Hi there, American Idolators! Claire Zulkey, your lovely and talented host, is out being a literary superstar who is much too modest to remind you to buy her excellent first novel, An Off Year. So while she's gone, I'll be stepping in.
And a good thing, too, because this is where I usually come in anyway. I have little patience for the kind of monkeyshines that go on during the audition phase; with no drunk Paula to alleviate the appearance of various freaks, geeks, and old people who think baggy pants are a serious threat to the future of human civilization, there's little reason to tune in in the early goings. Once the contestants are set and the competition is really on, that's when I like to jump in, and while I'll admit to some program fatigue here in the 9th season, there's no way I'm going to miss the flashy blandness that is Ellen DeGeneres, or the kind of blistering contempt that Simon is likely to display now that he knows he doesn't have to hang out with these people again for the rest of his life.
Before that free-for-all begins, though, we have to sit through one more round of auditions: the "best of the rest", or the stuff they thought was too ridiculous or sensational to throw in with the city auditions. Let's start with Jessica Furney, last year's Janis Joplin manque, who now has had a 'makeover' and looks totally boring. She sings one of Simon's co-writes, "Footprints in the Sand", and makes it on to the show! Mirabile dictu! To his credit, Sime has the good taste to look embarrassed when he casts his four-for-fourth vote.
Boston's Amanda Schectman combines egregious tan lines with Britney Spears imitations. She isn't very good, but she throws a theatrical little tantrum, and makes it in after some high-larious needling from Simon, who drips with contempt for the puny aspirations of the human race. Chicago suburbanite Lee Dewyze sings a song so tired that I've already forgotten what it was, and the delightfully named Crystal Bowersox, a white girl with dreadlocks, shocks everyone by singing Janis Joplin. They both get in.
Next up: a collage of washouts from previous seasons. They keep trying for our amusement, because everybody likes to see that bloodstain on the wall from repeated forehead-bashings. I don't remember Lacey Brown, but without a Meghan Joy to mess up her steez, she and her Amarillo croon get through. For about five seconds, I'm guessing. Stephanie Fisher, who has orange skin and a psychotic fixation on Victoria Beckham, washes out for a seventh time, and will be bringing you your appetizer in just a moment.
The parade of teens is our next jawn, starting with Rachel Hubbard from down in my neck of the woods. Honestly, the only thing I remember about her is that she's from Boerne. The hulking Thaddeus Johnson is called one of the best 16-year-olds ever to audition by Randy "Raised On Radio" Jackson, but he seems kinda shouty to me. Genesis Moore sounds mighty fine in the half-minute we see her, but she definitely looks older than 16; I often suspect there's a lot of baseball-player-from-the-Dominican-Republic shenanigans going on with this show. Monstrous Adrian "Blondzilla" Chandtchi, who is a beautiful man-flower, takes away four minutes of my life that I'm never going to get back by imitating some sort of rough-trade castrati. He washes out, and if I never see him again, it will be in prison.
Back to the winners! "Big" Mike Lynche, who looks sort of like Just-Ice, gets in even though he can't carry a tune. He seems too easy-going to start punching people's heads off if he gets booted, thus ending any interest I have in him. Didi Benami sings a quirky version of "Hey Jude", and she's not bad but neither is she that good. She has a dead friend. Don't we all, Didi. She's the first of a string of sob-story layabouts, and seriously, it's almost become trendy to say how much you hate the people with sob-stories, but boy, do I hate them. Aaron Kelly, kindly take your mildly unpleasant childhood and your coral shell choker and remove yourself from my televised singing competition. Kara thinks that Kimberly Bishop is naughty, when really she's just into recycling, helping kids in Africa, and taking other people's prescription drugs. Shaddaii Harris wins the award for most consecutive double-letter combinations in her name, but not anything else.
Finally, Hope Johnson explains that when she was growing up, she didn't know she was poor; she might have gotten a quick answer by talking to a black person. She sings a little number I like to call "I Hope You Die", which I certainly did until the show mercifully came to an end. Happily, it's on to Hollywood, and enough of this audition folderol. Welcome Ellen, see you all soon, and thanks, Claire, for letting me take the reins for a night!
- Is there a better name in all of entertainment than American Idol producer Cécile Frot-Coutaz?