen auditioner of "American Idol '09": Paint-by-Numbers Michael Jackson Guy. Buhbye!

Emily of the So I Will Never Have to Sit in an Office tattoos is made out to be a heartless wench for having left her band to audition for "Idol." "Just forget friendship, loyalty," Simon sneers. Atta boy, Simon!

Crying Rockstar in a Box Guy is next, promising this will either be his Moment to shine (not), or he will, like the comet -- which comet he does not say -- be a bright shining star and crash to the ground. Mostly, he just cries buckets, and sheds his most bitter tears when Whoopi, Elizabeth, Joy, Sherri and Babs don't send him through to Hollywood, despite the fact that he has suffered mightily for his art, having nearly sweat to death in leather pants for a full day in the scorching Arizona sun.

J.B. is one of those good performers you like to see, hoping to make it through to Hollywood because "this is my chance to change my life...to help out the family," but his moment is marred when Fox splashes a Jump the Shark-esque Ford Focus banner across the screen during his segment.

Note to Fox: if you're working that hard to tug at our heartstrings, why would you go and wreck the moment with crass commercial overtones? Have the little Ford Focus car race across the screen when Simon and Paula are arguing. Better fit.

Michael Gurr sounds like a cat in heat; X-Ray leaves all four judges speechless. Perky, good-deed-doing Arianna Afsar is one of a slew of 16-year-olds seen auditioning in Phoenix -- an obvious attempt to beef up the show's dwindling younger audience.

"I think we're going to find some incredible talent here," says New Judge Kara at the start of the second day in Phoenix, making us feel foolish for having said she doesn't seem to be really bringing anything new to the mix.

Elijah Scarlett is lousy, which is too bad, given his stunning deep voice. After that it's Scary Pink Songbook Girl -- who says she's Kara's biggest fan and/or a cross between Hillary Duff and Madonna, which should have set off about a dozen red flags after this year's "Idol" tragedy.

Lovely Stevie Wright sings Etta James, which puts her ahead of the pack, though Simon tells her to "grow teeth" because she's not cruel enough to make it in the biz.

After a huge roughneck guy gets through because he sounds so sweet, it's time for Nasal Bikini Babe -- another "American Idol" first.

The addition of Kara means there's now an even number of judges -- but Simon's vote gets extra weight. This explains why Nasal Bikini Babe is on her way to Hollywood, despite an appreciable lack of singing talent. She does, however, have long legs, and she knows how to wear a very small bikini and tramp things up, prattling on happily about how much attention the get-up has brought her and promising Seacrest she will make out with him if she gets sent through to Hollywood. Seacrest's reaction is something along the lines of "Uh....Idol!"

Simon naturally loves her audition, pronouncing it "beautiful" before it has barely begun, so to speak. Ditto Tweedle Dum Jackson. Kara and Paula naturally disagree and Kara belts out a few bars to show Nasal Bikini Babe how it should have sounded, adding with a head wag, "Honestly, you don't have the chops to sing that song, sweetie."

"But your demonstration wasn't any better," NBB says. Oh snap!

With Simon and Randy both voting "yes," the chick vote doesn't matter. "Next time, come naked," Kara sneers. Nasal Bikini Babe rolls her eyes, as though somehow she's just been insulted.

Outside the audition room, Seacrest asks NBB why she thought the judges put her through to the next round of the competition.

"I think it was my voice. And the bikini."

She then makes out with Ryan, and jumps in the pool.

Something for the chicks: a guy who calls himself Sexual Chocolate, and who Simon insists on calling just "Sexual" as in, "Thank you, Sexual." He's no worse than NBB, but doesn't make it through.

Mixed bag follows, highlighted by Geek Closet Singer, who learned to sing in a moldy closet that made him sick. You can't make this stuff up. He sails through, but is trumped by the season debut's closing Aspirational Act: Scott MacIntyre, who was born virtually blind and is now a pianist and singer. He gets four votes to go to Hollywood after being pronounced "a cool guy."

