Wednesday, April 30, 2008

American Idol: Paula sees the future, take two

Oh, this gets more and more amusing as the day goes along. Continued thoughts on Paula Abdul's spectacular "American Idol" gaffe coming right up...

As discussed at length in last night's recap, the first round of performances last night went uncommented upon by the judges in the interest of saving time. Then, randomly (Ryan Seacrest later blamed it on Mike Darnell, Fox's head of reality programming), they brought all the contestants on stage midway through the show and asked the judges to offer quick comments on those first songs. Randy, in maybe the greatest Randy moment ever was forced to use all of his cliches in the same soundbyte. And then Pauler, beautiful, crazy, incoherent, wonderful Pauler, began runng through her comments about Jason Castro's first song, and then his second -- and it took Randy and Ryan a good 30 seconds to explain to her that Jason hadn't sung his second song yet.

You can watch this glorious fiasco for yourself on YouTube, and Entertainment Weekly's Pop Watch blog has a hilarious account of what this all looked like for the people in the studio. (I somehow imagine Nigel Lythgoe frantically waving his arms as we hear him yell "NOOOOO!!!!!" in slow motion.)

Immediately, the "Idol" blogosphere and message boards lit up with the same three theories I broached last night:
  1. Paula was whacked out of her mind on booze, or pills, or her own special brand of crazy and had no idea who had sung what, or maybe even where she was
  2. Paula had watched the dress rehearsal performances -- Nigel and the other judges have said in the past that they watch a feed of them from their dressing rooms, because it's too hard to hear anything in the actual studio -- taken notes, and got confused due to the aforementioned booze, pills or special crazy brand
  3. Paula has no idea what any of these people sound like and has her comments scripted for her by Nigel and company, and the last-minute switcheroo was too much for her to handle, so she kept on reading what they had given her.
Much as I love to be an "Idol conspiracy theorist from time to time, I'm inclined to go with a explanation #2. It's still problematic -- as we know, the dress rehearsal performances can vary wildly in quality from what happens during the live show, which gives the judges' comments a real disconnect from what we just heard, and again illustrates how useless the judges are -- but it's the simplest and most logical of the possibilities, and Paula's commentary is usually so rambling and pointless that I can't imagine anyone (even the people who thought back-to-back themes devoted to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Neil Diamond was a good idea) writing it for her.

That said, watching Pauler and team "Idol" scramble around to explain this has been very funny. Last night, Paula told the syndicated infotainment shows (including "The Insider") that her mistake was in reading her notes on David Cook and applying it to Jason. One problem: her comments on Jason song #2 began with her complaining that he wasn't trying hard enough, and moments later, she said that David Cook was wonderful. You can't really reconcile the two, and anyone who watches the show -- even the idiots in the studio who boo Simon even when he's trying to say something nice -- can tell that Paula's lying.

And then, today she went on Seacrest's radio show for phase two of the damage control -- phase three will no doubt come tonight during the results show, in a segment so long and contrived and awkward that it'll make the Zapruder film of Simon rolling his eyes at Chris Richardson last year feel natural -- and came up with a different explanation. Now even Paula's going with theory #2, that she took notes on the dress rehearsal -- but, somehow, only saw Jason perform at that rehearsal -- and got confused because of the curveball that Darnell forced on the show.

Again, I don't want to be a conspiracy theorist, but what's the explanation going to be by tonight? Will she be blaming her ear medication? Simon playing a practical joke on her by slipping in some forged notes that she read by mistake? Aurora borealis? If she really just got confused because she had been to dress rehearsal, why didn't she -- or Ryan, for that matter, who's usually good at smoothing over this stuff -- explain it at the moment it happened? And why did she give the bogus David Cook explanation to the infotainment shows, then switch to the rehearsal theory today?

Conspiracy theory or not, here's a more pressing question: what happens if Jason's the lowest vote-getter this week? Do they send him home even though he was forced to perform his second song only moments after he had been told the judges were going to hate it? I don't even like Jason, but that's not cool. Might we get some kind of non-elimination, followed by double-elim next week?

