It's been a number of years before we had anything remotely kind to say about American Idol, and when we got a full screener of this season's premiere, we definitely rolled our eyes. It seemed like a sign of desperation because the show usually just sends critics teasers for each season, not full episodes. So out of sheer curiosity (and boredom during that off week during the holidays), we decided to check it out. And, well, it was surprisingly decent. We'd go so far as to even say watchable, almost to the point of enjoyable. And if the premiere is any indication of the direction the show is taking this year, maybe we'll grouch less about having to sit through yet another competitive reality singing show. This is not to say that it's blow-your-mind DVR-worthy but it is definitely leaps and bounds above the last few Simon-less seasons. So why the dramatic improvement? Here's our take on the big changes:
We've only had one outing with the new judging panel on American Idol, but we can already see just how this season is going to pan out with the likes of Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj joining Randy Jackson. And frankly, we're not all that impressed, though we never imagined a big fight could erupt over who knows more about Mean Girls. Here are our initial thoughts:
American Horror Story Season 1 star Dylan McDermott returned to the series in a big way on last week's episode of AHS: Asylum, popping up in the present day as Johnny Thredson, the son of Zachary Quinto's Dr. Oliver Thredson a.k.a. Bloody Face. Considering that pedigree, you can expect the actor to be a major part of Asylum's endgame when the show returns for its final four episodes of the season on January 2, 2013. McDermott spoke with reporters after his first episode aired to discuss why he came back and what kind of carnage to expect from the Son of Bloody Face.
Of all the new actors who have joined the second season of Ryan Murphy's hit FX series American Horror Story, Chloë Sevigny might have the most intriguing role. Sure, it's fun to see Maroon 5's swaggering front man Adam Levine lose his arm and Babe's gentle farmer James Cromwell act like a scumbag psycho, but with her troubled upbringing and lusty attitude (a no-no for the straight-laced '60s), Sevigny's Shelley is one of Briarcliff Manor's more complex inmates. The actress participated in a conference call with reporters last week and spoke about how this role came her way, how spooky it is to shoot on the Asylum set and whether she considers American Horror Story to be a guilty pleasure... or just a pleasure.
While All-American Muslim was by no means a perfect show (we're still pissed at Shadia for the Wrigley incident), we were disappointed to learn that TLC cancelled it last week. Normalizing (and I use that word in the context of the social climate) Muslim-Americans to mainstream audiences -- even if some of the people on that show were annoying -- is a worthy cause, and All-American Muslim did do a bit of service to the community simply in terms of representing this diverse culture on television. If there was any hope that Shahs of Sunset would do anything to continue to teach viewers that Iranian-Americans were no different than "you and me," this program may have chosen the wrong handful of people to showcase.
We'll say this for American Horror Story's Season 1 finale -- we were never certain exactly where it was going to go. And here's another thing: after a freshman year filled with freakish thrills and funny laughs (both of the intentional and unintentional variety), the last thing we expected from "Afterbirth" was that it would be so... well, sweet.
Hmm... are we positive that wasn't American Horror Story's season finale? Because last night's Tim Minear-scripted episode, "Birth," seemed to wrap up some of the show's more significant ongoing storylines. And yet there is another installment to go ("Afterbirth," natch). Sure you don't want to save some of that material for your sophomore year, Brad and Ryan?
For much of its first half, "Smoldering Children" suffered from the same inertia that plagued last week's American Horror Story. Vivien's still stuck in the loony bin, her twins -- including that apocalypse in fetal form -- are still in utero, Ben's still moping about the Murder House and the house's ghostly occupants are still trying to find ways to kill the endless amounts of time they now have on their hands. But then writer James Wong went and enlivened the proceedings considerably by pulling a Sixth Sense-style twist that revealed...
With Vivien locked up in the loony bin, her incompetent hubby Ben took center stage on last night's installment of American Horror Story. That's probably why "Spooky Little Girl" was kind of a drag, as The World's Worst Husband/Father/Adulterer/Psychiatrist mainly wandered around the house, avoiding the various phantom women throwing themselves at him and stewing over the news that only one of Vivien's twins is his. (The other -- as we know now -- belongs to Tate, but because gullibility is one of Ben's many, many flaws, he initially believes Hayden's insinuation that Morris Chestnut's security guard, Luke, is the baby daddy. Because she's been so reliable in the past.) The episode does get points for tying a classic slice of L.A. history into the show's mythology, with Mena Suvari turning up as Elizabeth Short a.k.a. The Black Dahlia, whose infamous 1947 murder (which remains unsolved) remains one of the most famous true crime stories of the 20th century. Oh yeah, and it appears that Vivien's about to give birth to the Antichrist himself. Wonder if he'll have his father's eyes?
While last night's American Music Awards all together made for a wholly dull evening, there were a few moments in the three-hour ceremony telecast that were so painfully bad, they deserve some recognition.
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