Wednesday, April 15, 2009
So, I haven't posted anything about this season's American Idol, because despite its few tweaks -- a supposedly shorter run of try-out episodes; extra Hollywood Week; and the new judge* -- it's been fairly dull.
* Last season I argued for new judges, specifically to bring in smart, sharp-tongued, interesting folks to liven up the three-person panel that might as well be staffed by androids at this point. (Randy-Bot: "Dawg, that rawked'; Paula-Bot: "Your voice, your feeling, what you do when you there there and here with us, really ..."; Simon-Bot: "I have no idea what Paula said. But, if I'm being honest, that was simply dreadful.") But the new judge, Kara, has seemed to be a weird amalgam of the existing three: Randy's occasional industry-speak, mixed with Paula's mooniness (and décolletage), and lightly salted with Simon's truth-telling. For me, a wash.
What has been buzz-worthy this season is AI's head-smackingly dreadful time-management. Each week has been marked with leisurely openings, only to end in frantically rushed comments and Ryan's breathless panting of the voting numbers.
Last week's show ran eight -- eight! -- minutes over. In network-TV time, that's astounding! Not only did it wipe out a big chunk of the next show (Fringe) but lots of people DVR this show (the better the fast forward through the non-performance inanities) and all those folks (myself included) didn't see the last performance at all. Which was, ironically, the show's fave and brightest spot, Adam Lambert, snugly berthed by the producers in the coveted, last-to-go pimp spot.
And yet, and yet -- last night, despite the fact that there were only seven performers, and that last week's cock-up was acknowledged, and that we had to suffer a pointless only-two-judges-per song system, the show still ran over! This isn't a sports game or news event; it's a highly choreographed formula show, in its 8th season!
Allow me to make some suggestions: Keep the theme nights, but drop the mentors and the pointless footage of them saying virtually the exact same thing to each contestant. Last night was a great example of misusing both time and talent: When Quentin Tarantino was a judge in a previous season, he made sharp, funny observation about the performances we had all just seen. Last night, he was a mentor and just gave vague, softball comments about how he thought a singer might do.
Cut Ryan's opening patter -- we know what show we're watching, who the judges are, who the contestants are. The show wastes so much time ahead of the performances, when the meat is after: We want to know what all the judges think (it's absurd to silence Simon on half the songs, when he's acknowledged to be the only voice of reason and coherence), and we also like to hear some defense from the singers. I could care less why they chose a song (especially since the answer is almost always: it's one of my favorites).
Anyhow, what about the singers?
I was glad to see Scott wander off to his inevitable career in Christian contemporary. Godspeed, young man! And while I appreciated Megan's "quirkiness," she lost me way back when she picked "Rockin' Robin." (People who weren't born when certain songs came out often of no idea how truly dreadful they were -- and still are.) Plus that one arm of tattoos was messing with my desire for symmetry.
We're left with Lil, who is the judges' punching bag. I agree with them, but it's just painful to watch this. If they still hated her "failure," why'd they give her the pimp spot last night? Then, there's Anoop, who I don't get. He can sing, but I get no excitement, showmanship, X-factor from him. He's just the best singer in his frat house.
Danny has got plenty of stage vibe and a likable personality, but he likely doesn't stand a chance. He's another church-friendly singer, and I could see him doing very, very well in X-tian rock-pop, if he wanted to go that route. Plenty of cashola there.
Next, the two guys that I'm sure most of America has trouble keeping straight: Matt and Kris. They're cute, they can sing, but neither has found a good niche and their days are numbered.
Allison ... I simply cannot get past that Halloween punk-rock fright wig on her head. It easily adds 20 years to her look. She's got the pipes, etc etc, but yikes ... she's 16. She needs to be younger, somehow.
But, with a couple wise song choices in the next couple weeks, her bad hair could end up in the final two with the show's other hairdressing nightmare, Adam. From here, it's hard to imagine any scenario where Mr. Hot Topic doesn't win.
For the record: I hate his look; it's painfully calculated and I daresay, dated. In the plus column, he can sing, has stage presence to spare (too much I'd argue, I don't want to see anymore of that licking his lips while gazing into the camera), and in this dull season, at least he remains unpredictable.
I don't think I like him, but his is the only performance I look forward to: What will Adam spectacularly rearrange this week? And how?
Last night was this bizarre shrieky hard-rock take on "Born to Be Wild," that 1. did actually sound better speeded up, and 2. had me hollering "Rocky Horror" a full two minutes before Simon did. Oh, and after two weeks of relatively straightforward look, the guyliner was back. Dude, move on.
So, yeah, I think Adam's winning is a foregone conclusion, though I can't help wondering if his forte is not in the big wild world but actually being on this show. The show's format means he can change it up radically from week to week and amaze viewers with something new. It's surely not my problem, but in today's micro-niche record-selling biz, how do you package such a chameleon? Ask yourself: What exactly is an Adam Lambert record?