Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fox needs to tone it down

After staying up until 10:30 pm because Fox bumped American Idol due to basketball nobody wanted to see, I watched the first results show of the year and I am thoroughly disgusted by Fox.

First things first:

I know Fox is trying to manufacture drama. They want suspense. That's fine.

What they did to Judd is just plain, flat-out wrong.

Let me say that again: WRONG.

If you missed it here's what happened:

Ryan comes out and says, "You guys on the front row (Constantine, Anthony, Judd, Nikko, and Travis) can relax. The guys on the back row come on down here and get in two lines."

So they pair up: Scott & Mario, Bo & David, and Joseph & Anwar. Two by two they come up. Private Pyle and Fez, safe. Bo and David, safe. Joseph knows he's a dead man walking because Anwar isn't going home. So Ryan lets them fidget for a couple of moments before saying, "Both you guys are safe. Judd, you're eliminated."

And just like that, Judd was gone.

Fox needs to stop this.

Now.

I know we live in a voyeuristic society that delights in the misery and suffering of others. How else to describe hoax shows like "Scare Tactics" and "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancee"? But this borders on the absurd. Fox is already making millions off these kids and it seems to me that they owe them a simple "you're in" or "you're out".

And what was even worse is that after telling someone they had just been eliminated, Ryan asks them, "What are you thinking now?" and "Would you have done anything differently?"

This is the height of bad taste and feeds our sadistic delight.

So Sarah, Melinda, Jared and Judd were eliminated. I'm surprised only that some other people were not eliminated (Amanda and Joseph, I'm talking to you), not that any of these four were going to make it to the top 12.

All four were clearly not going to win. They do not have the strongest voices, nor are they the best entertainers. However, they were all handicapped in the voting because they did not get a lot of TV time, a point Melinda made after she had been voted off. We had not heard her, Judd or Jared sing through the auditions, nor did we get any sort of human interest story on them (like the camera following Vonzell along on her postal route or showing Amanda in the Treasure Island pirate battle). We last heard from Sarah at the auditions in Washington, over a month ago, certainly long enough to forget her.

There are some people who we have seen a lot of (Mikalah, Scott, Constantine). The audience has a relationship with these people. We know something about them. We knew nothing about Melinda, Judd and Jared. We still know next to nothing about Joseph, Travis, Celena and Jessica.

It seems to me that places these folks at a tremendous disadvantage. Mikalah has been on TV enough for us to either love her or be annoyed by her (I find her incredibly annoying, as Simon suggests). Scott has been on TV and we got to see Carrie working on the farm.

Fox knew who was making the top 24 after they started editing the auditions and the Hollywood shows. They had a chance to show us everyone. Now, they don't want to tip their hand as to who made it, but it would have been nice to see everyone at some point who made it, instead of being constantly shown the really, really bad auditions.

I think everyone should write Fox and tell them what asses they are by torturing the contestants needlessly. It's tasteless and cruel. We also need to level the playing field in terms of TV time, because I think that figured into the voting heavily.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

12 girls

As a group the 12 girls were better than the guys, although some of them faltered just as badly as Anthony and Joseph. I don't know what it is, but it seems that the girls have an easier time picking songs than the guys. Maybe it's because they don't all try to sing like Clay.

Before I review any contestants, I'd like to once again say that someone in the programming office of the local Fox affiliate WVAH must be on drugs because once again they're bumping American Idol in favour of college basketball. This enrages me to no end.

The Good

Last night there were two girls who were heads and shoulders better than everyone else: Nadia and Carrie. Nadia had what was the best and most energetic performance and Carrie had the best vocals of anyone, from both the guys and girls. She is a force to be reckoned with, matched only by Scott (who I am now going to start referring to as Private Pyle) for sheer talent. Plus, Carrie is a lot prettier to look at.

The Bad

Most of the girls fell to the middle of the pack. These included some girls who have not benefitted from lots of TV time through the auditions and needed to come out big on the first night or be forgotten. This was the first time we got to see Celena, Melinda, Jessica and Aloha, and all four were at best average.

Janay, Jessica and Melinda both looked nervous. Janay is 17; Jessica and Melinda is 19, so that's probably due to their ages. Janay and Jessica started out rough, but recovered nicely; Melinda was shakey all the way through (mainly due to song choice).

Celena was okay; not bad enough to get voted off, but we (as an audience) have no relationship with her, so she needs to come up big next week or she'll get sent packing even if someone else who is more popular turns is an inferior performance (ie-Vonzell or Mikalah).

