Confession time: when the show started, my DVR box was stuck on Whitney for some reason and my every increasingly desperate attempt to change the channel was met with the error code "NORSC." So while I was yanking out plugs and cables and hair, I totally missed the overblown pre-credits sequence in which Ryan Seacrest told us all about how awesome American Idol is, and how many thousands of people audition, and how wonderful and relevant this season's new judges (Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban) are and how the venerable Randy Jackson is logging yet another season as the show's Ziering. And I also missed the title sequence, with Ryan telling us about all the people showing up for the first day of auditions in New York City. So I actually have no idea what happened. Sorry.
By the time my box comes on, Mariah and Nicki are already in mid-argument about some alleged reaction Mariah had to Nicki's hat. Into this marches Michael Buonopane, a beefy 27-year-old frat guy from Saugus, MA, singing his own version of "We Will Rock You" with lyrics customized for the occasion. Judges always love that. He goes into a whole routine where he's supposedly channel-surfing on the radio and doing a couple of different genres in a way that makes Keith think of Robin Williams. Not. A. Compliment. "Are you gonna sing?" Nicki asks. They've said no before he even knows it happened. On his way out, he tells Mariah that "All I Want for Christmas" is the best modern-day Christmas song. I don't disagree, but Mariah disagrees even less, enough to make Nicki call her a bitch. I don't think these two are even trying to get along.
During the judge-primping between contestants, Mariah tweaks Nicki over her superior knowledge of Mean Girls, which is several more levels of meta I would have thought Mariah Carey capable of. There's a whole Mariah-diva montage punctuated by the kind of going-crazy faces that helped make Nicki Minaj famous in the first place. At the risk of drifting away from the show's mission, we meet the next contestant. She's Tenna Torres from Queens, 28, who is actually an alumna of something called "Camp Mariah." Which I've never heard of, but luckily Mariah has or this could have gotten awkward in a hurry. Mariah makes much of this, particularly the old picture of the two of them together, not least of which because this allows Maria to push Nicki's buttons some more, as though Nicki weren't already one big button at this point. Tenna sings them a slow, soulful version of "You've Got a Friend." The judges shout yes, but Mariah quiets them down so she can make a speech to go with her yes. The other three make it unanimous, so Tenna is going to Hollywood. Presumably she will soon have an updated photo of herself with Mariah Carey.