American Idol: “Auditions #1: Savannah”
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American Idol: “Auditions #1: Savannah”

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American Idol

“Auditions #1: Savannah”

Season 11, Episode 1

We’re back for more silliness and singing with Season 11 of Idol. I wouldn’t have minded tonight’s audition episode if it wasn’t two hours long. No reality show needs to be two hours long, especially one that’s as boilerplate as Idol auditions, not to mention an episode as relatively bland as tonight’s. What I mean by that is that Steven Tyler didn’t curse or molest anyone: in fact, he was the molestee at one point. If we’re gonna have two hours, we at least should be talking about whether it’s appropriate for a grandma his age to be assaulting young talent, but there was none of that, aside from him telling retired baseball player Joe Magrane that the city of Savannah is “Hot, humid and happening, just like your daughter.”

But auditions in Savannah weren’t all bad, mostly because, thus far anyway, Idol seems to have backed off Ye Olde Sobbe Storey for now. Aside from a gal who lives in a tent (Crystal Bowersox II, down to the teeth) and a guy with a preggo wife who quit his job at a prison in order to audition for the show, there was very little sad piano/cello music. Which is fine, because I hate that shit. I hate being told I have to root for someone before I even know him. That’s usually a surefire way to make me hate someone. There was one young lady, Lauren Mink, who came close to having a sob story, in that she’s the director of a program for adults with disabilities, but she didn’t milk the story at all. She didn’t act as if her being on Idol would be the one thing that makes her charges happy and she didn’t act like she’s some kind of hero, which kind of made her some kind of hero to me, along with the fact that she just seemed quite nice and normal and down-to-earth. I also liked the fact that she’s ancient (25) and that her mother pulled down the hem of her dress while she celebrated her golden ticket, which is something my mom did to me just the other day.

I’m rooting for the olds this season, I decided early in the episode, as Seacrest intoned about all the 16-year-olds who’ve been waiting their “entire lives” to be on this show. No! We had enough kids (and country) last season, so I’d like to dump at least one of those demographics by the finale this time around. I’m tired of wunderkinds. They can sit down. Or rather, stand up, and let me sit down. I’m tired. So no, I wasn’t that much into David Leathers, Jr., AKA “Mister Steal Your Girl,” the 17-year-old who looked 12 and sounded like Justin Bieber crossed with Michael Jackson. This is a long series and I don’t want to hear a voice that high for four months.

Anyway, aside from the lack of sob stories, I also enjoyed how the editors of the episode were having a little fun with us. When Ryan Seacrest contemplated what Steven Tyler sees when he closes his eyes and listens blissfully to the singers, we got that timeless clip of the waterskiing squirrel. (Incidentally, I thought that particular auditioner, Gabi Carrubba, the tap-dancer who wanted to make Steven close his eyes with joy, was very cute. I think she should be the first Idol/SYTYCD crossover.) I thought Joshua Chavis, the gay kid whose dream it is to sing the National Anthem at NASCAR, was endearing but I laughed at the yowling cat noise inserted as he bumbled his way into his audition. And were the subtitles beneath Mawuena Kodjo’s package slightly insensitive? Probably, but I still laughed at the font play, just as I also laughed at that old dude’s presumption that the West African kid was a runner.

A lot of old chestnuts were back. The super-hot chick who sings only mildly well and who gets voted through by the guys and not Jennifer. The fake-out audition where the singer comes out acting like he didn’t make it, when he did (always after one yes and one no from the judges). And the “fun” singer who makes it through to Hollywood based on her personality but who you know will be a goner in Round 1. And we even got a variation on Casey Abrams in the form of Phillip Phillips, yet another “surprising” soul-filled white boy, albeit this time in a less beardy package. The judges offered some very mild constructive criticism here and there but were otherwise positive, positive, positive, which I hope doesn’t carry through to the competition round, because all that goodwill got incredibly tedious last year.

There were no big noteworthy messes tonight, although I did find Sean Kraisman intriguing. I never knew that Ryan Seacrest was impersonatable, but hey, they make imitation vanilla, so I suppose anything is possible. Kraisman’s Seacrest was uncanny, so I was glad that he was a crap singer because I wouldn’t be able to take months of him being dragged out to parrot “THIS! Is American Idol!” at the camera. Just one guy doing that is fine.

--“There’s only one place where you can make your dreams come true.” The Voice. X-Factor. Project Accessory. Wait, don’t tell me, I know this one.

--I can’t tell if I’m glad or mad that the clip of Scotty McCreery in the updated intro features him holding his mic the way Groucho Marx held a cigar.

--“Savannah’s treating me great but I didn’t know you knew her.”

--Does Nigel Lythgoe typically sit in on all Idol auditions?

--I hope tent enthusiast Amy Brumfield doesn’t pull a Nell and freak out once she has to live indoors when she gets to Hollywood.  

--Shannon Magrane’s family looked rather bored with having to stand around, once again having to hear tall pretty Shannon sing her heart out. You can just tell that Shannon’s the favorite and everyone’s sick of it.