The WB's Superstar USA Finale Recap 6/14/04
Let the Squirminess Begin!
As many of you know, last week I drove to Florida (many thanks to the wonderfully talented Wayner who covered for me). It takes around 14 hours from where I live to get to Orlando. I was just starting to recover from an ear infection and it caused blinding pain as I drove over the mountains of Tennessee. I also had a two-year-old throwing a tantrum about once every two hours throughout the trip. When I finally got out to play in the beautiful sunshine of Florida, I promptly broke out in hives that lasted three days. However, I now realize it was all child’s play compared to the discomfort I felt as I watched this final episode of “The WB’s Superstar USA”.
We begin the show with the usual recaps of previous episodes. We are shown the long and painful road we’ve come down to arrive at the final showdown for the title of “Superstar”. Instead of sparking feelings of nostalgia, I feel as if someone is showing me pictures of my last pap smear and saying, “Hey, wasn’t this fun?”
Bryan McFayden appears and reminds us that the competition has been narrowed down to three contestants. Rosa- the Latin Diva, Mario-the Rock God, and Jamie-the Pop Princess. The titles, are of his choosing, not mine. One of the three will be eliminated and the final two will go on to sing a duet. Whichever contestant wow’s the judges during the duet will go on to be named the first ever Superstar.
Before the competition begins, McFayden takes a moment to reintroduce the judges. Vitamin C tilts her head and gives her best cheerleader smile and Tone Loc looks typically disinterested. You know, when I look at Tone, I mostly see a man wishing this crap was over so he could pick up his paycheck and go home. Anyway, McFayden then introduces the mysterious Briggs (who is this guy?) and the audience boos and hisses on cue.
McFayden asks Briggs for his evaluation and predictions for the contestants. Briggs says that it’s a tough call because you can make a case for any of them being the winner. He likes Rosa for her consistent failure to sing the right notes or lyrics and Mario for entertainment value alone. However, he seems most impressed with Jamie for her unfaltering belief that she is a Superstar, despite butchering every song they give to her.
Punishment For Vocal Coaches
Before the final three showdown begins, we are shown the contestants being whisked away to Kathleen Wirt. The owner of a recording studio in Santa Monica, Ms. Wirt is there to help the kids work on their singing performances and bring out their own personal styles. I am assuming that Mr. Wirt has some great sin to atone for or she is being paid big bucks for this.
The first contestant to come for guidance is the bubbly Jamie. Kathleen tells her that the song they have selected for her is, “Respect”. Jamie is excited about the choice and they begin to rehearse. Kathleen can barely keep her face from contorting as Jamie wails her way through the song and later tells us that Jamie is a sweet girl who can “almost” sing. She has no such worries from Mario, however. He seems to stay firmly on the “can’t sing at all” side of the fence as he literally screams, “Don’t Want To Miss a Thing”. Kathleen calls him “special” and his singing and dancing “unconventional” but is rooting for him because of his underdog qualities
Rosa blows Kathleen away when she arrives on the scene. Kathleen says that Rosa has the most original singing voice and that she doesn’t even know how to describe it. She feels “dumbstruck” and says that not only has she never heard anything like that in the past, but also she doesn’t think she will ever hear anything like it again. I tried myself to think of how to describe it and the best that I could come up with is that it sounded slightly like a fire truck running trying to mate with a water buffalo.
Final Three Auditions
Jamie- Jamie starts out the first round of Auditions tonight with her rendition of “Respect”. First of all, no one should sing that song unless their name is “Aretha”. Much less a small-town suburbanite from Coon Rapids, Michigan. Or Minnesota? Well, it doesn’t matter. One of those cold “M” states in the middle. Anyway, that song is what I like to call a “life experience” song. You need to have lived it to sing it. I can put money on the fact that Jamie has never demanded respect from anyone. Therefore, she would be at a disadvantage even if she could sing. Which she can’t. This really renders the entire tangent I’ve gotten off on as meaningless. So, moving on...
Jamie begins her performance by asking the crowd if they are ready for Jamie. I’m briefly concerned that she might have caught whatever disease causes Jojo to speak of himself in the third person, but forget quickly as Jamie launches into her song. She writhes around the stage along to the music and screams out the lyrics in a haphazard fashion. She sings at times and merely yells at others. The men in the crowd cheer wildly, but I’m inclined to believe that they are hoping that the combined energy from their whoops and cheers will cause the bustier that Jamie has on to finally give up its losing battle and allow her ample cleavage to go free. Sadly, they are disappointed as this does not occur. Before leaving the stage, Jamie points first at a man in the front row and then at her breasts, lick her lips, and whispers, “Respect me.” Yeah, all women get respect that way.
The judges understandably love Jamie. Tone Loc says that she made the song her own. Briggs says that she has a natural connection with the audience. Happy with their response, Jamie bounds over to Bryan McFayden. He gushes about her performance for a moment and then tells her she looks great.
Mario-Mario is next to perform. He screeches the Aerosmith song as he dances around the stage. He does give an emotional performance, I’ll give it that. He even falls to his knees wailing at one point until I’m afraid he’s going to have a stroke. My fears prove unfounded as he does manage to finish without stroking out. Mario said he felt excellent about his performance.
Briggs was complimentary, saying that Mario was able to be sensitive and still please the head bangers. He told Mario that he had nailed it. Tone uses up his allotted 20 words per show by saying he loved how Mario rocked the mic so “tough” and that he has a caged animal quality about him. Vitamin C says that she felt like Mario was singing to her. I have to say that her acting when she pretended to be choked up was almost as bad as Mario’s singing.
