Thursday, February 25, 2010

American Idol: Hello, Bizarro World! Hello!

Ugh... where to start with last night's "American Idol" semi-final episode with the Top 12 guys? With a series of vocals (Tim Urban) and song choices (John Park) so brutal that the upbeat semi-competence of Big Mike Lynche's "This Love" made him seem deserving of an instant pass to the finals? With the way the show seems to have learned not a darned thing from the Paula Abdul/Corey Clark mess in the way it's playing up Kara's attraction to Casey James? With Ellen still looking terrified every time she has to say anything vaguely negative? With Andrew Garcia already looking like a one-trick pony (albeit one with a pretty good trick)?

Or should we start with the judges doing a complete 180 from the night before? On Tuesday, they kept beating the women over the head with orders to not do soundalike covers, to instead ape Blake/Cook/Lambert/Kris and either rearrange songs or find someone else's obscure arrangement. Wednesday night, they kept complaining when the contestants did exactly that. I'm not saying the rearrangements were all good - Todrick Hall didn't have the vocal chops to back up his reconstruction of "Since U Been Gone," and Andrew's gimmick becomes less charming the more he keeps doing the exact same iteration of it - but what exactly happened between night one and night two? Did the producers give the judges a talking-to for some reason? Did the judges have nightmares about an entire season of Adam Lambert's "Ring of Fire"? Or is it as simple as Fienberg (whose own recap is here) half-jokingly suggested on Throwing Things: that it's the easiest way to sabotage the guys and ensure that the show gets the female winner everybody clearly wants this year.

Whatever the heck was going on, this was one of the worst "Idol" performance shows I've ever seen. Just brutal, brutal, brutal. Another week or two like this, and I may have to seriously consider just jumping ahead to halfway through the finals, when most of the really awful people are gone, and just skim YouTube for the performances I hear are good.

What did everybody else think?


maxximumvolumefilms said...

Casey was really the only one who came off as natural and simply let his soulful voice and simple skill carry his performance. Andrew was pretty good, but I definitely agree - his "one trick" will wear thing quickly, despite being a pretty good trick. If he's smart (and something tells me that he might be), he'll at the very least drop the guitar next week, maybe even try something a little faster paced. The rest ranged from meh to terrible. Not as if the girls were any better.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't good. At all. But, I still found myself on the side of even the worst performers based solely on how obnoxious and contradictory the judges were being. Mostly it was Simon, but the other three got into it as well, and it was really unpleasant to watch. And I don't know if it's because he thinks it's expected or if he just doesn't care anymore, but I'm finding Simon's snotty asides when the other judges are giving their critiques and his unnecessarily cruel metaphors to be really,really hard to take. It seems to be for no other reason than to undermine the contestants and the other judges. Simon used to be charming and funny with his snarkiness, but it's just not working for me this year. Hopefully whoever remains next week will improve and at least the singing portion of the show will be pleasant.

Sirfuller said...

the songs this year are sooo mellow... quit putting me to sleep. How about some pizazz!!!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Not as if the girls were any better.

The ladies' night at least featured three or four performances (Lilly, Crystal, Didi and maybe Siobhan) that I would have called "good." With the men, I had to keep looking for silver linings with even the non-horrible guys.

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Indeed said...

Ya, that was not good. Although I enjoyed Lee Dewyze despite the fact that I don't like the song he sang, but I suspect I may his style if he sticks around. I think Casey has potential, but I hope somebody advises him to lose that perma-grin he had during his performance.

Craig Ranapia said...

I still found myself on the side of even the worst performers based solely on how obnoxious and contradictory the judges were being.

Meh... I'm sorry if this sound callous, but if I was a club booker or A&R man, my reaction to a set of auditions that failed to scale the dizzying heights of mediocrity would have been even worse. Short, curt and XXX-rated, in fact.

And I don't really see the point of complaining that the judges are "contradictory" or "inconsistent". The simple fact is that, in the moment, you've got to got to own and sell your song choice and arrangement.

Anonymous said...

You're totally right Alan---they had the judges do a 180 from the first night. Who knows why? I don't think they purposely sabotaged the guys---what would the point be with 24 people left?

I didn't think the show was THAT horrible, just a lot of mediocre ballads with a few verging on horrible. I didn't like some of the women Alan liked, so I'd rate them barely a notch above the guys. Either way, you might be wise to leave and come back for the top 10 or something.

