American Idol: Top 36: Episode 1
B-

American Idol: Top 36: Episode 1

 Oh, goodness, this season of Idol isn't going to end until August, is it? Whee? So what's going on now is that there are three groups of twelve who are performing over the next three weeks and the top boy, girl and one extra from each group will make it to the 'actual' top twelve singers. Based on tonight's episode, this system is a waste of everyone's time as about two thirds of the contestants looked kind of stupid, which would normally make for good TV if it was compressed into an hour, not two. Oh well, let's get to it.
 
We started the show with obligatory weirdness between Ryan (who was dressed like the father of Ryan from seven seasons ago) and the judges. He mentioned that the judges' table was starting to look like The View, which pissed off Randy, maybe because Randy felt he was being told he looked like a woman and/or he was being told he was the Whoopi Goldberg of the group. I don't know. Paula stumbled over her words before anyone sang a note and she looked a little, um, not-so-fresh sitting next to Kara. Simon complimented Ryan's hair, Ryan looked uncomfortable, and then announced tonight's 'theme': Billboard Top 100 hits from the history of Billboard. Specificity, thy be Idol's name.
 
Jackie Tohn led off. I could tell from the purple puffed sleeve shirt she wore in her package interview that she has no hope of making it far in this competition but I like Jackie. I know, she's kind of obnoxious and "Little Less Conversation" wasn't the best choice--she didn't perform poorly, but it was hard to tell what kind of a singer she is. We know what kind of a dresser she is, though--the subtlety of M.I.A. mixed with the good judgment of Katy Perry. Whatever, Jackie is one of maybe two and a half girls ever to appear on Idol who seems to have some legitimate sass.  When Randy said "I like your trousers," she shot back "The trousers like you, sir." Also, she made fun of the girls who sing "And I Am Telling You" which I think is kind of cool. I don't know how good Jackie's odds of making it are to the top twelve but I like her existence on the show.
 
Also new tonight was the awkward addition of having the contestants' parents and loved ones waiting in the wings to discuss how horrible it was to hear the judges' comments.
 
Next we heard from Ricky Braddy, who we never saw in any of the audition episodes for some reason. He kind of squandered his chance for us to get to know him better by not speaking into the mic while Ryan asked him questions. He performed "A Song for You" by Leon Russell, because he wants to show America who he is. I thought it was fine but boring--the other judges loved it but Simon accurately noted that Ricky lacks star quality--probably not entirely his fault though. At least his parents had clever (for Idol) t-shirts made in his honor.
 
I wasn't expecting much from Alexis Grace, the single mother who "dirtied herself up" for Idol by putting some pink in her hair. I was hating on her Chicago type outfit until she sang "Never Loved a Man" pretty damn well. The judges loved her and Simon even compared her to Kelly Clarkson. I see her going through to the top twelve easily and I wish her dad would get a haircut.
 
The Idol directors f'ed up the tape when it was Brent Keith's turn and Ryan earned a B for his improvising until everything worked out. Brent Keith has cute dimples but did that "I'm gonna take a crap right here onstage" pose that many singers opt for, along with an unfortunate heil-type gesture. On top of all that he somehow lacked stage presence. Randy tried to compliment the guy by saying "I can see you at a chili cookoff" but lest we all forget that's where Jessica Simpson was spotted being fat. Worse, Paula compared Brent to Bucky Covington and Simon asked "What has happened to Bucky Covington?" Oh snap!  Brent's performance was forgettable--he thinks that he'll get by with the country music vote, but so did John McCain.
 
The first thing I thought when Stevie Wright appeared onstage was "she's really cute" but that was about the last good thing that happened. Poor Stevie. The judges told her in previous auditions that she needed to sing more like the 17-year-old she is, which she unfortunately took to mean "Sing Taylor Swift and dress 'like a teenager.'" It was bad. She sang poorly, danced badly and worst of all, looked unhappy. The judges unanimously panned it, Kara noting Stevie's identity crisis. I wonder if Stevie's mom had anything to do with her poor choice, as she thought the judges' feedback was totally confusing, but I don't think it takes a genius to come up with something on the spectrum between Taylor Swift and Etta James, maturity-wise. Stevie's conundrum was that she is 17 but looks a bit older. I will say this though, she held herself together remarkably for having her heart pulled out of her chest and shown to her on live TV.
 
Then the AV Club's commenters' favorite, Anoop Desai, sang. I like that he said that he wanted to sing songs that he, as a viewer, has wanted singers to do on Idol, but I wish he had chosen a song more like "My Prerogative" instead of "Angel of Mine" by Monica. It was kind of a boring performance but the judges still like him, plus he gave a classy shout-out to the band. I don't think Anoop was the best singer of the night but he may have a chance of making it through to the top twelve. And his parents were cute.
 