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 14, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Comments

How could you not mention that Kara called the bikini girl a (b) with an itch??? That was my favorite part.

That girl's attitude will get her destroyed in Hollywood.

Posted by: danilynn17 | January 14, 2009 7:47 AM | Report abuse

boring boring boring. i only watch to have a good laugh .... not this time!

Posted by: nall92 | January 14, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Kara's just boring. What did she add to the show? Did you notice that her outfit and faux jewelry were nearly identical clones to Paula's? When Paula wore a halter top, so did Kara. When Paula wore absurdly large bangles, so did Kara. Strange, isn't it? What is Kara's job on the show anyway?

Also, didn't it seem weird that Kara had to try to outsing the bikini chick? It's like she wanted to show off her voice. Stupid. I don't recall Paula ever doing that.

Posted by: rlalumiere | January 14, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Let the real show begin - these dumb auditions are BORING. Not to mention, I don't want "characters" who mouth off, look the part but can't sing. I want to see someone who can actually sing. Bet that's too much to ask for from this show. Darn.

Posted by: MILW | January 14, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Get over it, nothing really changed that much. Maybe the person who wrote the article has never seen the show before...

Posted by: randers2 | January 14, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

What about Seacrest trying to high-five the blind guy?

Posted by: seantolsen | January 14, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

What is the point of adding a fourth judge? There was no chemistry at all and the whole evening was awkward. Whoever did the editing really laid it on thick with the schmaltz, too. Personally I liked it when they invited the guest judges - that was sometimes awkward too, but it only lasted the one show.

Posted by: barbnc | January 14, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I did not notice the ford focus ad, so that was not a problem for me....

I was annoyed by NBB because it took an opportunity away from someone else. She was awful and disrespectful and if she were my daughter I'd be ashamed of her.

I like the subtle element that Kara brings to the mix. I think it takes the pressure off of Paula to provide the more sensitive female side of rejecting someone, and helps to keep Paula in check. She looked prettier than I've seen her in a long time, and she didn't act so ditsy. Competition changes a girl!

Plus, having Kara on the show allows Randy to be himself instead of trying to be the middle man. I think she is a good addition.

Posted by: PartySandwich | January 14, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Welcome back, Pookie. We've missed you!

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | January 14, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Ok, those who know me know that I'm easily entertained. I actually enjoyed the show last night and I really like Kara. I was just a little suprised how often she went with the pack but this is just the beginning. I know she's just warming up.

And how can you not mention that hysterical video in the beginning of the young tweeners watching David A lose last season. Priceless.

Simon, why do you still have the box haircut?? Horrible. And really, Simon didn't put Be-atchy Bikini girl through b/c he thought she was hot (even though I'm sure he did), but because it will boost ratings. Who wouldn't love to see her get put in her place later by other contestants and judges alike. Doubt she'll play nice during the group number.

Posted by: hodie | January 14, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

The Seacrest high-five was one of the best moments this show has served up in years, especially when he tried to suavely move his arm to grab the guy's hand... Just a classic awkward moment. This is why I watch, people. I logged in to get Lisa's take on it and . . . nothing? I suspect she'd had one eye on the clock and may have already bailed.

Posted by: mgavaghen1 | January 14, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Yes... agreed that the product placement was truly shameless. And, Ford? Do they have money to be marketing on American Idol???? However, fav of the night had to be geek guy who actually "sang on pitch". Reminds me of politician guy from last year. As for the blind guy at the end... good personality, ok voice, looks like his piano playing is what he will excel at.

And to the American Idol producers? Phoenix? Really? And Kansas City tomorrow night? What happened to NYC, LA, Philly, DC? Bringing variety to the show with new cities is not a good idea...

