There was a moment there last week, right at the end of the second two hour monster premiere, where I thought AI had finally had enough of the the dog and pony show. I briefly entertained a sweet fantasy where Seacrest the Hair would take ten minutes to recount the amazing adventures of the four AI musketeers, fondly recalling the incredible luck they had rounding up as many viable candidates for Hollywood amid a sea of pathetic time-wasters. That fantasy didn't last too long, but at least I was hoping the auditions were kaput. Apparently, I've developed a bit of selective amnesia and managed to block the way the process works. Sigh. So here we are back where we left off. Let's get on with the circus.
A (shower)curtain of pain
San Francisco is the scene of the crime tonight, says Seacrest the Voice, promising a loaded freak show complete with bad singers and bad costumes amid a sob story that will make you want to gouge out your eyes with the thick end of a chopstick. Of course he said we'll all be moved by it but I know better.
The spectacle starts with a couple getting married while standing in line. The bride wore a white T-shirt with big fat pink lettering, a bad ponytail and a dazed expression. There is no word whether the honeymoon lasted past the production triage stage.
But enough of the bizarre, let's get straight to our first talent. Tatiana del Toro from Puerto Rico is wearing a whole lot of attitude and an animal print dress with a bottom part that looks suspiciously like a shower curtain crossed with a bridal veil. Under all that pancake foundation and caked on eyeliner beats the heart of a true musician, actress, singer, composer, director, producer and a couple other things that I forgot. Suffice it to say she knows it all, she says with an neighing laugh, especially since her special psychic friend told her she was going to make it to the top 12. Not with that horse laugh, you won't! She tries to butter up the judges by handing them a folder with her DVD and CD and pictures of herself wearing trashy lingerie. What's with all the stupid handouts this season?
She launches into an Aretha song that's too big for her. Simon tries to tell her she's too over the top but the girl keeps either belting out various songs or crossing her hands over her heart and closing her eyes theatrically as if she were auditioning to be Ophelia in an amateur theater production. Unbelievably they all say yes to her because she's “unique”. Perhaps the water in San Fran is laced with stupid pills and the judges are drinking it. Tatiana squeals her way out the door, hugs an older fellow then walks triumphantly through the crowd, trailing her shower curtain, her delusion and her annoying horse laugh behind her.
Keeping it in check
While Tatiana wasn't exactly ready to accept her Grammy, others are even less so. Take beatboxing Nick Reed, who uttered not one intelligible word during his audition and Jiayi Yu who made a feeble attempt to Build this city on rock 'n roll making even Randy throw up his hands in despair.
Lack of talent is one thing but what about when a contestant manages to hit all the lows all at once on every possible count? Dean-Anthony Bradford, 27, describes himself as a failed entrepreneur. Somehow, looking at his polyester plaid coat, center hair part, sideburns and deep-set creepy eyes, I have the feeling he's going to be failing at another thing tonight. Yeah, I just judged him on his appearance, so sue me! He suddenly starts wailing pitifully making me thing he's in some sort of pain, but no!, he's just mangling Simply Red's Stars. It's a quick decision from the judges and sadly we won't be seeing him in Hollywood. On the bright side, it seems I'm psychic. Who knew?
All in the family
We're 16 minutes into the show, and while last time I complained that there were not enough nutjobs featured yet, now I'm going to complain about the shocking lack of uplifting sob stories. What? Everybody is all happy happy in San Fran?
Nothing good lasts for too long on AI, so Seacrest the Allmighty immediately plugs just such a – gasp! - amazing story. What were the odds? This one claims that he's trying out because AI is such a family show and he's a family man and, well, the world is made of peanut butter and jelly with sparkling happiness sprinkles on top. His name is Jesus Valenzuela and he's got a dozen people with him who all just happen to be holding various extremely well executed homemade signs. No two are the same color which probably means that somebody in the production office spent two days slaving to make them look authentic, but I digress. Jesus is clean cut, normal looking, does not have either crooked teeth, bad hair, crossed eyes or any of the standard features that AI so lovingly exploits every week. Family Guy breaks into some song I don't recognize which he sings as if he were one of the Backstreet Boyz's less talented celebrity impersonator. Simon scoffs and says he'll never make it. The others, quite conveniently, want to see his kids who get marched in with signs in hand.
