Wear a Costume to Work Day on "American Idol"

It's the start of a very dramatic second week of Hollywood Week on "American Idol." I know that makes no sense, but we're operating on "Idol" time, where one week can be drawn out over two, for ratings purposes. Work with me here, people.

On Tuesday night, we are introduced to The American Idol Flashback. This episode, started near the end of the story - the Idolettes sitting in four separate holding rooms, waiting to find out whether they will live to sing another day, or return to their "everyday lives" as show host Ryan Seacrest explains. All of their performances were shown as flashbacks - an homage to the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.

Next week: Sam Peckinpah's American Idol.

Another new twist is introduced: all the "Idol" principals are in costume.

Seacrest has come as a young Arnold Palmer, wearing one of Palmer's trademark golf sweaters. He will perform all of tonight's hosting responsibilities in golf tourney announcer's super-hushed-speak.

"Idol" judge Paula Abdul appears to have chosen Charlotte Bronte's famous heroine Jane Eyre. Her conservative hairstyle and somber outfit scream "governess." And hung around her neck from a simple black ribbon is a shiny, Lowood Boarding School's Best Teacher Award, made from the tops of the cans of tinned meats to which those students who survived the school's annual typhus outbreak had be treated.

Maybe we shouldn't have taken so much cold medication before this episode started.

Anyway, "Idol's" newest judge, Kara DioGuardi has come as The Merry Widow -- the Ernst Lubitsch interpretation -- complete with saucy come-hither lace bodice and sexy, tousled 19th century hair.

"Idol's" least relevant judge, Randy Jackson, has updated Jacob Marley's Ghost from Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol," wearing a T-shirt on which has been silk-screened those yards of chains and locks Marley is doomed to drag around for all eternity.

And, finally, Simon Cowell, the only "Idol" judge worth listening to, has come -- as Simon Cowell.

"Here's how it's going to work today," Seacrest whispers urgently, explaining that each of the Idolettes will get to perform with a band and backup singers, and may opt to play an instrument while singing.

"After the song - no judges' comments, no results," Seacrest whispers, tragically. Instead, Idolettes will have to wait until the end of the day "for the brutal and final cuts."

First flashback: Musical Theatre Guy, aka Adam Lambert, who tells Seacrest he's going to perform Cher's "Believe."

"Oh boy," Seacrest says, looking like someone who's just heard a golfer ask for a driving iron to execute a 3-foot putt.

"But I won't do disco, I promise," Lambert reassures Seacrest.

"I can feel some thing inside me say I really don't feel you're strong enough," Lambert wails.

Adam's risky song choice wows Paula, who gazes at him adoringly, just like Jane Eyre looked at Edward Rochester before discovering he had an extra wife locked up in the attic.

Next flashback: Matt "You Remind Me of Elliott from Season Five" Giraud, who plays the keyboard while singing "Georgia." The judges love it.

Back to the Holding Rooms, where BFF's Jamar Rogers and Danny "Just Lost My Wife" Gokey are getting tense.

Cut to Jamar and Danny flashbacks. Jamar's performance is pretty good, but when Danny takes to the stage, Paula wiggles excitedly in her chair, like Jane Eyre when Edward Rochester told her he was going to take her into town to buy her trousseau in preparation for their wedding, before she discovered that extra attic wife.

Back to Idolettes in Holding Rooms, waiting while the judges are deciding their fates out on stage at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre which, Seacrest whispers earnestly, is the most historic theatre ever built in a shopping mall.

Flashbacks to Jorge Nunez being goodish in his performance and Scott Macintyre performing at the keyboard. Next up is bouncy blonde Kendall Beard of Texas, who'd been the first auditioner to receive a thumbs up from the judges during auditions in Puerto Rico - where "Idol" judges had gone for the first time in the show, in hopes they'd find some prospective Idolettes with accents. Simon alone seems to have picked up on that bit of irony, demonstrating once again why he's the only judge worth listening to. Kendall had a shaky start during Hollywood Week, Seacrest whispers helpfully, because she auditioned in a black dress. Black is for funerals, Kara told her at the time - and not in a good way.

Flashback to Kendall's next Hollywood performance; Kendall's no dummy - she's wearing a kaleidoscope.

The flashback performances are now coming fast and furious: Stevie Wright, Lil Rounds, Kristen "Blonde on Top" McNamara, Tatiana the Terrible, who actually has a nice voice - she's just nuts.

"I feel incredible!" she says after her performance and flings her arms about a bit and meanders aimlessly. We're clearly on the same cold medication.

More flashbacks: Alexis Grace, Kenny Hoffpauer -- whoever he is. Jasmine Murray. Nathaniel Marshall who is just as terrible as ever, and just as dramatic.

Idolettes we can barely remember from the fly-over auditions are seen performing and being shoved into one of the four Holding Rooms.

Tatiana the Terrible gets pulled from one Holding Room and sent to another, where the inmates react in horror.

Nick Mitchell can't find the courage to perform as himself and dons his campy Norman Gentle personna. Nick is sent to Holding Room Four; his fellow inmates think this can't be good.