Posted by: lsac | January 14, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I want to comment on the blogsphere's ridicule of Idol host Ryan Seacrest, who tried to give McIntyre a high-five after the audition. McIntyre, who has said he has tunnel-like vision that allows him to only see "one [piano] key at a time," missed Seacreast's gesture. Now Idol watchers are making fun of Seacreast, which is wrong. The only way to learn how to communicate appropriately with a blind person is to either ask, or try. I bet most of these Idol fans have never tried -- they should take a field trip to Lighthouse International and learn the etiquette. I applaud Ryan for treating McIntyre like everyone else, and for grabbing his hand and continuing through with the motion after realizing his 'mistake.' http://www.profoundlyyours.blogspot.com

Posted by: sro798 | January 14, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Get over it, nothing really changed that much. Maybe the person who wrote the article has never seen the show before...

Posted by: randers2 | January 14, 2009 9:15 AM
___________________________________________
randers2 - you new here? Pookie lives and breathes Idol!

Posted by: beaker1 | January 14, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Great. Now that crazy 16-year-old redhead with the Trapper Keeper full of crap is going to kill herself in front of Kara's home.

Posted by: Trumance1 | January 14, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Luckily Family Guy reruns were also on. Bikini Girl was put through because she had significant cattiness potential needed for Hollywood group rounds (or maybe they anticipated her meeting someone in the pool at night, which is also good TV). Bending over to your shoes while singing is not a good idea, but I hope the X-ray dance catches on.

I may not watch much this year, but I'll faithfully read Lisa's commentary!

Posted by: sarahabc | January 14, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I just want to say that I agree with sro798 100% about Ryan Seacrest trying to high-five McIntyre. I too, applaud Ryan for treating McIntyre like everyone else. Just because he has a handicap, doesn't mean he shouldn't be treated like anyone else. There is nothing wrong with telling a blind person what you are doing or what something looks like. I think they would appreciate it. I know I would.

Posted by: marybethherrera | January 14, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"Louie Armstrong"

Would that be "Louis" Armstrong you're referring to?

Posted by: kjohnson3 | January 14, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Kara is nothing more than an attempt to control the ever more getting dumb American public with her presence. We're talking about a Duke grad who has a in political science, got into the music business, and you expect for her NOT to be boring?

The woman is WAY too smart to be that far off the cuff or else her degree will scream off her living room wall in a rage! Either that, or she'd be soon getting hate emails from Dookie alumni much like they did to Elton Brand for leaving the program b4 his 4 yr period was up. And face it, Paula would never have another sexy vixen sitting on the same row or the show would soon turn into Friday Night Fights while producers scramble for oil and a latex surface. Keep the cleavage in Kara...

This woman is also highly and tightly connected to the "inside action" of the music business. She knows exactly what's happening, that she's nothing but a pawn in a much bigger game...if not a shot caller herself.

So if that means getting paid big dollars to be Paula-esque, then so be it. She's tired of making hits for artists who have no talent. Why not get paid for just watching them make fools of themselves until they find the next slave to the industry?

She knows all about that I'm sure. Kara, welcome to the ruling class. O_o

Posted by: cbmuzik | January 14, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Was a little surprised to actually see Taylor Hicks in the opening reel. (I thought he was disowned...?)

Honestly, not uplifted by the Inspirational guy at the end. Kill me if I don't think blindness is a real impairment to singing.

Posted by: molsonmich | January 14, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I too was surprised to see Taylor Hicks not only in the opening reel but on the backdrop behind the auditioners.

As for Bikini Girl, she's no better or worse than some of the guys that have crooned to Paula & she let them through. Simon put her through because he knew she'd make good TV yet never make it to the finals.

I wanna know how they could NOT know the words to "Wanted Dead or Alive?" Even if you HATE Bon Jovi, there was the Daughtry version, and I don't know about youse guys but I usually end up knowing ALL the words to the songs I hate the most!

Posted by: wadejg | January 14, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I too was surprised to see Taylor Hicks not only in the opening reel but on the backdrop behind the auditioners.

