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Glutinous, Paula-less "American Idol" lacks danger

That splashing noise you hear is the sound of sharks being jumped on "American Idol" as it kicks off its ninth season.

Paula Abdul is gone as an "Idol" judge, of course, after a money dispute with producers and the network -- and with her departed all sense of danger from the increasingly been-there-done-that auditions with which the show kicks off.

How fitting, then, that multiple-comeback veteran Victoria Posh Beckham-Spice is brought in to be the first Celebrity "Paula Fill-In" for the season debut in Boston.

So when soft-spoken Joshua Blaylock finally screws up the courage to audition for the singing competition this year -- he's 28, which means he'll age-out after this edition -- and Beckham-Spice declares him "a nice little boy" after his rendition of "Bless the Broken Road," the American Idol Decency Police don't even bother to get out of their comfy chairs. Had Paula made such an observation, they would have all gotten out their nets.

Beckham-Spice's head is being held together with a strip of lace she's found in Granny's closet. The other Idol judges politely pretend not to notice.

A clip is shown, showing that day in which Ellen DeGeneres announced happily on her syndicated talk show that she was taking over for Paula -- though not until Hollywood Week.

Little does Taped Ellen know that judge Simon Cowell is going to nuke her Idol career on the very day it starts.

On his way to the taping of the first day of Hollywood Week - the day Ellen starts -- Simon stops by Winter TV Press Tour 2010 in Pasadena, to announce to aboaut 200 TV critics, bloggers, reporters and columnists that he's leaving the show at season's end to focus his energies on ramming his "Idol" knockoff, "The X-Factor" down Fox's throat.

Seeing Simon on the taped season debut of "Idol," he already looks like a ghost haunting the joint. It's hard to get invested in watching Simon critique the wannabe Idolettes, knowing he is simultaneously plotting his exit from the show.

This year's first night is thin on the usual freaks and geeks. On this night, the airtime is mostly reserved for the Idol Laying on of the Hands.

Among the many sentimental stories that litter the debut: sweet teenager Maddy Curtis, No. 9 of 12 children -- three of whom have Down syndrome, of whom she told the "Idol" camera: "They see the world in colors and we all need to see the world that way."

Then she sings Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," guaranteeing her a spot in Hollywood.

"Amazingly, for 16, you're not annoying," Simon says, as though paying her his ultimate compliment. It plays like a rerun.

Then there's pretty Katie Stevens, who wants to go far in the competition for the sake of her grandmother, who has Alzheimer's disease and, Katie says, will not recognize her much longer. Katie sings the Mack Gordon/Harry Warren tune "At Last," and lands herself a ticket to the next round, so show host Ryan Seacrest can tear up when Katie calls grandma to tell her the good news.

And how about Tyler Grady, the drummer who had to have metal rods put in both arms after falling from a tree? He's headed to Hollywood, too, because, Beckham-Spice explains, he has "good taste" in jeans.

Topping the list is cancer patient Justin Williams, who sings "Feeling Good" because he's in remission. No way is he not going to Hollywood.

And, to round out the Touchy-Feely Episode, Leah Laurenti gets a ticket to Hollywood after juxtaposing Irving Berlin's tune "Blue Skies" with her emotional back story about having parents who were really, really strict and made her spend "like, my entire life" in church.

"I feel like you're very emotional -- you're on the brink," judge Kara DioGuardi tells her.

Yeah -- kind of like the show.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 13, 2010; 1:41 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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My favorite of the night was the grumpy kid that took off his Elvis Costello glasses to exchange barbs with the judges (and also sing a Doors song). While AI celebrates and feeds America's appetite artificial sweetness and hocum - and here comes Grump in Glasses to shake things up with a taste of true America (ie, sarcastic, a little caustic, and totally annoyed by having to wait).

Posted by: molsonmich | January 13, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

How is it that AI can spend on limousines but not fork out for a caterer for Posh? Somebody please feed the poor girl!

Posted by: jd121 | January 13, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Posh looks like a human clothes hanger, and her neck is so thin it's amazing it's holding her head up. How much does she weigh - 75/80 lbs?

Simon seemed subdued, and Randy needs to go back to math class - a million thousand bazillion percent? (Or something like that.)

Kara seems determined to establish her dominance before Ellen comes in. Kara's attack on the sullen, impatient glasses-wearing guy was over the top. My grandmother would have described her as showing her a$$.

And, as usual, too much time was spent on BS and not enough time was spent showing some of last night's winners.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 13, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

You aren't kidding, Pookie, when you say Simon has already checked out. Did you notice how Simon and Randy got up to leave a couple of times before they even made the decision on a couple of hopefuls. They truly didn't care.

Molsonmich, you are so right about the cranky Clark Kent. Was quite suprised about his voice. (not super wonderful but also not half bad). I would have put him through just to see what he would do.

Posted by: hodie | January 13, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Victoria Beckham was sad. So incredibly thin. Just disturbing. Every time they showed her that's all I could think about.

The 'Clark Kent' guy was just a self-absorbed little loser. Kara was right in saying that many people wait far longer for an audition chance. He was a spoiled little brat, and should have actually just been escorted off the stage after his first complaint (but then that wouldn't be as entertaining, right)?

Posted by: Hillman1 | January 13, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Lisa, you should have pointed out that Maddy Curtis is from Bluemont, VA! Loudoun County represent!

Posted by: Duodenum | January 13, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like AI is trying to become "Queen for a Day" -- the person with the most pitiful story is the winner! Enough with the back stories and let's get back to the singing competition.

Posted by: fmjk | January 13, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

The grumpy guy was able to somewhat carry a tune, but his phrasing was terrible (he breathed about every two measures, sometimes in the middle of words!). They were right to boot him on his singing alone, but he also gave a very creepy vibe. I'm glad he's gone.

I actually prefer the singing-- the audition part is usually my least favorite part of the show, and this season appears to be no exception. If they want to produce The Gong Show, do so, otherwise show us the folks who can actually sing.

Posted by: inkydog | January 13, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

It seemed like I was watching a repeat. I don't think I'll be watching AI this season.

Posted by: ShyGuy | January 13, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

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