At least 50 percent of the remaining Idolettes have all chosen "I Hope You Dance" as their audition song. Only one of them has noticed.

We learn the same Holding Room that contains Nick/Norman is now also housing Tatiana. The room's other inmates begin to look around for sharp objects with which to slit their wrists. Tatiana once again breaks into her performance of Mary Queen of Scots on Execution Day - eyes rolling around in their sockets, wimpering noises, little hands clasped in prayer. Really, it never gets old.

Seacrest whispers us through the four rooms, ticking off their various members, and their performance flashbacks.

Finally, mercifully, Simon has to catch a flight to London and the remaining judges -- Jane Eyre, The Merry Widow, and Jacob Marley -- are sent off to put the Idolettes out of their misery.

In room after room, we see the judges break into their "Golly, we're so sorry, this is the hardest decision we've ever had to make, but - You're Going Through To the Next Round!" gag. Oh, except in one room -- sadly, not the one containing Tatiana and Nick/Norman -- in which they're all given the hook.

That's show biz!

Join Lisa for a live discussion every Friday at 1 p.m. ET.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  February 11, 2009; 12:18 AM ET "American Idol"
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It was easy to pick out the room that wasn't going through ... it had a bunch of people we had never seen before. If the producers hadn't given you any face time by now, you certainly weren't going to make it to the next round.

Posted by: sknyluv | February 11, 2009 8:57 AM

Another fantastic synopsis from LdM - which are increasingly better than the show itself.

I just want to mention the seating arrangments provided for the Idolettes in Limbo. Which means a floor, of course.

- - - -

Kodak Theater Special Events Coordinator:
"How many chairs in each room?"

Simon Fuller, 19 Entertainment:
"Are you on bloody crack?! None of course!"

Posted by: molsonmich | February 11, 2009 9:05 AM

What in the world WAS that thing Paula had around her neck? She must have had a back brace on to make her stand up straight!

Glad to see the BFFs made it thru. Lisa, I love the snark; but the snark when talking about Danny Gokey's wife is really misplaced.

Tatiana is being kept around specifically to give me heartburn. I beg to differ w/Lisa re Tatiana's roommates looking for sharp instruments with which to slash their wrists. It was to slash HER wrists (and throat and face). Their expressions when she entered their room were Master Card priceless.

Nick/Norm won't make it much farther unless he gets serious and we can see if he really can sing without all of the distractions.

The judges' dragging out the "this room stays; this room goes" drama is tiresome. But then it WAS Paula, Randy and Kara so tiresome is to expected.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | February 11, 2009 9:08 AM

Any article that references Jane Eyre is okay with me! And especially when it's obvious that Lisa's actually read it!

Posted by: webgrandma1 | February 11, 2009 9:26 AM

Last night I said to my husband, "I think tonight is going to be 'chair night.'" You know, when they march the last contestants one by one across a polished floor in a large empty room where they perch in a lone chair in front of the judges and learn their fate. As someone else pointed out, last night was most definitely no-chair night! Chair night comes tonight -- and Lisa can carry on with the Victorian Gothic metaphor, judging from the sneak peak near the end of the show where they promise to the move the action to "the judges' mansion."

From the glimpses we got of the decor, looks like the polished floor of past years is gone, and they'll learn their fate in a gaudy room got up as a set for a Victorian melodrama. Listen carefully, and you may hear muffled screaming from the attic...that would be me if I have to spend any more time watching Tatiana.

Posted by: owingsmills | February 11, 2009 9:51 AM

Lisa---why do you always watch and review a show you hate so much? Why don't you watch Lost, or Scrubs or something and comment on those? Your column is not "On American Idol" it is "On TV."

And while your columns are often quite humorous, don't use the fact that a guy lost his wife as a joke to get laughs. yes the producers used it for ratings and sympathy, but even you should know not to use it as a joke.

Posted by: happydad3 | February 11, 2009 9:56 AM

So, 30 minutes of Ryan talking, 20 minutes of ads and 10 minutes of actual singing. Can we please see people actually singing? It's a show about singing, right?

I've been watching so I can read Lisa, but after tonight, I think I'll just be reading her blog. I won't know everything she's talking about, but it will still be funny and I won't be as frustrated - because watching a show about singing, and no singing is shown, upsets me! At least on DWTS, they actually show dancing...

Posted by: junieb13 | February 11, 2009 10:26 AM

Listen carefully, and you may hear muffled screaming from the attic...that would be me if I have to spend any more time watching Tatiana.

Posted by: owingsmills | February 11, 2009 9:51 AM


Coffee squirting out of the nose time!! Great line!

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | February 11, 2009 10:35 AM

I'm hoping to hear more singing tonight also! Tatiana definitely needs to go. Love the guys from Milwaukee - Danny & Jamar!

