American Idol
Throwing The Paybee Out With The Bathwater

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Dishonorable discharge

Tuesday. Prior to the start of the show, the local FOX affiliate runs a commercial for a news special warning us that success can be toxic to your health. And now, five young men and women compete for a desperate and unpredictable shot at fame and fortune. Okay, then.

Credits. Ryan "Steppin' Out" Seacrest greets us on the Seal of Tsathoggua in a yellow woman's shirt. I don't have much time to react to that sartorial horror, because the cameras immediately pan over to a sign that says "Bush/Gracin 2004." They do have a lot of common, what with them both dodging wars as young men. Please send all hate mail to shackisabigcommie@televisionwithoutpity.com. Back up with Ryan, I get another chance to absorb the blinding yellow of his girlie shirt as he tells us he's a "dancer, model, gigolo, and emcee." Except for the "emcee" part, that could describe anybody who has been on Blind Date.

Ryan introduces the five remaining finalists onto the stage, then introduces Randy "King Of Clowns" Jackson, Paula "Alice In Wonderland" Abdul, and Simon "Little Devil" Cowell to us. He makes a dog- and sex-related joke about Randy that is even worse than last week's joke about neutering him. They're punishing me for not laughing at the awful. Bad me. Oh, they aren't done with the awful. When Ryan introduces Simon, they pipe in the sound of crickets chirping over an audience that has been obviously ordered not to applaud. This is what awful looks like, folks. If you ever have any power over what goes on television, never do this. Simon follows up by snarking at Ryan about his past appearance on Blind Date, which has been dredged back up now that he's famous and all. He's the fame whore who made it! You can actually search for his appearances on television shows on TiVo! Don't give up, little fame whores! Someday people might be rolling their eyes as they scroll past your name in the TiVo directory, too!

Ryan warns us all that the five remaining finalists will be singing two songs this evening. Well, a part of the songs, anyway. The first song will come from the '60s. The second song will be one written by tonight's guest judge: Neil Sedaka. You know, his songs are nice and all, and don't think that I don't like the guy, but is it too much to ask that there be some sort of theme on the show that suggests that somebody involved knows where popular music is going, rather than where it's been? Anybody? Hello? Neil comes out and greets Ryan. Neil looks like that harmless uncle who told you jokes straight out of the Catskills, and talks like a cross between Regis Philbin and Charles Nelson Reilly. Ryan and Neil blather for a bit onstage. Neil says he's looking forward to these young kids coming out and singing his songs and making them "hip." Somebody's hoping for a Sedaka renaissance. Somebody named…Sedaka. In a clip show, Neil is thoroughly stroked in a glowing profile. Ryan just said "penis"! Oh, wait. He said "pianist." Sorry, these things are so boring. Sedaka went to Julliard. He played the piano. He wrote songs. His career died. Then it was reborn in the '70s. Then it died again. And then he went to Vegas, which is where you go when your entertainment career is never coming back. The kids all practice "Laughter In The Rain" around the piano with Neil, which is odd, because it's not performed as a group song on Wednesday night.

When we return to the stage, Neil is sitting between Randy and Paula. So I guess Simon doesn't like him. Or vice versa. Anyway, Ryan wastes no more precious time that could possibly be sold for product placements, and introduces Ruben Studdard to sing "Ain't Too Proud To Beg." Ruben heads out to the Seal wearing what appears to be plastic sheeting, but is actually the ugliest pleather outfit ever created. Ever. I fully expect somebody on Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be wearing it next week. It's the color of used dishwater. Somebody kind of tried to make it look like distressed gray denim, but failed miserably. If he saved up all his money by wearing those 205 shirts in order to buy this outfit, that's very, very sad. Ruben's singing isn't so good this time around. He's smiling and gesturing the way he always does. However, some of his longer notes are a bit off, and his voice cracks a couple of times while he's singing. It's not, say, a Carmen-level disaster, but it's definitely a poor performance for Ruben. Oh, and those Tia and Tamara twins are somewhere in the audience. I think that's their names. They were on some show. I'm too old to have any fucking clue.

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American Idol

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