As for Bikini Girl, she's no better or worse than some of the guys that have crooned to Paula & she let them through. Simon put her through because he knew she'd make good TV yet will never make it to the finals.

I wanna know how they could NOT know the words to "Wanted Dead or Alive?" Even if you HATE Bon Jovi, there was the Daughtry version, and I don't know about youse guys but I usually end up knowing ALL the words to the songs I hate the most!

Posted by: wadejg | January 14, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Problem is that Simon Cowell dominates Idol influencing voters which means another thin blond young female will win. Cowells second choice will be a young plump black female. His third choice would be a gay male whether ugly or not who can sing. Spain has a similar program and they find great looking and passionate singers such as Olga Tanon and David Bisbal from the Spanish world which is larger than the US population.

Posted by: mascmen7 | January 14, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

What's gotten into Simon and Randy this season? I can't believe they fell for that trashy bikini fool. (I hope Ryan washed his face after she kissed him) Paula and Kara saw right through her dumb antics. If she stays around too long, I'll find something else to watch. Ryan was on point with the visually impaired guy by treating him with the same respect he shows all the contestants. And he has a great voice. The girl named Stevie stood out as someone who has the whole package. Good luck to her. She's already got my vote.

Posted by: macky1 | January 14, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Guys!

Bikini girl did not sing that well, has a great body, but needs some work on her face (kinda weird looking). She won't make it past the first couple of weeks. She's white trash like that girl who posed naked at the WWII memorial last year.

Welcome back AI and Lisa's blog - gives us something to look forward to for several months.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 14, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Guys!

Bikini girl did not sing that well, has a great body, but needs some work on her face (kinda weird looking). She won't make it past the first couple of weeks. She's white trash like that girl who posed naked at the WWII memorial last year.

Welcome back AI and Lisa's blog - gives us something to look forward to for several months.

If this is repeat, I apologize. It apparently didn't "take" the first time.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 14, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

OUR American Idol? OUR?
Sorry, but the name of the show may be American Idol, however it's closer to a televised version of Talent Scounts. It's definitely not MY American Idol.

Posted by: Dungarees | January 14, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

fyi, Hicks is now doing off off off Broadway productions of Grease. Has been advertised by our local theatre for a little while now. How lame is that.

I agree w/waterfront property (welcome back!). I think bikini girl is very strange looking when she sings. She does this strange thing with her mouth that makes me think of a chimp or gorilla (ooh ooh oooh). And of course there will be those who say I'm just jealous (not!) but she looked a touch too skinny and had no shoes.

Also wasn't bothered at all by how Ryan conducted his post interview with Scott Mcintyre.

Posted by: hodie | January 14, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

It's almost over for Idol. Why? The talent is gone. Anyone with talent has either already been on the show or is just now age eligible. Proof? The success of 16-17 year olds the last few years. They have to try something else because the talent isn't there. Take a four year hiatus and things would look entirely different.

Posted by: john_mcg | January 14, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

American Idol has contributed more to the dumbing down of this country than lead based paint.

The show isn't about crowning a winner. It's about showing 16 weeks of losers.

Just because people slow down and look at car wrecks doesn't mean the networks should televise them.

Posted by: tcryer | January 14, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

As always, thanks for the great recap. I never watch this early in the season, but thanks to you I don't feel like I've missed anything. In fact, I laughed out loud several times while reading.

Posted by: gburggal | January 14, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Hodie! I forgot all about the shoes. You're right!

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 14, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

My family and I are faithful watchers of AI but this year we are wondering if we have the right program. It was apparent they had two contestants that had learning disabilities and made fun of their vocal abilities. And watching the contestants emotional conduct after not making the cut is so tasteless. Maybe its okay for sick people but if this keeps up we will be among the many that won't be watching. The new girl's unkind comments about the little girl who idolized her and her songwriting abilities, who showed her her book of songs was so uncaring. I thought this show was about giving kids a chance to catch the brass ring.

Posted by: alaskacampbells | January 15, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

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