Posted by: MILW | February 11, 2009 10:36 AM

Lisa you always make your self sound a bit silly when you say that Simon is the only judge worth listening to. You do know that he has said "No" to Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry, Elliot Yamine, Jennifer Hudson, all who are among the most successful Idols. If it weren't for Paula and Randy none of those singers would have made it on Idol. So you don't like Paula because she's loopy and kind, you don't like Randy because he constructive without being insulting.

Posted by: sam32 | February 11, 2009 10:47 AM

Thanks for the recap of last night's show. I totally agree with you about the judges' outfits. Who dressed these people? Paula was wearing a single-colored jumpsuit in addition to the jangle of metal around her neck. I bet she designed it.

I too, cannot stand Tatiana! I involuntarily yell at the TV whenever she shows up. The snark about Danny Gokey was just wrong, though.

Posted by: earlysun | February 11, 2009 11:08 AM

Re the earlier comment: "...but the snark when talking about Danny Gokey's wife is really misplaced."

It's fair game because he allowed the producer's to exploit his loss as the show's sob story of the week. He's a good singer but sadly he probably would not have been noticed without a story. I'm also tired of this show's focus on almost everything but finding talented singers. I'll just read Lisa's recaps for laughs.

Posted by: rme465 | February 11, 2009 12:01 PM

Owingsmills you are spot on about Ms. T.

The rest of you seem to miss her point about dead wife guy, she's not being snarky about him, it's about the producers using him.

Also sam32 are you on crack Simon is the only one who actually knows what he's talking about, although I don't think he has to be a s mean about it, but that is the shtick now. Lisa does like the show you are not reading her comment sin the approiate fashion.

Posted by: sivwiz | February 11, 2009 12:12 PM

To Sam32 - yknow, it wasn't Simon who voted off Jennifer Hudson, et al. It was the American television viewing public.

You know, the same geniuses who fell in love with a young lad named Taylor what-his-name.

Posted by: molsonmich | February 11, 2009 12:18 PM

oh...what i wouldnt give to actually see Sam Peckinpah's American Idol...thank you pookie.

Posted by: Trogdor | February 11, 2009 12:29 PM

You know, I've figured out Norman Gentle! As in, I know just what his "I have some singing talent, good stage presence, and might not be bad-looking if I cleaned up/lost a few pounds, but you can't take me seriously despite all that" vibe is perfectly suited for--he should be a DRAG QUEEN!!!

And he should tour with Eddy Izzard, breaking in every now and then with comedic musical numbers at the piano and then joining Eddy for a full-on faux-cabaret number at the end of each show. Ahh, I can just see it now~ Lol. ;-)

P.S. Lisa, I noted the weird flashback format too, and now that you mention it, it really was very "Rashomon," huh? LoL!

Posted by: Kureno | February 11, 2009 12:56 PM

I told my husband last night: If there will ever be a murder committed at American Idol, Tatiana will be the victim and every other participant will be a suspect. I vote her Most Likely To Be Found Stabbed To Death In The Kodak Theater Mall Parking Lot.

Posted by: inkydog | February 11, 2009 1:18 PM

Dear Lisa,
Time to update the picture of your TV to HD from bunny ears!

Posted by: RKSahni | February 11, 2009 1:21 PM

Say what you will about Paula's tin can breastplate, but that outfit was much better than the mock turtleneck she was wearing the other day.

I think Lisa's snark about Danny is 100% warranted. He obviously went to the Patrick Swayze School of Exploiting Your Personal Tragedy to Get TV Airtime... and graduated with honors.

Posted by: pinkstate | February 11, 2009 3:04 PM

I watch the show without giving it my full attention, so Tatiana is the only contest whose name I know. Lisa was not being snarky about Danny "Just Lost My Wife" Gokey -- that's how casual viewers separate one contestant from another.

Casual viewer: "Dead father?"

Slightly-less-casual viewer (shaking head): "Homeless."

Casual viewer (remembering): "Oh, yeah."

In my house you'll hear a lot of questions like, "Is this the guy with the dead wife?" "Is this the orphan who moved in with her friends?" "Isn't that the guy whose mother has some disease?"

Which is why they do that sob story crap in the first place.

Posted by: mgavaghen1 | February 11, 2009 4:20 PM

My favorite line today:
"And hung around her neck from a simple black ribbon is a shiny, Lowood Boarding School's Best Teacher Award, made from the tops of the cans of tinned meats to which those students who survived the school's annual typhus outbreak had be treated."

I laughed so much. The stuff she was wearing really looked very strange.

Posted by: anjacarolin | February 11, 2009 7:14 PM

Simon said "NO" to the people in my above post long before the American people got to vote. Either at the original audition or the Hollywood round. It is a FACT that if you go back through all the auditions and the Idols who have done the best commercially Simon has said "NO" to a large percentage of them. They were put through by Randy and Paula.

Sorry if the facts hurt you feelings. Yes you can be kind and good at your job.

Posted by: sam32 | February 11, 2009 10:20 PM

Don't think she's saying Simon is always right so much as Simon is the one who says interesting things about the actual performance, instead of random meaningless drivel or comments about clothing.

Posted by: ElziRm | February 12, 2009 12:49 AM

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