American Idol
Buffoons In A Ten-Cent Motown

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Think Pink

Tuesday. Ryan Seacrest (no nicknames this week, because since I've used just about every single Motown song over the past two seasons) greets us from the audience wearing a hysterically awful cream-colored suit with a black shirt. If there's not a rule that your jacket should never be a million shades lighter than your shirt, there should be. The kids are all hanging out on the Seal, and Ryan reminds us that they're all singing and we're voting and only one will remain and blah blah blah. The dramatic heartbeat sound effect stolen from the promos for ER is back, trying (and failing) to add some tension to the teaser.

Credits. I decided that my favorite episode of any season is the first one in the finals where they cut the airtime back to an hour on Tuesdays. There are a lot of performers and not much time, so there isn't as much nonsense. Well, not as much as usual. There's always a little nonsense. Ryan greets us back onstage following the credits, reminding us what we're watching. He tells us that this week's theme is Motown, which is subtly different from soul, not that such subtleties matter on a show where "Drift Away" is both a country song and a soul song.

The Great Unknown has stepped aside for the evening, not that we actually see them anymore in the finals. Are they still doing the music live? Are they crammed in under the Seal? Anyway, somehow this show has managed to convince the Funk Brothers to play for the kids tonight. The Funk Brothers are ("is"? Gah! Collective proper noun agreement hell!) the eleventeen-piece backing band that played for so many, many Motown acts back in the day. We get a clip show full of archival images and old album covers as Ryan tells us the Funk Brothers played on more number-one songs than the Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, Elvis, and the Beatles combined. They toiled most of their lives in anonymity until a documentary in 2002, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, gave them their due. They give us absolutely no idea what these guys are doing now. Since they're all still together, I suspect they're probably still working the Motown hits in some Vegas review.

Ryan introduces the ten remaining kids back out to the Seal so the audience can scream. Jasmine's flower is blue and white (mood: quietly upbeat). Fantasia is wearing a jacket made of foam padding. Not only is it ugly, it doesn't fit right. Ryan introduces Simon, Paula, and Randy. He doesn't have time for any stupid jokes about them tonight. That doesn't stop Simon from mocking Ryan's suit by calling him Don Johnson. Heh.

Now they've finally resurrected the guest judges, because we just aren't getting enough worthless comments from Paula these days. They had to outsource to fill up their pointless praise quota. Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson will be joining the judges' table tonight. We get a clip show first, explaining to the younger people who these folks are and why they matter. They wrote and performed a number of popular Motown songs like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing." See, that's what I titled the soul episode. If they've got two themes that are going to overlap like this, maybe they should have placed them apart further in the season. Ashford and Simpson had another moment in the sun in 1984 with "Solid" before disappearing from pop culture. But now they're back! And their love is still ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-hot. When the clip show ends, Ryan introduces Ashford and Simpson to the audience. They're already standing at the judges' table, denying us that amusing moment when they come out onstage right after the clip show, giving us a look at how Time makes everybody her prag. Or not, in Lionel Richie's case, as I recall. Nick is wearing a shiny brown shirt and has long, shiny hair, with a fab goatee-mustache combo. He actually looks better to me than he did back in the day. Not so for Valerie, who is wearing a shiny brown jacket of a lighter shade than Nick's, and has a sort of poofy, '80s-style femullet with long hair in the back and feathered bangs in the front that have been dyed lighter brown than her normal hair color.

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American Idol

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