Wednesday, February 11, 2009

American Idol: Norman, is that you?

How wrong is it that I want this year's "American Idol" champ to be Norman Gentle?

That "Norman" -- the campy, headband-wearing alter ego of contestant Nick Mitchell -- is still in the running going into tonight's episode(*) speaks either to the enormous hubris of the "Idol" production team, to the boredom of the judges in the eighth season, or possibly both.

(*) No way, no how am I watching two hours of contestants sitting in The Chair to find out if they've made it through. It's traditionally the most excruciating episode of the season even at one-hour length. The only way they can even vaguely justify it is they make sure to show us significant footage of every person who makes it through to the semis, but I doubt we'll get that.

Every season of "Idol," there's always at least one contestant who sticks around long past his or her appropriate departure date, but even the most horrific of them had some justification for making it at least to the semi-finals. Hard as it may be to remember at this point, for instance, Sanjaya could actually kind of sing in his auditions and his Hollywood appearances; he didn't fall apart and turn into that monstrous thing until he started performing live in front of the studio audience, at which point his advancement was out of the show's control.

Norman, though, is a joke. He knows he's a joke -- I like to think that the character is a performance art piece that Nick is doing just to find out how long this entertainment juggernaut will indulge him -- and the judges know he's a joke, and yet here he is going into The Chair episode tonight, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him wind up in the semi-finals.

Fienberg's theory, expressed in his latest recap, is that Norman and Tatiana (who has some modicum of singing talent but is the most annoying "Idol" contestant I can remember making it this far) are there as bait for Vote For the Worst. I don't think the production gives VFTW and its negligible voting impact much thought. My theory, again, is that either the judges are bored (even Kara seems bored, and she's been here for all of five minutes), or he's still around because they feel every season needs at least one contestant who will lead viewers to self-righteously bellow, "What is he still doing here?" (Not only does that generate buzz, but it also, ironically, reinforces the idea that "Idol" is supposed to be a pure talent competition. If people didn't believe that, they wouldn't get so upset by Sanjaya, Scott Savol, et al.)

Whatever the reason, I think it would serve the show right if Norman were to advance a long way. I know he's not going to actually win -- depending on your opinion of Taylor Hicks, the joke contestants never win -- but the schadenfreude side of my brain has me rooting for the idea of Norman doing his thing on Neil Sedaka Night, and Pat Boone Night, and Al Jolson Night, and generally scaring the hell out of both the "Idol" audience and the "Idol" producers who are stuck with him. If I'm right that Nick is just punking the show, then the joke's not really funny unless he outlasts even the show's expectations for it, right?

Or am I just being too evil? What do you think?

32 comments:

Greg said...

My guess is the fairly obvious answer -- both Nick/Norman and Tatiana are still there as a result of producers who are looking for ratings. They both provide (in different ways) the same hook: how long can they possibly stick around? They make good television. Especially in the context of a tired format.

Tatiana, suspiciously, was pulled out of the No group in order to return for another show. I doubt it was the judges that were having second thoughts...

LA said...

^What Greg said. Especially the last paragraph.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And that's why I want to see it blow up in the show's face. I think they're comfortable with the How Dare They? contestants making it to, say, top 7 or 8, but after that, the show suffers for their presence. I want Norman to go all the way, baby.

Bobman said...

I don't have any "how dare they" thoughts, but I do have "this makes the show not fun" thoughts. It's not that I'm bothered that talentless people get to stay on, but more that it's just not fun watching very annoying people.

While Norman is annoying, at least he is fun (as was Sanjaya, in a way). Tatiana? That girl should be committed. She is legitimately unstable mentally, and every second she is on the screen is like a kick to my nether regions. It would be criminal for Idol to bring her into the semis, not just for the audience's sake, but for HER OWN sake.

Anonymous said...

Tatiana actually scares me. If she makes it to the final 36 and eventually gets cut, is she going to whip out a 9mm and go gangster on the judges?

I don't remember such a loonier person on idol

Lane said...

That poor homeless kid who lived in his car who got screwed last year was also mentally unstable. But not like this broad, she is nuttier than a Clark bark.

Maura said...

You might be too evil, Alan, but I love you for it. You have to really love Idol to watch it every week, which I do; and have a very high tolerance for BS and a torturous, endless stream of worn out Whitney/Celine/Mariah songs (which sucked enough the first time around). Sometimes you have the pleasure of hearing someone like Jennifer Hudson. Unfortunately, it's more likely you'll hear another Kat McFee or Diana DeGarmo.

