Everything “American Idol” Does, The Show Does It For You

noah | February 13, 2008 12:10 pm

Last night’s American Idol was the first episode of Hollywood Week, and the producers mixed up the format of the show a bit because they need to maintain last year’s ratings somehow the competition was fiercer than ever. (How many times did Ryan Seacrest say that the group of semifinalists this year was “the most talented group ever”? I lost count once it went into double digits.) What this meant: A lot of people singing “Everything I Do (I Do It For You) and other Bryan Adams hits, a few Simon bon mots (and no denigrating Broadway), and a mid-show “bloodbath” that eliminated people in huge groups and brought back the massive cruelty that the American public has come to expect from the show.

THE SETUP: The first hour of the show was devoted to the first two days of competition, where people were allowed to sing one song–with or without instruments–and if said performance was good enough, they’d go through to the final day. Those who faltered in their first audition would then have to prepare for more auditioning on Day 3, although said audition would consist of the hopefuls singing for about 30 seconds while standing in a Chorus Line-style row of contestants. And then there was another day when the contestant pool was winnowed down further; those performances were with the Idol backing band. There was no group-singing round this time, which no doubt lowered the potential for contestant catfights. But oh, that mass cut at around the 9 p.m. hour! I’m wondering if it was placed at that point in the show to satisfy the bloodlust of people who thought that House would be on.

EVERYTHING YOU DO, YOU DO IT FOR MY GAG REFLEX: You know how they say it’s all about song choice? Well, the songs that were picked for the first two days were overall pretty dreadful. There was lots of Bryan Adams. There were not one, but two people who sang the freaking Doors. A welcome respite came when emo-kid-who-lives-in-his-car Josiah Leming sang Mika’s “Grace Kelly”–complete with crazy falsetto–and the judges must have agreed, since he got through, although he almost got himself removed from the competition in the final round, when he sang “Stand By Me”–a terrible fit for his voice, which was straining and stretching all over the place. But his charisma (and that backstory!) allowed him to live another day.

THE LOLITA: Amy Catherine Flynn, the die-hard abstinence advocate who made it through to Hollywood on the strength of her “personality” and not so much of her singing, sexed it up for the west coast, saying that her (terrible) performance was “for Simon” in a way that recalled Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mister President.” Also, I know this is probably just my need for new glasses revealing itself in a disturbing way, but did anyone else think that she’d had her lips professionally plumped up? Between that and the virgin talk I’m starting to wonder if she’s one of the few people left in the world who still aspires to be like Britney Spears.

THE HARDEST-LUCK “IDOL” CONTESTANT EVER: Angela Martin auditioned in Philadelphia, where she revealed that her daughter had the developmental disorder Rett Syndrome, and when she came to Hollywood she revealed that her father–who had been planning to take the trip out west with her–had been killed the week before. Even worse: She got cut on day three despite a not-all-that-bad audition. (The runner-up in this category was “rock and roll nurse”/Janis Joplin wannabe Amanda Overmyer, who was singing with staples in her head because she’d been in a car accident. Although since she was one of the people who sang the freaking Doors, my sympathies were a bit muted.)

BEHOLD THE ANTICLIMAX: A lot of the fun of the episode was, once again, taken out of the room by all the spoilers. Former The One contestant Syesha Mercado lost her voice, but she made it through an Aretha Franklin song well enough to get through (although the straining and near-yelling of the performance she did give was a big indicator as to why her voice was so wrecked); she’s been rumored to be in the top 24, so her pulling through the adversity wasn’t as much of a surprise. Same with Michael Johns and Carly Hennessy Smithson both getting tongue-baths from the judges. At least the pretaped portion of the show ends tomorrow night.

PAULA ABDUL QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “Can’t wait to see more of you and hear more of you and all of the above.” – Paula to Carly not-Hennessy as she gets put through to the pre-round-of-24 sorta-semifinal.

Tomorrow: The top 24 are chosen!

[Photo: AmericanIdol.com]

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