Paula vs Kara in Randy-land

New "American Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi finally earns her salary, ratcheting up the Paula crazy during auditions in Jacksonville. It's about time!

Oh, and note to Fox: If you have, as you suggested at the press tour, gone all green and ecologically responsible, maybe it's best not to open an "Idol" auditions episode with a parade of gas guzzling stretch limos, each containing a single "American Idol" judge, all bound for the exact same joint where the auditions are being held. Just sayin'.

Anyhoo, much is made of "Idol" judge Randy Jackson having made a name for himself 25 years ago -- he's really old -- on stages all over the country "in a little band called Journey" which can only mean we get to see more really embarrassing Old-Randy footage -- this time including a pink and white polka-dot guitar. This is all appropriate, host Ryan Seacrest explains, because Randy's last name is Jackson, and this town is named Jacksonville. Get it?! Which somehow means, Seacrest explains, that the police escort for the Stretch Limo Parade of Shame is Randy's doing. Our head begins to throb.

First up: a delusional Joshua Ulloa who says he's "more often than not" been compared to Justin Guarini -- referring, of course, to the cute though extremely mediocre singer who was runner-up on the very first "American Idol." They throw up a picture of Justin next to Joshua. They look totally alike -- not.

Joshua wears his wraparound sunglasses -- international symbol for "How hot am I?" -- during the preliminary blah, blah, blahing with the judges, raising his creep-quotient about 15 percent. He gives a performance, complete with sound effects, which "Idol" judge Simon Cowell describes, perfectly, as being very Inspector Gadget. Even so, the judges all agree Joshua should go through to Hollywood because, as Randy explains, he "kind of likes the crazy" and "it's at least entertaining." They're setting the bar very low this season.

Sharon Wilbur forgot to read the Never Follow a Dog Act chapter in the How to Be a Star in the Entertainment Industry Manual. She brings her Shitzu, Sasha, who, she explains, just got a haircut. But, Sharon adds, she didn't give the dog too short of a haircut because she didn't want it to look like the dog, or she, was trying too hard. Sharon puts Sasha on judge Simon Cowell's lap during her audition.

Sharon begins to sing. Randy watches the dog. Judge Paula Abdul watches the dog, Kara splits her time watching Sharon and the dog. Simon pets the dog and plays with her ear. The dog yawns.

Kara notes, correctly, that Sharon imitates Britney when singing only one word -- baby -- which is very annoying.

Paula notes Sasha was yawning during the performance. Things are not going well for our Sharon. Randy and Simon give her mixed reviews -- one thumbs up, one thumbs down. It's up to the women, the men note. Paula, who, unlike Sharon, is a total pro and knows how to upstage a dog, jumps at Kara and begins to faux make out with her. Only, because Paula is of the Old School, unlike Madonna, she puts her hand in between their mouths.

"I never thought on live television I would have a moment like that!" Kara gushes. The episode is not live.

"She kissed me!" Kara continues, warming up to her subject. "I thought that Simon was going to try to kiss me, but not Paula. My job isn't done here until Simon tries something on me." She leers at Simon.

Seacrest gets some on-air time driving a golf cart around the perimeter of the audition location and getting lost, batting at gnats.

Very cute Kaneswa Finnie is a lousy singer, so the judges bring in her mother to debate the point. Why? No idea.

Teen beauty pageant competitor Julissa Veloz, who may or may not have been crowned Miss Florida Latina USA or some such thing, is at any rate wearing a beauty-pageant banner across her chest and a tiara on her head. She tells the judges she "can do some Whitney." Simon, the only judge worth listening to, admits her performance was better than he expected but adds that her laugh is hideous. Normally we would shrug this off as the rantings of a vapid jerk, but not this laugh. "There's something about it," agrees Kara.

Someone calls for a vote on Julissa before Paula has had her chance to do her blah, blah, blah, so Paula stands up and leaves the audition room, ranting "I'm gone" and "I'm not needed," and "I can't do it any more" -- totally trumping Kara's I Kissed a Girl; I Liked It soliloquy.

Atta girl, Paula!

Julissa runs back stage to Paula. More sounds of maybe chicks faux making out. Paula returns to the judges table. "I have to say 'yes' - you brought Paula back," Kara tells Julissa, trying to regain the attention of the room. She's no match for our Paula. They all realize Julissa needs to go through to Hollywood.

Darin Darnell is a guy who "really knows how to work the room," but comes unglued when some guy he just became BFF's with in the holding room does not make it through to Hollywood.