There is no chance that Nick/Norman will win. Archuleta-type fangirls wouldn't stand for it. But I have to appreciate what he's doing. I would fall off the couch laughing if he won.

Tatiana is another case entirely. I don't care if, in her rare seconds of clarity, she has a decent voice. Annoying doesn't come close to covering her behavior. Horrendous comes to mind. At the risk of sounding like a TWoP-style armchair psychiatrist, that girl needs serious medication. I can't even say she makes good TV. I cringe every time she appears on screen.

Dan said...

Am I the only one who thinks Nick/Norman can actually sing? I think he sounds pretty good when he actually sings - which is rare - but he did sing a few verses here and there in his auditions.

I would not put him in the Tatiana group at all. That girl is just flat out annoying and honestly, she makes cringe-worthy TV; not good TV. No way she makes it past tonight.

By the way, how many contestants are left? Someone told me 54, but I could have sworn the judges said they were getting it down to 38 last night (even though only 36 are "finalists")

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm pretty sure Tatiana was pulled out of one "yes" room and put in another. Just a mindfuck to add drama. Pointless.

amysusanne said...

@Dan: Nope, not just you. He has a decent voice in there. He's certainly better than a lot of other people that went to Hollywood. I'm not especially offended at this point that he's still there because he hasn't actually taken the place of any deserving people that I can see. Sure, there were talented people that were cut last week, but they violated the remember the lyrics one strike rule. So, as it is, Norman Nick hasn't really screwed anyone over. That could all change tonight, though.

I do think the judges are bored and that they're playing a silly game of chess with this guy who, when he got put through to Hollywood, was all "oh shit, what am I going to do now??". I think he's part jokey joke and part insecure, so we'll probably never see Nick again, only Norman. I give him total props for not sabotaging his group (even if Simon thinks he did) and playing it straight when they had to perform together.

Tatiana, otoh, needs to go far, far, far away from my television.

Maura said...

I also think Nick/Norman can sing. The other thing about him is he's probably the only person who's shown up trying to be funny and actually managed to do it.

I don't see Tatiana getting past the first round of voting. Is there anyone who actually wants to put up with her antics every week?

In other Idol news, I love Danny Gokey and his friend Jamar. I hope they do well.

amysusanne said...

I like Danny and Jamar, too. Even if they weren't talented they're just so damn *nice*. Even if Jamar does dress like a kid from an 80s sitcom.

@Anonymous: I think you're right that Tatiana was removed from one yes to another yes. I assumed that it was just to get those awesome expressions from the contestants whose room she was added to and to make her cry some more.

KC said...

Usually, someone with an actual semi-voice AND a schtick looses the schtick when the judges tell them to get "serious". Nick/Norman has enough insecurity and self-awareness to realize the humor is his ticket. My only wish is that he would be both brilliantly funny and have a good enough voice to actually go all the way, which I would love.

You know if that happens though next season American Idol turns into Last Comic Standing.

Gayle said...

Differnece btw. Nick and Tatiana is that Nick is in on the joke, Tatiana isn't. If I was a contestant on the show, I'd be really pissed that I had to spend time with that girl.

And, I'm totally rooting for my Hometown boys from Milwaukee! I can't remember any other contestants from home and it's great that they both seem so nice as well.

Dijonase said...

Totally random and probably not particularly useful, but a good friend of mine went to middle school with this guy. He showed me the video a couple of weeks ago of his initial audition, and I couldn't believe what a spaz he was. So he's actually still doing that wacky character?

Dan said...

Rumor has it (I'm in class - not watching) that Jamar got the boot and Nick/Norman made it through tonight.

Fair?

Fred App said...

I'm all for moving Norman forward, because he's in on the joke, and so he's entertaining (at least in a relative AI sort of way), even if he's not particularly talented.

But Tatiana? No excuse.

And when someone like Jamar gets cut tonight, it means that the judges have chosen shtick and novelty over ability. And while that's certainly their right, it makes me care less about how it all turns out.

Anonymous said...

My friends and I are shocked that three drama “queens” made it through tonight: Mr. Multiple Personalities; More-Than-Irritating Self-Centered Laughing Girl; & Emotional-Whiny-Boy who is nuts to compare himself to David Bowie. These three CANNOT sing–and only distract from why we watch the show: SINGING TALENT. The black guy (friends of the guy who lost his wife) should be called back! As a WILD CARD. So sad to see. We all agreed–we just cannot watch the show until they are gone gone gone.

Anonymous said...