Vonzell and Mikalah, two girls who have received lots of face time on TV, were both average to below-average. I don't know what it is about Vonzell; I just don't care for her. She may be able to turn my opinion on her, but I'm not as high on her as some other folks.

When Mikalah was done, Simon said, "Half the audience is going to love you, and the other half is going to find you annoying." I find her annoying. I don't care for her in-your-face personality and I don't think she can sing as well as others (like Carrie or Lindsey). Mikalah sounds like Fran Drescher and that's not a good thing.

Sarah and Lindsey were also okay, and after re-watching their auditions, seriously underacheived last night, especially Lindsey.

Melinda violated one of the sacrosanct rules of American Idol, namely "Thou shalt not sing a Whitney, Celine, or Mariah song unless you actually are Whitney, Celine, or Mariah."

The final average performance for me was Sarah, who was so forgettable, I don't even remember what she sang.

The Ugly

I thought there were two bad performances, Aloha and Amanda. Amanda had a bad case of the nerves and picked a bad song. Aloha's song wasn't really singing and while she did make a good impression, her lack of TV time may hurt her.

If I'm picking people to go home tonight (which I won't get to see until 10:30 pm thanks to the idiots at WVAH), they're going to be Anthony, Joseph, Aloha and Amanda.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

12 guys

Every time I watch American Idol, I am struck by how often what Simon says is 100% correct. The audience consistently boos him whenever he says something, but if you really listen to what he says (and ignore the way he says it), he is almost always right. And it showed last night.

He said Fez had the best performance but not the best vocals and he was right. He said the first few boys were predictible and boring, and he was right. He told Nikko Smith that he was good but utterly forgettable, and he was right.

As I was watching the guys sing, I tried to catch glimpses of the girls and I thought it was interesting to see Cow-Milking Girl looking over at the judges as each performance was ending. It was as if she were trying to gauge their response in anticipation of what they were going to say and was setting her own strategy for the next night. We'll see how that works out for her.

Now on to the performance reviews:

The Good

Three guys stepped up: Bo, Judd and Mario. This was especially good for Bo and Judd since we really never got to see either of them in the auditions phase. After the first three lackluster performances, Bo brought in a king-sized can o' whoopass and opened it up. I could have done without the bell-bottoms, but he brought it last night.

Judd and Fez also had good performances and were more entertaining than top-calibre singing. Neither were outstanding, but Judd drastically increased his chances of making it to the final 12.

The Bad

Most of the guys fell into the middle group, and almost all received the same basic criticism: "safe" and "predictable."

Scott, Anwar and Constantine were three guys I was expecting big things from and they all came up flat. I think they may be sandbagging a little and not going all out early frankly, because they don't have to. All three are good, although I should point out that talking back to the judges (like Constantine was) generally isn't a good idea.

Nikko, David, Travis and Jared also fall into this category. All four are on the bubble and may not get to the top 12 if they don't take some chances. If they continue singing like they did last night, I think they will all have problems over the next three weeks.

The Ugly

Anthony, Joseph. Joseph was just plain bad. Anthony picked a horrible song. If I'm picking two guys to go home this week, it's these two. As I was watching the guys sing, it seems that they all want to be Clay, and they're singing power ballads. The problem is that it's not working.

The three guys who did the best all sang upbeat songs that were a welcome change of pace from the "belt it out" style of Clay. Even Diana, who was one of the few contestants who could sing a power ballad, sang a different kind of song early on.

I hope the girls do better tonight.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Final 24

As I was watching American Idol last night, it struck me that some of the folks who were in the finall 44, and even some of the final 24, we had never seen before. Others, like Niko Smith (formerly knows as Osbourne Smith, Jr.), we hadn't seen or heard from since the auditions. It seems to me that this places a horrible bias against the folks who have had no exposure in favour of folks like Vonzell Solomon and others who have had the camera follow them home for a week.

Of the folks we've heard, none of the people who made it surprised me and it appears that everyone is deserving of a shot at being "your" American Idol.

Having said that, I think part of the democratic process was circumvented by not voting for the top 12, but at least we won't have to worry about someone like John Stevens going deep into the finals.

Okay, AI producers, can you do a special featuring the following people, who I don't think we've ever heard sing: Aloha Mischeaus, Celena Rae, Bo Bice, Melinda Lire, Joseph Murena, Judd Harris and Travis Tucker.

I've heard there are Vegas odds on the winner with Nadia Turner leading at 3-1, Carrie Underwood paying 4-1, and Anwar Robinson at something like 8-1.