It's a shame, in a way, that they're playing up the Casey James/Kara thing (at least they are doing it as a joke rather than just letting Paula drool there in the chair and be creepy), because with that voice and look, Casey has "star" written all over him. He's the very, very early favorite to win if he doesn't get trivialized as a pretty boy joke, and he'd be a goldmine as a country artist.

Anonymous said...

Arguably the single worst performance night ever on Idol. I found myself waiting for the 2 hours to quickly come to a close. Lee Dewyze was the only one who showed the potential to move forward. Casey was okay, but only in the sense of his inferior competition.

What struck me more than the guys though was the continuing lameness of Ellen. For a sharp witted comedian, she seems incapable of putting together a coherent critique. She stammers along and by the time she has finished, has said nothing (not that Randy's much better for a supposed expert. I'll have "mad love" for him if he ever nails a critique the way Simon consistently does). This is a music show. The producers missed huge by putting someone whose music background consists of listening to music on her ipod, in a position to judge the merits of singers.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of how often Simon proclaims that "this is a singing competition" (usually a few minutes before he bitches about what someone is wearing or their level of awkwardness) it's an entertainment show and for a few seasons there a lot of the fun came just as much from the judges, Simon in particular, as from the performers. Simon ceased being fun awhile ago.

He's not a club booker and he's not auditioning someone for a spot in a show. That part is over. Quick and curt is fine in the early rounds, it's ridiculous here. He put these people there (except Urban, which he wants us to remember in spite of the fact that, yeah, he actually did put him through multiple times including this one), he tells them what to do, he gives them various levels of advice and then turns around and whines about it. That's kind of where he is these days. Whiny and bitchy without much humor.

The "system" has always been flawed, but it really started to be less enjoyable last year when they were so clearly in the tank for Adam. Luckily, Adam was talented. And fortunately, save for the fact that he wants a girl, Simon's not actually bold enough to advocate for a winner the first week. But, it's more irritating than enjoyable these days. It might become background noise unless either the contestants or the judges get it together.

Bobman said...

I really hope this "round" was all first-week nerves. I had high hopes for some of these folks coming out of Hollywood week, but holy crap were they disappointing.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I agree Alan. There were those 4 good performances on girls night.

I gotta say that the judges annoyed me more than the performances. Like for instance, they wanted originality, but when Lilly rearranged that beatles song they gave her no credit for it. And Simon only hated Didi's performance cuz it was obvious he didn't even know the song. You know it is time for him to go, cuz he pulls for current singers and he doesn't even know current music.

And what about Tyler? I would be pulling stink faces too if I were him. He heard over and over again that they loved his 70s vibe, that they wanted to see those moves, that style, and then he brings it and they complain that he should change it up? Ridiculous! His vocal was not great, but he gave the judges what they asked for, and for them to give that type of feedback just annoyed the crap out of me.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I'm saying this but I miss Paula.

What killed the show for me last night was how unrelentingly negative the judges were being. They just sucked the air and energy out of the show. Yes, there were some terrible performances and that certainly didn't help. But the judges had to pile on even the not so terrible ones.

Paula always had something positive to say and that allowed the audience (in the studio and at home) and the performers to enjoy themselves or loosen up. There was no relief last night. Just dreadful.

Adam said...

Before we start going all "worst night ever," we've had much, much worse semifinals before.

Here's my additional question, which I asked over at Throwing Things this morning, re Todrick: Why hasn't an Usher/Chris Brown/Ne-Yo type ever succeeded on this show?

Anonymous said...

Wow! How bad was last night? Truth is none of these guys deserve to go thru. Can America vote all of them off in one fell swoop? And the song selections were terrible (short of Casey....good call). The only positive thing about the song selections were they were great if you suffer from insomnia. Guys.....whatever happened to rock n roll?? I get they are trying to show their range, but c'mon. A little rock goes a long way. At least it wakes the crowd (and me) up. Last night was American Idol for senior citizens.

As for the post about Simon being snarky.....give him a break. If I had to sit thru that drivel all night, I would be short and curt too. At least he has the balls to call it the way he sees it. If he left Idol right now for his new show, and left the judging to Moe, Larry, and Curly who sit with him, I couldn't blame him.

Josh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh said...

Why is the Kara/Casey thing such a big issue to Alan and Feinberg and other TV bloggers/critics? Why is it not something that Idol should joke about? This isn't like a high school teacher being with a student. He's a 20 something year old man, she's 39. It's not 'creepy' creepier than Wladimir Klitschko hanging with Hayden Panettiere.