I watch the show for TALENT not for DRAMA & jewelry. “Judges” when they make a mistake, should CORRECT it! Jamar (friend of the guy who lost his wife) should have made it through. He should be called back for his voice because that is the purpose of the show. Not multiple personalities and drama queens. “Oh My God! Oh My God!” My Star! I will find something else to watch or do.

Anonymous said...

The three loonies they put through tonight are simply an insult to the show. None can sing! I take American Idol seriously and watch for talent. If I wanted to watch a comedy, I can turn the channel. Jamar should have made it through.

Anonymous said...

Tatiana is a nut case--does not belong on the show. Yes, cringe-TV it is. Neither does Nick/Norman. And, the kid who is so emotional and fighting with his team during Hollywood week. All three can not sing--and distract from the REAL reason I watch. I love music and want to see REAL TALENT. Not a circus show--and a bad one at that. I am not going to watch this season b/c of the bullshit! Just insulting to fans! I thought American Idol was better than this!

Anonymous said...

Jamar should not have been cut. Just so unfair!

SoCal said...

Wow...pathetic that the 3 terrible singers/psychos made it thru and Jamar didn't! Unreal...that dude has real talent.

Think the producers forced them to make it?

Anonymous said...

Nick/Norman has to be a ringer planted by the judges.

amysusanne said...

I'm not sure why Nick would be called a ringer. A plant, maybe, but not a ringer.

On the subject of actual ringers: so Pacitti's out? Good riddance. I wish she'd have taken Tatiana with her. I have no clue who the girl is that's replacing her, but the show has instantly improved based on that announcement.

Granola Mom said...

American Idol might be a "talent show", but mostly it's a television show. Without viewers, it's not anything.

With the numbers being so low, they are looking for anything to get and retain viewers. All the hubub over Sanjaya got people talking and watching to see if/when he got kicked off and what he would do next.
It's no wonder why the producers wanted a few "crazies" to bring the drama. It's what will keep a lot of people watching.

Granola Mom said...

Oh, and for the kid that cries constantly, there was no way he was going to leave, after all the attention Josiah got last year after they kicked him off! I knew he was going to make it!

Anonymous said...

I think everyone is pretty much on the mark---Norman has some talent and is funny, but not enough talent to be in the top 36. They decided to keep him to get viewers talking and see what he does next. It's a bit unfair to other more talented singers but I think the judges and producers didn't mind leaving off someone else who had some ability but didn't have the charisma to win in favor of Norman.

Oh, and on the other point of most posts, yes Tatiana is insane and one of the most annoying people ever. That one's a bit cruel because they're pushing her through so we can watch her (continue to) melt down, but that's Idol at times. She truly does seem mentally unstable, and I don't see who could enjoy her constant shrieking and weeping. At least "Norman" came there in character and gets the joke.

amysusanne said...

I'd like to blame Norman for Jamar being cut, but since I think Nate royally sucks, a couple of less offensive guys were average and there were a handful of "we also put these people through" folks I didn't even recognize, there's a good chance that Normal is somewhere in the middle.

Also, aren't we still having the wild cards? Or did that just turn out to be rumor? I'd bet quite a bit that Jamar will be back.

Adam said...

My understanding is that the wildcards are the #4s from each of the first three weeks, plus whoever else the judges want, with the judges choosing the final three singers from that pool (presumably, to fix gender balance, among other things.) This will be on the Thursday night right after the third group of semifinalists.

I believe there was only one season in which folks who didn't initially make the semis were allowed into the wild cards -- season 2.

Davy said...

I actually like Nick/Norman. After watching Julien Doré win the french version (Nouvelle Star) a couple of years back, I've been hoping to see someone like this on our show -- someone who's definitely talented but who also understands that singing well and entertaining aren't always the same thing.

Nick likely won't win, but I'll bet we'll be entertained when he's on stage, which is more than can be said about Justin Gualrini, Diana DiGarmo, Jasmine Trias.... That's why I'm not upset about Jamar being booted -- he did "a'ight" (expecially on his version of Hey There Deliliah), but for the most part he was boring, either blending into the crowd (i.e. his friend's backstory), or worse, became Screamy McScreamerston (a role already filled by Von).

I know many of you wish this were a pure singing competition, but it's not, and never really has been. Time and again it's been shown that it's better to be marginal yet entertaining than great but boring.

Michael said...

And of course the latest scandal... Joanna Pacitti, who was given another shot by the judges, was later disqualified to avoid "the appearance of impropriety" in that she's friends with some of the producers. They brought back Felicia Barton instead. You can read about it, well, everywhere.