Of the people I've heard, Scott Savol has the most powerful voice, but the least amount of charisma. Janay, Lindsey and Mikalah all have good voices, but I think their age handicaps them. The folks with showbiz experience have a leg up already (witness Diana DeGarmo), so I think that puts Amanda and Vonzell in a good position.

My two least favourite contestants, Mikalah and Mario Vasquez, both cruised into the top 24. Neither are the best, but both are photogenic and perform well. We'll see if they can hold up over the next 17 weeks.

On one level, it was heartbreaking to see people get cut. But that's the nature of the show. I do wonder why when they brought the top 44 back after a 3 week hiatus, they didn't let them sing again to benefit those 5-8 people who were "on the bubble" to either blow it or make it. These folks include Jamar Jefferson, Tammy Nash and JP Koehler, who could have gone on if things had gone their way (remember, Clay Aiken came out of the wild card round). JP's biggest problem was that his group picked a hard song on group day and he forgot all the words. If not for that, he probably would have made it.

The most shocking cut of all was Jaclyn Crum, which in retrospect, is probably the best thing for her at this point in her life. She's 16, admits to crying at everything, and doesn't have the self-confidence of Mikalah or the beauty pageant demeanor of Diana DeGarmo. Making the finals of American Idol would have broken her for life. Like many 16, 17, and 18 year olds, there are lots more chances for them to break through, either on the show or through some other venue. So, Jaclyn, on the miniscule chance that you read this, we hope to see you again in a couple of years.

I am again going to bash Fox for not changing the voting format. I think it leaves the contest open to horrible abuse. In my opinion, the judges should pick the bottom three every week and then people either vote to keep two or vote to kick someone off. Otherwise, the powervoters are going to be keeping people around who should be going home.

It looks like American Idol goes to three nights per week next week until the Top 12 are picked and no one wants to put a show up against the Fox juggernaut. That's good news for Fox since the rest of their programming blows.

My early prediction for the Top 3 (all predictions guaranteed to be wrong): Anwar, Carrie and Constantine.

Write it down.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Down to 44

I can't say I'm surprised about any of the cuts. When you look at who was in what room, it all made sense. Room 1 featured Shunta ("I got on the wrong bus"), Sharon (Vegas cocktail waitress) and Rashida ("I had laryngitis on Monday"). I was kind of surprised by Rashida being sent home; if her voice were at 100%, she probably would have made it, but that's the way things go.

Room 2 was a group that made it through. It featured Carrie (Cow-Milking Girl) Underwood, Jamar ("My Twin is a Loser") Jefferson, Vonzell ("I already have a demo CD") Solomon, Mario (Fez) Vazquez, Constantine ("My band hates me because I sold out to FOX") Maroulis, and Anwar ("Girls love a guy with braids") Robinson. I liked almost everyone in this room except Fez and I don't really know why I dislike him; he comes off as being kind of cocky.

In room 3, we had Jennifer ("Image Problem") Todd, Aa'Shia (Lil Bow Wow) Jackson, Desmond (James Brown) Meeks, and Carrie ("I wish I had bitch-slapped Elizabeth Pha before she left") Zurba. I wasn't surprised by anyone who was sent home, although I think Jennifer is better than some of a folks who made it.

The final room was also full of keepers including Anthony (Tracheotomy Boy) Fedorov, Scott (Rainman) Savol, Lindsey (Shawn's future wife) Cardinale, Mikalah (Arrogant Prom Girl) Gordon, Tammy Wynette (Why haven't we seen you before?) Nash, and Jaclyn (The next 16-year old to be broken by American Idol) Crum.

I'm not crazy about some of the folks in this room like Anthony (milking the "miracle baby" angle), Mikalah (too mouthy), Jaclyn (too much crying and too young to handle the pressure). I do think the most deserving people stayed and the worst of those left were rightfully sent home. Frankly I'm surprised that some of the folks made it as far as they did (Lil Bow Wow and James Brown, for example).

If I were in one of the groups that made it, I think I'd strangle Paula and Randy for dragging things out so much. I know that makes for great TV, but if my American Idol future were being toyed about by Paula's fake tears and Randy's somber look.

The hostility of the rejects was kind of surprising, although I guess on one level, it should be expected. You figure that the folks that make it to Hollywood presumably have something that the judges like (which is arguable in the cases of JPL, Leah Labelle and Camile Velasco), and none of the people I saw were outright horrible (although Lil Bow Wow was bad), so the people that got cut have some understandably hard feelings. However, since only 44 people could move on, I truly feel the 44 most talented people advanced.

