RATINGS UPDATE: I thought Tuesday might have been a fluke, so I held off on trumpeting it. But it happened again Wednesday. Idol scored 26.1 million viewers on Tuesday and 26.7 million viewers on Wednesday. That's a massive increase of 33% and 21% respectively over the same nights last year. As Marc Berman of Mediaweek points out, this is remarkable for a veteran series. And Idol is the #1 show in the country. To spike in the ratings so dramatically nine years into its run is jaw-dropping. It's only one week, but amazing nonetheless. If it keeps up, it'll be simply astonishing. The last time a veteran series well into its run increased its total so much was probably Law & Order. But that show enjoyed a slow and steady rise to the top, debuting in 1990, becoming a Top 30 in 1994, a Top 20 show in 1997, a Top 10 show in 2000 and peaking at #5 in 2001 followed by a slow decline. The other, better comparison is 60 Minutes, which debuted in 1968, hit the Top 20 in 1976, the Top 5 in 1977, hit #1 in 1979 and 1982 and then again for three years from 1991 to 1993 roughly a decade later.
A brisk episode of American Idol, though talent seemed thin on the ground again. Kristen Chenoweth was a fun guest judge for part of the Orlando auditions -- she and Kara bonded and they managed to have fun while annoying Simon no end.On her own, Kara is still struggling a bit, at least for me. I looked forward to Paula's sometimes wacky comments but I cringe over Kara's. More importantly, she hasn't championed anyone on her own that I was excited about or given me any insight. Mind you, neither has Randy. More than ever, it's all about Simon and every contestant knows it. If he says yes, their eyes light up with shock or joy or triumph.
I always get a little depressed when the show begins with a goofball, in this case a guy named Theo covered in glitter who tells Simon that if he wins Idol, in ten years he pictures himself...running a high end salon. (There've been an awful lot of people working in hair dressing or living with parents who do. Know why? Hair salons/beauty parlors are a cheap business to open that you can operate out of your own home -- perfect for this awful economy.) On to the golden tickets.
SETH ROLLINS -- Sang "Someone To Watch Over Me," which he pegged as a Frank Sinatra song, rather than a Gershwin song. Not a big deal, but can't contestants who plan to stand in line for ten hours to audition google their song and figure out the proper title or in this case whose it is? Seth is a nice guy with two kids, one of whom lives with autism. Seth is fine with the song, like a million other people in a million other cabarets. But he throws in too many trills and runs, loses his breath and has a weird break in the middle and sounds rough on the low notes. Plus he has no vocal character or way with the lyrics. Maybe the judges are beaten down by the lack of talent we've seen on air so far. They say yes but urge him to develop more personality. Huh? How exactly does one develop innate talent?
JERMAINE PURIFOY -- Sang "Smile" by Tony Bennett. (Actually, by Charlie Chaplin.) This is another repeat auditioner, which once seemed unusual but now seems par for the course. If you got to Hollywood in years past, wouldn't you take another stab? In Jermaine's case, he didn't get that far but here he is again. He just SAILS through the tune with ease and personality. It's a lovely tune though it can drag a bit. Not here. The contrast between him and Seth is especially dramatic. Assuming Jermaine came later, Seth got lucky. Both sang standards and if the judges had heard Jermaine first, I think they wouldn't have been so easy on Seth. Jermaine is definitely one to watch.
SHELBY DRESSEL -- Sang "Turn Me On" by Norah Jones. This is the young woman whose mouth is a bit upturned due to a medical condition of some sort. It's rather distracting but you think, who cares if she can sing? But she's not terribly convincing, running out of breath in the middle of a sentence and basically having no feel for the story she's supposed to be telling. You can always spot a "shower singer" -- someone, like me, who can hold a note but doesn't really know how to get the lyrics across. You might hear a pretty or engaging melody, but you can't really follow the words or the emotion that' should be conveyed. However nice the sound, it's just sound. That's Shelby. Plus, of course, she forgot the lyrics. Cute curse word or not, forgetting the lyrics should generally be a death knell. Simon gave a yes with a small "y," at least acknowledging her weakness though the others said yes. It's clear they sometimes know the backstory in advance because they often refer to it. I'm sure she'd be the last to want them to grade her on a curve, but I can't help feeling they did. Yet one more golden ticket I object to pretty strongly.
JAY STONE -- Sang/beatboxed "Come Together" by the Beatles and then sang "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers. Claimed he was really original. No one's ever done this before. Uh, Blake Lewis? Oh, but he didn't beat and sing at the same time, says Jay. His singing moment isn't special in the least. Simon says no, but Kara champions him (why?) and cajoles Randy into saying yes. They also let through a guy with no talent whose pants split during his audition. Again, why?
Then we get a quick montage of three women who all get through but their clips are so short I don't think it's fair to judge any of them too much. But JANET WHEELER seemed to impress Simon mostly with her looks (not an unreasonable standard), BRITNEY STARR JAMES really flew by and KASI BEDFORD had a raspy distinctive voice (to a modest degree) and seemed perky. Boy, with so few golden tickets, why rush through these women? If their audiitions were so boring, why did they get through? This seems a case of no juicy backstory, no airtime.
CORNELIUS EDWARDS -- Sang "Rolling" by Tina Turner. Uh, it's called "Proud Mary" and you're singing the Tina Turner version but it's by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This is the guy who didn't sing well but his pants split so Kara urged him through because it was "hilarious." Why?
BERNADETTE AND AMANDA DESIMONE -- Two sisters, Bernadette sang "Hit The Road, Jack" and Amanda sang Whitney, not a good idea. Two lovable and loving sisters with loads of personality but not much vocal talent. They got through easily and will get airtime as they joke around. Maybe Bernadette is decent; we'll find out.
Suddenly we get an episode of COPS as a contestant who can't sing at all is bum-rushed away by security, all with ominous music playing in the background. If I were the judges, I wouldn't want creepy people who refuse to leave getting any airtime whatsoever.
MATT LAWRENCE - Sang "Trouble" by Ray LaMontagne. This guy robbed a bank with a BB gun at the age of 15 and spent about four years in jail. Now he wants to make his family proud. Happily, he did and scored a golden ticket. Now, "Trouble" is hardly an obscure song, but it's not Top 40 fodder either. It fits his back story and his vocal range and he nails it. People who audition and sing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" or "Ain't No Sunshine" or "Falling" by Alicia Keys or any of the other dozen or so songs that get overdone? Try picking something NOT done to death on the show. Yeah, "Summertime" is a great song and you can even get through singing it. But you'll be that much closer to a golden ticket if you DON"T pick something the poor judges have had to sit through a thousand times. Matt did just that and he has a really good, distinctive voice. He did have one odd break in the middle of a line, waiting a moment before delivering the last word. But that was probably nerves. He sang great and he told the story of the song. If you actually hear the lyrics (rather than just the melody) you've got a good singer on your hands. As he walked out, Kara said, he's going Top 12. For a change, I agree with her. As a nice bonus, he seemed genuinely shocked and thrilled to hear their compliments.
So did anyone stand out for you and did you have any big disagreements with the judges -- someone who did or didn't deserve a golden ticket? Talk to me.
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