"I think it's going to affect my audition big," Darin tells Seacrest, fighting tears. He looks pained singing some tune about how hard it is to say goodbye and about taking memories to be his sunshine after the rain.

Kara wonders what he's so upset about. "It's so much," Darin explains.

Kara tells him the music business is not for him because it's paved with heartache. He's gone and the Idol producers show us a medley of Jacksonville's other weepy Idolette wannabes.

"Crazy Times in Jacksonville!" Randy notes.

Speaking thereof, Naomi Sykes gets her shot at "Idol" fame and uses it to tell Randy that her pal is just outside the door, dying to meet him. Randy agrees, so long as the producers will show it on television in slow-mo. Which they do. Simon suggests the pal, Samantha, sit on Randy's lap throughout her friend's audition.

Paula, sensing danger, stands up and sits on Simon's lap, leaving poor Kara eating her dust. Kara calls Seacrest in to sit on her lap, which he does, but it's too little, too late. Paula scores again!

Naomi is dreadful and once again, the judges reduce an auditioner to tears, suggesting she is punking them. Kara, sensing opportunity, jumps up and heads over to hug Naomi. Randy joins in the hug, Paula joins the hug, making sure she's closest to the camera, obscuring our view of Kara.

16-year-old Jasmine Murray, the youngest of a bevy of adorable sisters, gave her mother "severe toxemia" before she was born, nearly killing her mother, mom thinks we need to know.

While we try to get that image out of our heads, Jasmine sings a Fergie tune, which causes Simon to pronounce her cute, commercial and a very good singer. The other judges fall in line with Simon.

Eighteen year old George Ramirez, on the other hand, was born to be mocked. He's studying physics. Seacrest says he is afraid of science and math. Of course he's also afraid of gnats. Seacrest wonders whether George loves music or physics more. George ruminates on that question for an eternity and finally says he could live without physics. You can see where this is going.

Next, Simon gets to take a whack at poor George, asking him where he sees himself in 11 years. In a simple house, George says, with nice floors. Okay! We get it! He's a geek! Put the kid out of his misery already!

George's audition is, naturally, terrible. Simon wonders whether he's ever sung in public before. George explains he and his friends have their "varied interests" including rock climbing, playing the guitar, and singing. Randy pronounces it the quietest "Idol" audition ever and Kara declares it "so weird."

Anne Marie Boskovich enters the audition room looking very calm and professional, and says Kara is her hero. This apparently flips some switch in Simon's head because he tells her to stop talking like that and act like a star, and orders her to leave the room and try again. Anne Marie leaves and starts to change her clothes and her makeup.

T. K. Hash, previous-season rejectee, is back to audition again; this time he gets through to Hollywood, though he makes a hash of John Lennon classic "Imagine."

Michael Perrelli's mom is "so proud of him" and Michael pronounces himself ready for this audition, until he learns he can't sing with his guitar, and he falls apart. Seriously.

The judges nix his performance; Michael pleads with the judges. Simon tells him to go get a job like everyone else and put a band together in his spare time. He leaves, devastated. His mom tries to hug him. He pulls away saying "Don't touch me."

"That's your mother - you can't do that," Seacrest lectures. Wow, a momemt of genuine, non-ginned-up drama on "American Idol."

Anne Marie returns and hers is the best performance we see all night.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 28, 2009; 6:00 AM ET "American Idol"
Previous: "American Idol's" Mocking Birds | Next: American Idol: Hard Luck Story


Please email us to report offensive comments.

"They're setting the bar very low this season."

I have to agree. The judges seem to be very critical of the good singers who lack personality and very lenient on the mediocre singers with the good story. I can only guess that the producers suggest letting a few personalities through to make Hollywood week more interesting. I can only shake my head in disbelief this season at some of the untalented people they are letting through to Hollywood.

Posted by: sknyluv | January 28, 2009 9:05 AM

I liked Anne Marie, very nice voice, good personality. I don't know what the judges are talking about half the time - "just be you". On and on, what nonsense.

Posted by: MILW | January 28, 2009 9:25 AM

Hi Ang.

Posted by: mstaines | January 28, 2009 9:31 AM

Yo, bro! What's up dawg??!! You crack me up! You made me smile so much when I saw your comment! You're the best! Hope you're having an awesome day.

What do you think of Idol so far? Kinda lame--and the judges seem to be taking themselves WAY too seriously (or more like not serious enough). Lot of pomp and circumstance and not enough substance. Oh well. At least Jason made an appearance on the second show! HA!