So all the boys love Casey Carlson when she puts on a bikini but not so much when she sings. The first thing I noted with her "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" is how much I hate it when singers change the sex in a song--are you really so insecure in your sexuality that you can't keep the words as they are? But really that was the least of her problems. The horrible, horrible dancing and faces. The teeth! The funky eyes. Whoah. The judges picked the entire thing apart. Then, after Paula tried to make Casey feel better by reminding her how pretty the boys find her, Simon informed Casey that she shouldn't be allowed to sing that song. Also, Casey should totally lose some weight: I think there were a few clavicle bones that were not fully articulated. Pig.
 
Michael Sarver, the roughneck, performed a little bit better and had slightly better stage presence than I expected, singing Gavin DeGraw. And if I'm going to be mean and pick on Casey for being skinny I'll say that Michael, for TV's sake, should maybe lose 5-10 (thus ending my body hatred for the evening). Simon agreed that Michael could get by on likeability and I agree, I guess. I neither thought it was so good that he'll definitely make it through nor is so beloved, like Danny Gokey, that he'll get the popular vote. But I think it's cute that his wife tells him to "sing pretty" before he gets on stage.
 
Anne Marie Boskovitch, the one who had to change her clothes during her audition, promised to put her own spin on "Natural Woman" which never happened. Her performance was adequate but a bit of a snooze, and she lacked stage presence. At least she brought some interest to her appearance when she said "You mean something that's not as good?" after Kara recommended she try to sing something more like "Love Song" by Sarah Bareilles. I don't think Anne Marie meant to be as bitchy as she came off, but at least she spiced up the night. "This is awkward!!" Paula yelled and then Ryan seemed worried about catching Anne Marie's awkwardness when she sat next to him on the couch.
 
Stephen Fowler, the dude at the keyboard who forgot the words during Hollywood Week," sang "Rock With You," which the judges all found corny. That pretty much sums that up.
 
Everyone was excited for Tatiana del Toro's performance, so much so that Ryan was voluntarily touching Kara beforehand. She told us that she's not going to let anyone get in the way of my dream, which I think we all can believe by now. She sang "Saving All My Love for You". The thing about Tatiana is that the only time she seems halfway normal is when she's singing. The judges, like me, seem to crave her craziness and pretty much told her they were disappointed that she wasn't more wackadoo tonight. "You're desperate to be famous!" Simon told her. Then the judges begged her to "do the weird laugh thing" and then they all mocked her, and if this were a movie they'd all be dead now by her hand. "Please, America. This is my dream and it's up to you to keep it alive." She said during Ryan Time. I don't know what her odds are but I would love it if she made it to the top twelve.
 
I have a problem and it is that I enjoy hating on Danny Gokey--the more people adore him, the more perversely I enjoy not doing so myself. But really, I freaking hate it when contestants on Idol try and teach the world a lesson with a song and that's exactly what Danny did tonight, singing Maria Carey's "Hero." Look, I can admit that he can sing. I'm pretty certain he'll make it to the top twelve. And one of my esteemed friends on Facebook said he's the love child of Elvis Costello and Robert Downey Jr, who happen to be two of my biggest celebrity crushes. But my heart did not melt. Thank god for Simon, who merely proclaimed it "good", as opposed to referring to him in Christlike terms, as did Randy. Of course Simon got booed but he was 100% right (even blaming the band for the heavy-handed arrangement). Simon is not buying the hype and neither am I. But, I know this is my problem, and I do not mean to pick on Danny, who, I hear, has had some difficulties over the last year or so. 
 
Anyway, to sum up I imagine the winners from tonight will include Danny and Alexis, with possibly Anoop and Tatiana and MAYBE Michael as wild cards. By the time we actually get to the top twelve it's going to feel like this season is over already. But it won’t be. It won’t.
 
Grade: B-
 
Stray observations:
 
--Hey check out them flashy mics.
 
--In re: Stephen Fowler, Simon was just kidding, then, when he said that you're out, in Hollywood Week, if you forget the words?
 
--Ted Danson and Neil Patrick Harris, I see you.
 
--A reader from abroad emailed the AV Club to request that I not put up any incriminating images the nights of results week to avoid spoiling the show for those who can't watch the show as fast as the rest of us. I think this is a fair request, so if you want to know who made it into to the top twelve tomorrow night, you'll have to read words, suckers, and not just look at pictures.
Filed Under: TV, American Idol

More TV Club