It will be interesting to see who the 24 finalists are, especially since we didn't get to see everyone who advanced.

I am very suspicious of the new format. I'm not sure that a mandated balance of 12 guys and 12 girls is necessarily good for the competition. I also liked that under the old format, 9 of the finalists were selected by the audience. Even though the power voters advanced JPL, John Stevens, Leah and some other folks who should not have gone as far as they did, it did give the voters a stake in the finalists instead of putting it all in the hands of the judges.

This is the point at which the judges do the most judging; after "America" starts voting, they basically become irrelevant. I only hope the 24 people that go on are the best that could be found and I hope that some of the folks who got cut will persevere and come back next year.

I also found another AI blog run by a guy named Brent Natzle. He's got lots of good links and commentary, although he's not as funny as the girls at Idolrant. Brent does have some spoilers on his page, so be careful what you read. You can check him out here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Airport screeners

In this article an airport baggage screener in Newark, missed a butcher's knife that a woman had put in her purse and accidentally took through a security checkpoint. Katrina Bell put the knife in her purse as a "just in case" measure when she went on a date earlier in the week.

What I wonder about is this: If you are going out with someone and need a butcher's knife as your "just in case" self-defense measure, you might want to go out with a different kind of guy.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

It's good to be king

According to The Smoking Gun, there is a rider in Rueben Studdard's performance contract that stipulates certain items that need to be in his dressing room before every show. This is common practise and it's always interesting to see what the stars like to do when they're not on stage.

Rueben's rider stipulates that in his dressing room he will get a large bucket of KFC, a bottle of tequila, a 12 pack of beer, a fruit tray, 2 boxes of tea, a bottle of champagne, and some milk.

I've also heard that Rueben has put on 100 pounds since he won American Idol, which can't be a good thing; he's picked up the equivalent to a small Cambodian man, and he started out as a pretty large guy to begin with. I'm guessing he has major heart trouble with a decade.

AI: Group cuts

Another football note before I get to the American Idol stuff.

I heard there were two complaints to the FCC about the Super Bowl halftime show. Both said it was "boring."

I missed the first 15 minutes of American Idol last night. It wasn't my fault . . . really. Our power cut out a little before 8:30. This is the second time in about a month that it's been out for an extended period, which is odd; usually it just flickers a couple of times and is just out long enough to make us reboot all the computers and reset all the clocks in the house. My wife and our friends were watching Lost when the lights went out, so they missed the last half of the episode. Then about 15 minutes into American Idol, the power came back on.

So I missed the early part of the episode and only got to see the drama involving stripper fishnet girl's group and her apparent inability to learn the words to songs (which is just a little important in a singing competition). I was wondering if anyone knew if the groups were assigned or if the contestants got to pick their groups. If you know this, please drop me a comment about it.

Anyway, here are my other thoughts:

Stripper fishnet girl came off as being really self-absorbed and whiney. As they were cutting her, she said, "I'm really talented" which is fine; the contest needs talent, but it also needs people who are willing to work. You are competing to make this your vocation, people!!! Just as electricians and doctors and metallurgists and teachers need to work and practise at their crafts, so do singers. It seems to me that not knowing the words to a song is the kiss of death in a singing competition, and that Elizabeth was trying to get through on her talent alone, which simply won't cut it.

This goes back to what I said in one of my previous posts; the ticket to Hollywood isn't the end of the line, nor is it an invitation to a party. It's an opportunity to go on a business trip that could open a lot of doors and make every starstruck kid's eyes shine. Sadly, Elizabeth Pha and some others aren't willing to try, when some other people, many of whom have much less talent, put in the extra sweat and make the most of what talent they have.

After being cut, whiney fishnet stripper girl was outside the theater saying how "unfair" the competition was. Honey, if you had bothered to learn the words and applied a little bit of discipline to yourself, you'd still be there.

All this is a natural lead in to the last group to go, the three guys who never learned the words to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and didn't get cut. I am frankly amazed that they are still there and surely they know they dodged a major bullet. What they have going for them is 1) when they did sing, they were in the right key (which is more than some of the other contestants can say) and 2) they picked a tough song. There's no excuse for not know in the words, especially when they're given to all of the contestants, but the Hard to Sing Factor on "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" is about 8 out of 10 ("One Week" by Barenaked Ladies being a 10). I hope they realise how lucky they are and don't blow their renewed lease on their American Idol lives.