The audience chant for Mario as he sits with McFayden for his post-audition interview. Bryan leads Mario into saying that he feels sexy by gushing about his sex appeal. I’m pretty sure Bryan will have a place reserved for him in hell after this. Right next to the guy who thought up, “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancée”. They will be forced to watch fat men in tighty-whities sing the theme song to “Playing It Straight” for all eternity.
Rosa-Rosa performs a vile song that I’ve never heard of called, “Bootyilicious”. As far as I could understand, the song was about shaking your rear end in France or something. I have no idea. I’ve become tragically uncool in my old age. Oh, who am I kidding? I was never cool. Anyhoo, she sings terribly (of course) as she follows the directions in the song and shakes her hiney every few words. The men folk in the audience are delighted. Between Jamie and Rosa, several of them were probably wondering if they should start folding their dollar bills.
Vitamin C tells her that she did a good job and says that they’ve seen a lot of growth from Rosa. That she started out as a housewife from Vegas (I did not know there was such a thing) and that she is now a contender. Tone said he liked the Latin flare and that the song was “Bootylicious”. Briggs does another rehearsed bit and says that the decision will be a difficult one.
And Then There Were Two
After the break, we return to McFayden, the contestants, and Jamie’s heaving bosom waiting onstage. McFayden explains that it is now time to eliminate one contestant and the other two will sing a final elimination duet. After waiting in suspense long enough for me to retrieve cookie dough from the refrigerator, open a can of Pepsi, mow the lawn, and write a novel, we learn that the lovely little Rosa has been eliminated. Rosa takes it well and gracefully exits this stage after an awkward hug from the awkward McFayden.
Ok. I know as well as anyone else that these shows are at least partially scripted. That producers lean on contestants to do or say certain things. That some decisions are more about good TV than reality. I have been around the Reality TV Block a few times. However, I’ll admit even I was irritated to find out that the “climatic duet” would be, “I’ve Had The Time of My Life”. A duet that is always sung by a man and woman. So, really there was never a final three. It was just a matter of which girl would sing with Mario. I know there is some manner of tampering in all of these shows, but having it thrown at us so blatantly was annoying to me. But, I digress.
I do have to admit that the duet was one of the funniest things I have seen for awhile. Mario actually seemed to hit one or two notes accidentally in the beginning, but quickly degraded into a strange little mumble when he forgot the words. He tried to make up for it with his trademark Frankenstein dance move, but you could tell his heart wasn’t in it. Jamie, on the other hand, went at her part with gusto. She leaned forward during the power notes, just in case someone in the back row hadn’t managed to see down her shirt yet, and provocatively gyrated in front of the bouncing Mario. That was a sight I’ll take to my grave, I can assure you.
And the Winner Is…
After the song, the judges tallied their scores and we were taken to the final elimination. Perhaps I fell asleep or something, but the next thing I know, Jamie was being named “Superstar” with very little lead-in. Mario rushed quickly from the stage as balloons and confetti covered the bouncing, squealing Jamie.
After the last balloon settles and the music stops, McFayden explains to Jamie that there is more to being a Superstar than a great singing voice. That there is also charisma, stage presence, showmanship (which I thought were all the same thing) and sex appeal. He says that Jamie has all of those things and that is why she is the Superstar. To prolong the agony, they then show a look back at Jamie’s “journey”. When listening to herself sing, Jamie gets a strange look on her face. I actually wonder if she might have realized how terrible she sounds, but when she starts to cry, I change my mind and decide she’s just feeling nostalgic.
When the video ends, McFayden finally delivers the deathblow. He explains they were looking for someone who had so much conviction that nothing could stop them. Not even a lousy singing voice. I see zero signs of realization on Jamie’s face. She looks a little baffled, but continues to smile as McFayden explains that they weren’t looking for a great singer, but rather someone who thought they were a great singer. He tells her that they lied to her about her being a great singer. Then he goes on to say the lamest thing ever. I mean it. The. Lamest. Thing. Ever. Smiling big, he says, “But we didn’t lie to you about how much this audience loves you!!” He then signals the audience to applaud and they cheer loudly.
McFayden then asks Jamie if she wants to be the Superstar anyway, to which the vacuous blonde responds, “Um…yeaaah.” She’s given a fifty thousand dollar recording contract and fifty thousand in cash. Jamie continues to smile and look clueless. I’m wondering how many times she’ll have to watch the show before she gets the joke.
As the closing credits roll, the cameras go backstage to capture the other finalist’s reactions as they too are told of the hoax. To soften the blow, Mario is given a check for ten thousand dollars and Rosa is given one for five thousand. They both seem pleased at this unexpected windfall and laugh along amiably. Mario then says a few words, wise beyond a typical reality show contestant. He says, “Considering all that’s happened, who cares what the show was about? I got to live out a dream. Before I came on the show, I was a quiet, shy person but I had a love of singing. Getting on the show brought out this inner me that was a warrior Mario that I didn’t know existed.”
I’ve had a blast covering this show for everyone. Good luck to Jamie, Mario, Rosa, and all of the other Superstars in all of their future endeavors. They may not have been able to sing, but I know they entertained me. If we’re lucky, maybe they’ll replace Season two with “Angel” reruns.
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