Even by "Idol" scandal standards, this is a weird one.


Mrglass said...

I have a better conspiracy theory!

Explanation #4: this season is boring everyone to tears (even Carly and Michael exits didn't really make headlines or EW covers), so it was time for a real shocking moment. Paula did get a note from the producers, but it told her to do what she does best, completely melt down!

And it worked, Idol is everywhere on the news today. How is that for a paranoiac explanation?

As for Jason, this whole thing may just have saved him, I think Brooke will get the boot instead.

Mrglass said...

Just to add: it will be interesting to see ratings for tonight's result show and the result of all this coverage, last week was the lowest in 5 years.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, this whole incident is bit disillusioning-- and this coming from a guy who's alive long enough to be thoroughly disillusioned by just about everything. I agree that Theory #2 is the only one that makes sense, but it never occurred to me that judges would have notes or prepared responses before hearing the live performance. Their comments (or at least, Randy and Pauler's) have always struck me as too inane to be anything but on-the-fly. Can you really picture Randy sitting a quiet room before the show, thoughtfully composing lines like "that was the bomb, dawg!"?

I think this is what Homer Simpson might call a crisitunity: Get rid of Paula (and Randy, too, while you're at it) and fill the seats with judges who might have something helpful, insightful, and/or provocative to say. I understand you can't have three Simons, of course, but they're getting paid unholy amounts of money to do their jobs in a half-assed way. IDOL has been looking for ways to improve the show; there's one.

Jake said...

I blame sports blogs.

Anonymous said...

The only explanation I'll buy goes something like this -

Paula: "I'm Paula,"

Audience: "Hi, Paula!"

Paula: "and I'm an addict."

Anonymous said...

And am I the only one that noticed she called Syesha "Brooke" during her critique? I haven't seen anyone mention that yet.

Anonymous said...

It's almost guaranteed that Jason Castro will NOT go home tonight. It's the only way they can overcome all the talk of conspiracy theories. Paula's gaffe is a bigger credibility issue than her sleeping with that one contestant a few years ago.

If Jason goes home after Paula slammed his second song before he even sang it, it will give the haters unlimited fuel, Castro fans a reason to leave the show for good, and all those already on the fence about continuing to watch this tired franchise the little push they needed to give it up. He won't even be bottom 2, even though he sucks.

Brooke and Seyesha Bottom 2 instead.

It would take some real, REAL balls for Jason to go tonight if he really is the lowest vote getter, this is one time I can see a fix being absolutely necessary for the bigger picture of AI in general.

Undercover Black Man said...

Would it be all that horrible to just admit that she's seen the dress rehearsal and taken notes on that?

Because, having watched her gaffe again... she was dead-on right about what was wrong with Jason's second performance. She wasn't making anything up. Her critique was accurate.

Anonymous said...

God forbid they should break the illusion that they are seeing and judging the performances live even though both Randy and Paula have admitted in the past that they sometimes 'catch' a rehearsal.

The woman is so inane a slight change sends her into a flailing freefall. "We've never had to write anything down before!" she wails.

Nice to have a job where they pay you millions and you never have to write anything down.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing of substance to add. I would just like to say that I laughed out loud at Scott Tobias' comment imagining Randy in his dressing room.

Anonymous said...

The real answer is here: Paula can predict the future.

Nicole said...

I think the answer is mostly theory number 2 with a little number one thrown in. I guess we'll find out now.

Anonymous said...

What's funny is that the bar is set so low re: our expectations of Paula -- that the best possible explanation of this is that she got confused about whether what was taking place before her very eyes was the dress rehearsal or the live show.

Reality check - not knowing whether you are taking part in a live TV show with tens of millions of people watching or just watching a dress rehearsal? When your job is working on a live TV show and you've been doing said job for a number of years? That makes you crazy, substance-addled or really stupid. Or some combination of all three.

Don't get me wrong, it was the most entertaining thing of the night (followed closely by Brooke's crazy-eyed grinning during "I'm A Believer"), but it's pretty sad that as long as Paula isn't wearing a drool cup, she's considered "able" enough to do her job.