And I don't think it threatens the integrity of the show because a) Idol isn't exactly a bastion of integrity in the first place...and b) Kara doesn't directly impact who stays and who goes. In terms of the integrity of the show, this no worse than having Bob Griese do color commentary for the Rose Bowl that his son is playing in.

Worst case scenario, they have a little fling, it gets exposed, and it's scandalicious for a few weeks, pushes Idol to the front cover of the tabloids, and that's about it. The Corey Clark thing didn't really damage idol in any meaningful way. It continued to get more and more popular after the story was exposed.

Miken said...

I'll just do a Kara impression of how I felt about the show:

It needs to be more organic (bob head), it wasn't authentic (look to Simon for approval), but the guys looked good (eye **** Casey), overall they were just bad song choices (Ellen just figured out what she was going to piggyback on)....VIBE.

EVERY ONE of her critiques has at least one of these cliches, and sometimes she gets EVERY ONE in there. The only tolerable judge is Randy, and this is coming from someone who really likes Ellen and has always been a big fan of Simon.

Nobody was that good, but the judges used to look at someone like Tim Urban and say, "The verse actually sounded pretty good, but you should realize you can't hit that note in the chorus, you should've changed that up." Instead they say, "Song choice, dreadful, indulgent." They used to draw on at least one positive thing.

The indulgent comments upset me the most. They say people need to feel comfortable and have confidence, but if they have confidence and it's not good, then it's indulgent. WHAT DO THE JUDGES WANT?!

cathy b. said...

I don't watch the show. I just wanted to say that Alan, I'm amazed that you can stand your job. Yes, there is great TV, still, to see. But you have to watch so much of the other stuff as well.

Wayne said...

Pretty bad. They kept going back to Garcia's revamp of Paula's "Straight Up" and why doesn't the do more of that. Does anyone else get the feeling he prepared that a Looooonnng time ago when Paula was still a judge, and just isn't as spontaneous or immediately creative as they think he is?

Marc said...

refreshing to see Amysusanne's comments because im beginning to think Im the only person offended by Simons unnessesarily nasty and cruel comments.

It started off before anyone sang when he said if you're not good - your career is over. way to psych them up, sweetheart.

He just seemed extra annoyed last night and lets face it, his job consititues of sitting on a chair for 2 hours criticizing people - hardly a brick layer and he acts like he's been put through hell. Mind you this job has made him riduculously rich and successful.

Kara was critical but at least she said her comments as someone who was a fan of these kids and was critqiuing them constructively. I have never been a fan of Kara on this show but last night I thought she and Randy, also a surprise, had pointed comments and they actually came from a place of trying to make these kids better.

It's truly a disturbing trend that Simon's celebrity rises the nastier he gets. The fact is out of anyone he has sat next to on that panel, he has the least musical talent in the biz (singer/songriwter/bass player/cheographer) and in the case of Ellen she is also a performer. He doesn't have the balls to get up on stage and do what these kids do week to week and then get eviscerated in front of 25 million people. His co horts know what thats like. Whether Tim Urban was bad, the way Simon spoke to him after was just mean and you could see that poor kids face - Im sorry thats just cruel. Kara said the same thing as Simon, she just said it kinder. In my opinion theres no excuse to be unneccesarily mean to people.

Apparently Im in the minority of being so offended by Simons meanness and that disturbs me more.

LA said...

I agree that the judging was as bad as most of the performances. There were a handful of passable performances, but the judges beat those boys into submission, and I predict next week is a trainwreck after the advice they were given.

Over-playing Kara's "crush" on Casey is awkward and embarrassing. Please, producers, STOP NOW!

I hope America did right thing and sent Alex Lambert home.

Jenn said...

I agree with basically everything you said Alan (and I said some of those things myself last night). I can usually sit through an entire episode of Idol without getting antsy, but about 45 minutes in, it became background while I did the dishes.

Cree said...

The girls were terrible. The guys were terrible. The judges were terrible. I'm right there with you Alan. I'll be skipping ahead to the top 12 if the performances aren't immediately better. Some of it was painful to watch and other parts were so boring that I had to fight sleep.

And the Kara/Casey thing is tacky and unprofessional on every level. From the Paula scandal to the fact that Kara and Randy actually distracted Casey during the middle of his performance.

This sort of hi-jinks can easily sway voters or cause a backlash. No cool IDOL. Not cool at all.


Steve said...

This is the worst slate sf 24 contestants the show has ever had.

But, there were a handful of performers that I enjoyed. I really liked Andrew Garcia's Fall Out Boy rendition. He has a great sound to his voice and I enjoyed the way he changed up the song.