Can you guess what comes next? Family Guy breaks into, what else, Unchained melody. Groan! He manages to turn it into cheesy mush, complete with boyband-ish hand gestures that should be outlawed, which makes Paula, Kara and Randy say yes to him so as not to disappoint the kids. Yeah, really shocking.
But wait! There's more cheese where that came from! AI is buying it in bulk this season... much like last season. And the season before that.
As time wasters go, the segment with a guy completing a Rubik's Cube in under 20 seconds wouldn't have been so bad had the guy not insisted on going in to audition. Dalton Powell is to the Smothers Brothers what Booth was to Lincoln. Crying over you is reduced to an excruciating falsetto delivered with a straight face, closed eyes and later with a self-aware apologetic facial expression. Dalton doesn't look too deluded but something inside him still made him waste a whole day of his life just to be rejected on TV. Shrinks will never starve as long as AI is on the air, that's for sure. Randy laughs, the girls can barely find words and Simon dispatches Rubik's Cube saying Dalton has shown great intelligence on this day. Um, really?
The Haight of compulsion
The day wears on in San Fran and it's time for a predictable Haight Ashbury film montage filled with flower children swaying in the sunshine, being carefree and embracing their shaggy hairdos. While the summer of love was full of, well, love, in the AI audition room Simon and Kara are waging a little private war. He shoots down her picks, she complains loudly, he bullies, she contradicts and it just keeps going. Randy finally remarks that it's a man-woman thing. Aww, he's such a sweet matchmaker! Seacrest thinks all they need is – no, not love – something or somebody to agree on.
Gospel singing wonder, Akila, came well prepared. She has notes on the various organs involved in the creation of all those ear-splitting screams that usually pass for singing on the show, and she's reciting from them out loud as if she were prepping for he SATs. Akila Askew-Gholston is ready for her closeup! Once in front of the judges she hands over her bundle of notes to Kara – naturally – then launches into some song she wrote which is horrible, then Natural woman which is even more horrible. She then proceeds to list the judges' accomplishments but it all comes out as one giant insult, leaving Randy with his mouth hanging open. The whole scene degenerates rapidly till Paula just walks out and Kara is forced to escort Akila out. All the while, Akila won't shut up. It's been months now since this scene played out but I hear she's still talking.
After the customary commercial break some, like John Twiford, Allison Iraheta, Raquel Houghton, manage to bag a golden ticket to Hollywood while others are are not so fortunate. Annie Murdock looks cute and normal with her short blond hair and Golden Gate shirt, however her painful rendition of Summertime can almost be classified as torture under the Geneva Convention. Kara kindly says it was overdone but Simon thinks she's drunk. Annie looks a bit surprised by this leading me to think that she's either not as normal as she appears or she really is drunk. In any case, she's dispatched into oblivion and we move on.
I've yet to see anybody I'd vote for, were I ever inclined to vote, that is. Can Adam Lambert from Hollywood can change my mind? He's got that unfortunate David Cook-esque hair that only makes sense if you want to look like you have more hair than brains. That's a serious mark against him although he does have a nice smile. He says he's the next Idol, of course. Sadly, judging by his tortured facial expressions as he sings Bohemian Rhapsody for the judges, he is also too theatrical in a laughably affected emo sort of way. Paula thinks he's good but Simon doesn't like the theatricality. Kara and Randy argue for him and in the end he gets four nods to go back home to Hollywood.
A mother's day
Kai Kalama from San Clemente, CA is another example of what can go very wrong with a man's hair. He sports a two week stubble and curly locks strangely gelled back to form a woolly pouf at the back of his head. Strange hairdo notwithstanding, Ky has what AI wants: a winning smile, a sick mom he takes care of all day whom he adores, a night job singing in bars and a lack of social life. He tells Randy he is good then launches into Smoke gets in your eyes which he does really well. Naturally this prompts Simon to say he's got a good voice but “the personality of a ship singer”. Note that he didn't say cruise ship crooner so it's not quite as big of an insult. Paula likes him, Kara thinks he's cute but needs to amp up the showmanship. Simon puts him through advising him to take his cues from Simon himself on how to put on a show. Loud jeers from the other judges follow as Kai runs out to call his mother on the phone and celebrate.
Believe it or not, only 12 people in the entire city of San Francisco were good enough to go to Hollywood. Will they find more gems in Louisville, KY? That remains to be seen, but judging from the previews pickings were slim. MotherSister will be here to break down the race in Kentucky getting us all one step closer to Hollywood week. Not a minute too soon either.