(For those of you wondering what in the world I'm talking about, mstaines is my extraordinary brother, awesome father of 4, and a great husband and son! At breakfast Saturday, I asked if he'd been tracking the Washington Post recap of AI and he had forgotten about it! So it was fun to see him saying "Hi" to me when I went to check out today's recap!!.

Posted by: majorjasoncastrofan | January 28, 2009 12:13 PM

The whole thing is a joke thus far--so much jockeying for position. I sense a cat fight a comin on. Paula seems to have lost the wide finger spread clapping thing--or perhaps I'm too distracted by the circus show with the other three. Hope it gets better . . . hey Ang and Mike.

Posted by: amanda3200 | January 28, 2009 12:39 PM

Love Lisa's column, but not so much the show this year. We're into five shows now, and we need to bring out the gag for Paula already. Perhaps she's figured out she's not the only broad on the show anymore. I hope Kara doesn't follow in Paula's goof ball, oh-so-tiring footsteps.

I agree that the last singer was the best last night, but can't figure out why Simon was so critical of her looks (maybe it was because she didn't look like a freak.)

Still waiting for the rest of Lisa's Idol blog family to make an appearance... maybe they'll chime in when the Idolettes go to Hollywood.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 28, 2009 1:42 PM

hey waterfront! long time, no blog.
I've been out of town for awhile.

I, per usual, remain entertained. I enjoy the freak show. Still mystified at how some of the more "normal" contestants don't know that they can't sing. Why won't their friends tell them! The contestants with borderline IQ or sanity, I can understand. And yes, I agree AI is a bit exploitive of these innocents, so I'm a bit on the fence about how the tryouts are presented. It very much is a guilty pleasure. You all laugh, don't deny it.

As far as the quality of performers they have given a pass to, note that in Jacksonville they gave maybe a 3rd of the golden tickets that they have given elsewhere. I believe they are genuinely trying to get the best talent (and ratings so a few quacks have to get through). I don't give much creedence to the conspiracy theorists who say this is rigged and the winner is already chosen. If that was so how do you explain Taylor Hicks?

Posted by: hodie | January 28, 2009 2:24 PM

For me, the real star of AI is Ryan Seacrest. Not just in those classic Seacrest moments like when he tried to high five the blind man, but in so many small ways. Like in the limo when he mocked Simon for mocking him for not using "his real voice." His interminably long awkward silence with physics dude. The look on his face when forced to sit on Kara's lap.

I think his brilliance is how he adeptly walks that fine line between sincerity and self-parody. With Ryan Seacrest to lead us, we get the best of both worlds: we can simultaneously bask in the joy of cheese and snicker derisively at it. He is like a modern day Cary Grant.

Posted by: pinkstate | January 28, 2009 3:35 PM

Pinkstate - loved your comment about Ryan. He really is good - I had never thought of him like that, but he is good.

You're a really good writer, by the way!

Posted by: majorjasoncastrofan | January 28, 2009 3:59 PM

I have to say - Ryan does make me giggle. I like him, awkwardness and all. Have to remember - he's playing a part, just like the rest of them.

Posted by: MILW | January 28, 2009 4:23 PM

I am not sure about Kara. To me she seems fake somehow. It feels like she originally was brought in to replace Paula but then they reconsidered because Paula probably has many fans under the "Idol" viewers. So to not cause a big outcry they decided to rather phase her out slowly by having another chick taking over her part. But that's just my view on that. I think this is why the "Paula vs Kara" is on now. Hope Paula wins, Kara is strange.

Posted by: anjacarolin | January 28, 2009 4:40 PM

I agree with the Seacrest comments--he's out of whatever weird place he was in last season (with the facial hair, glazed eyes and a few extra pounds) and back to that charming, strangely sincere-but-not-naive persona that is uniquely his in the showbiz world. It seemed like he and Simon were sort of estranged last season (at least, Simon had been picking on him more viciously than usual at the beginning and Seacrest seemed less resilient to it than usual), but have since fixed whatever was wrong between them and are "happy together" again. I do hope this means more suggestive undertones in their exchanges--definitely the most entertaining bit of Idol outside of the top 4 or so singers.

And Lisa, it's so good to have your blogs to read again! It wasn't until today I remembered your hilarious AI recaps (how could I forget? They were so often the best part of the Idol season!), but I'm thrilled to see you're still going strong and snarky. :) It's so good to have you and Idol back!

Posted by: Kureno | January 28, 2009 6:52 PM

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