Lee Dewyze has a very good voice as well and sounds like he could be on the radio.

The dark horse is Alex Lambert. THough he looks like a sketchy tourist from Moscow, he has incredible tone to his voice. James Morrison is not an easy task.

Casey will go far because he sings very well, and girls will love him.

The problem is that the rest of the performances were horrendous. Just horrendous.

Tim will probably go far because he looks like a preppy Abercrombie model

Mike F said...

The main thing I don't like so far is the 90 second performances followed by 6 minutes of judging. There's one too many judges, and I still can't stand listening to or watching Kara.

At this point, the judges are being overly critical and so are the bloggers. Give these kids a chance to grow, identify potential and we'll see how it goes.

I thought the Snow Patrol rendition was good, just remarkably short (boo Idol). I think Big Mike is very likable and has a terrific voice. And I'm sure next week a few of the other guys will stand out to me.

This year, it seems like its anybody's ball game. The fun part of the first few weeks is seeing who emerges and this year, we'll just wait another week or two to see.

Tina Marina said...

What annoyed me was how the judges constantly seemed to be tired of the various guys' trademark styles. I mean, for a lot of viewers this is the first time to hear the contestants. Hollywood Week features only a few of the final 24 and is the least watched protion of the show. How can they be tired of Andrew Garcia's guitar already? A song choice isn't "bold" or "unexpected" if the performer hasn't established their comfort zones.

If I were a performer on Idol, I'd ignore the judges at this stage. Personally, I think it's the worst and is rarely a barometer of potential to get to the final. All you need to do is make it through to the big stage.

rachelmed said...

"Mike F said...

The main thing I don't like so far is the 90 second performances followed by 6 minutes of judging. There's one too many judges, and I still can't stand listening to or watching Kara."

One thing I really like about the judging on SYTYCD is that to avoid the comments taking up too much of the show they sometimes limit only 1 or 2 of the judges to comment on a performance.

It helps the dances to stay long and for the judging to not get too repetitive. Like we saw this week, a lot of the comments were just repeats of what the person before them had to say. Idol should take note and start doing this. It might even help them to keep from going over in time this season!

Jayme said...

I often get the impression that everyone involved in the show picks their favorites early on and try to push the voters to select those with the most marketability. Whether it is Simon essentially declaring Archuleta the winner before the vote or Randy Jackson allegedly meeting Jordin Sparks before she was even on the show, there always seems to be evidence popping up to support this. The fact that the men are SO bad this year, goes even further. It seems like they are pushing for a female winner so hard that they almost intentionally picked bad guys. We've definitely seen this with the first few people kicked off each year, you know that their sole reason for being on the show is to be so obviously bad that the audience doesn't make a mistake and take out one of the ringers. I mean, I've heard better singers than many of the Idol contestants through the years while in college. To not be able to find a dozen men in the entire country that can perform solidly through a whole season seems profoundly absurd. The only explanation that I can find is that the fix is on.

Mike F said...

for fairness, all the judges need to be heard on every singer...and I need to hear what Simon has to say every single time

what's surprised me early on is that Ellen seems to have become part of the group and trying to do the same type of critiques as the other judges when I'd have thought she'd give the laymen's POV instead

I just don't get the Kara thing...are there really people who like her?

Anonymous said...

AI Viewing Tips (or why AI should be a 30 minute show...)

1) DVR'ing AI is a must
2) Watch first 30 seconds of performance
3) If starts well finish watching - if bad skip to #4
4) Forward to Simon's comments
5) Listen to Simon then FF to next singer
6) rinse and repeat
7) Vote for your 3 favorites.

This method has saved my wife and I countless hours of pain and suffering over the years (& esp. last night where we only watched 5 full performances). This show was made to be time shifted - its fluff city.


Mike F said...

are there people who watch this show live? lol

Anonymous said...

Another week or two like this, and I may have to seriously consider just jumping ahead to halfway through the finals, when most of the really awful people are gone, and just skim YouTube for the performances I hear are good.

Alan, why haven't you done this already? It's absolutely the best way to watch the show.

Lally18 said...

A) Lee Dewyze all the way.
B) How is it that we get to the top 24 every year and then wonder how any/all of them got there? Maybe it's the audition process that's flawed and not Hollywood Week or the top 24. These people are mostly bad, so how were they not bad before? And with TENS of THOUSANDS of people auditioning, how is that this is who's left? It can't be all nerves.

themightypuck said...

Let's face it. What is really terrible this season is the judges. Ellen is not cutting it.