Tuesday. Ryan "A Fool Such As I" Seacrest greets us from atop the Seal with twelve kids, two exposed biceps, two leather jackets, two hideous pink dresses, and millions of teeth, to tell us that they've brought these kids "back from the brink" -- of blessed obscurity -- to beg for the four wild card slots. Oh, and there's a "twist"! Of course. That's the reality show equivalent of "And whatever you do, don't miss the last five minutes!" in promos for crappy TV dramas.
Credits. I think there's some sort of subtextual message in the credits over the fact that the CGI soundboards, cameras, and musical instruments popping up don't have anybody operating them. The transsexual terminator raises its arms in celebration, but is completely alone in its sad liquid-metal world.
Ryan greets us back on the Seal in a bland off-white shirt and brown khakis, except the shirt has his favorite oversized collar. He blathers on that this is the wild card show and these kids are getting second chances (third, in George's case), whether you like it or not. He thoroughly inaccurately says that the judges will help fill "the final spot" before introducing Simon "Wooden Heart" Cowell, Paula "Hard-Headed Woman" Abdul, and Randy "Too Much" Jackson.
Ryan then re-introduces us to the twelve wild-card contenders, all gathered in Pimp Central around a swirl couch as though new group shots are going to break out at any moment. Ryan tells us the good news is that last year Clay Aiken rose up out of the wild card round. That is good news. Now, where did I put that noose? Dammit, I must have tossed it out when I was cleaning the apartment. Oh well. Ryan says the bad news is that out of the twelve contestants tonight, only eight will actually get shots at the wild card seat. The rest will be summarily dismissed without even getting a chance to sing. Well, that's remarkably low, even for this show. I could understand it if they were sticking with an hour-long show this week and didn't have time for twelve performances. But they didn't -- they bumped the show up to ninety minutes. They have enough time to show twelve performances. It's just "good television" to humiliate four of them at the outset so we can have the dramatic tension of rejection on both shows this week. What disappoints me most about this decision is that these "surprise rejections" are so obviously cribbed from other reality shows whose asses American Idol is thoroughly kicking in the ratings. Why would you do that? These kids have proven time and time again that they are more than capable of humiliating themselves for our entertainment. It's not as fun when the producers do it to them. In fact, it has the opposite effect, causing us to feel sorry for the kids and throw support their way. Hey...wait a minute. They couldn't be that clever, could they? Could the various Simons and Nigels behind the scenes be playing the villains to deliberately get us on the kids' sides? Didn't Nigel Lythgoe brag and cackle about this little twist in the entertainment press the week before? Was he twirling a mustache? If next week's theme is "pelting the contestants with vegetables while they sing," we'll know something's up.
So the kids were dragged back for a week-long "workshop," where the judges watched them all practice so that they could accurately pretend that they actually played any role in the upcoming decisions. My disdain for this whole format is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the performers seem to have known what was going to happen. So if they choose to expose themselves to even more potential humiliation, they're not going to get much sympathy from me (Marque). We get a lovely little montage of the kids all practicing as the judges watch and pretend that they matter. Paula blathers on in some interview that watching the rehearsals gives them "insight" into the kids, like how desperate they are, whether their boobs are real, how likely they are to burst into tears dramatically upon rejection -- that sort of thing. The snippets of the songs we hear are not particularly promising. Randy tells us that Lisa Leuschner has "potentially" one of the best voices in the contest. Which is a bit of problem, as she's neither skinny nor sixteen. And don't even ask her to wear anything pink. We see Leah LaBelle sing as Simon tells us he's "incredibly disappointed." He doesn't say Leah's name or anything, though, so I can't say for certain that he's actually talking about her. I know I'm incredibly disappointed to see her, not to mention yet another pulled-off-the-shoulder '80s-style shirt. Randy blathers about Matthew Metzger sounding okay until the chorus. Simon whines that he doesn't see any obvious stars. Paula whines about how hard it is to cut the kids. Simon plugs his ears as everybody sings "Lean on Me" along with George Huff. We get a montage (within a clip show -- the editors get paid extra for that) of the judges debating who they're going to keep. Tense music plays. Simon has his arm around Paula's shoulder the whole time. They're totally fucking. Marque Lynche has nice arms. Still. At the end, Simon warns us that he thinks America is going to pick somebody who shouldn't even be in the top twelve. Ah, finally, after two years, Simon is beginning to get a handle on how America works. Give us lemons, and we'll coo at how cute they are and start fan sites and Yahoo groups and write "Marcia Lemon" all over the paper cover of our American history textbooks and glue pictures of the lemons from US Weekly on the insides of our lockers.