This should also be a warning to everyone else who wants to try out for American Idol:

Song choice is EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!

The other folks we saw generally did a good job. I think Constantine is going to go far; he's pretty good and the girls love him. Rainmain again brought the house; if not for the disturbing lack of emotion showing in his face, he would be my favourite to win from the guys's side. The group that included Anwar and the guy who looks like Fez (Mario Vasquez) were also good, and I thought many of the folks who were cut deserved to be cut.

So we went from 193 to 97 folks after the first day, and then another 21 people got the ax last night, shoring up the remaining contestants for a run at the finals including the gender-confused Lil Bow Wow look alike.

I'm happy to see some of the folks get booted who should not have gotten as far as they did and I'm ready for the finals.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Other reality news

In the UK, Channel 4 is producing a show that examines the "interrogation" techniques being used by the CIA and US military intelligence officials on detainees in Guantanamo Bay. The people simulating the "interrogation" are from the United States and are presumably former DOD or CIA agents and the "interrogatees" are volunteers.

You can read more about it here and here.

AI: Cuts, cuts and more cuts

Before I talk about last night's American Idol, I'd like to first mention that while many people around the world were watching the Super Bowl, The Lingerie Bowl II was on pay-per-view. As if The Lingerie Bowl I wasn't bad enough, they did it again. On top of being on TV, yours for $14.95, Trishelle from The Real World was the sideline reporter.

Let me repeat that. Lingerie Bowl II. Trishelle. Sideline reporter.

This is sooooooooooooooooooo wrong on so many levels. Doesn't Trishelle have another Real World/Road Rules Challenge to be on? Why did they make another Lingerie Bowl? Why would anyone pay $14.95 to watch The Lingerie Bowl when they could order a straight up porn movie for less? Or better yet, just order a pizza and surf for free porn on the internet? And does the Lingerie Bowl really need a sideline reporter?

So many questions . . . and I'm afraid the answers just aren't out there.

Now, back to American Idol.

It seems that about 90 people survived the first round of cuts. In straight up or down votes, half of the field was eliminated. Some never should have made it to Hollywood, some were rattled by the lights and others made it through despite some other problems. And a handful shined.

First up was one of my favourite contestants, Carrie Underwood, the cow-milking girl. She forgot some of the words, but to be fair she did go first. Plus, she can sing and is very pretty. Of course, she did have a week to learn the words, so there really isn't much of an excuse there.

Scott "Rainman" Savol made it through, and I was blown away. He's like Stevie Wonder stuck in the body of a an overweight autistic white boy. And his father said he'd never amount to anything. Also advancing were some of the folks who I thought were a little shaky, such as the mouthy 16 year old girl who told Simon he'd have to go to her prom if they didn't advance her and the guy from New Orleans who has a really annoying singing voice.

I wonder if Constantine and the other "rockers" are going to make it (none have so far; the pop genre of American Idol is too sugary for "serious" musicians). Their song choices certainly helped, but it makes me wonder if they can come out to play when the theme is Celine Dion or boy band songs.

In the montage of people making it/getting cut, we didn't get to see if the gender-confused Lil Bow Wow lookalike made it (I'm guessing not) and I was disappointed when they cut Phantom of the Opera girl Briana and the Cindy Lauper girl. I saw that they let fishnet/stripper girl with braces through; I don't think she'll last, although I think "We Have an Image Problem" Jennifer will do well if she can survive the next couple of rounds.

One thing that stood out for me was that there are many good people going on, but no one is blowing everyone else out of the water, like Frenchie Davis, Rueben, Clay and LaToya did in years past. It will be interesting to see how the competition shakes out.

It was also interesting to see (yet again) how people are treating the trip to Hollywood. Some people have that wide-eyed, I'm-just-happy-to-be-here look about them and other people were way too serious about it. Still, if I were going (which I never will; on top of being too old, I can't carry a tune in a bucket), I think I'd approach California not as a paid vacation, but as a business trip. Here are people who might not otherwise make it in showbiz being given possibly their only chance at stardom, and you have to treat it as if your livelihood depends on it. Which doesn't quite explain how you get on the wrong bus like that Shunta girl did; luckily she got back to the theater in time to audition and made it to the next round.

Which makes being cut that much harder. Take the girl who pawned her wedding rings to get on the show. I thought she was good, maybe not top 12 material, but she was certainly good enough to at least get a chance for America to vote on her. She's going home, after losing 40 pounds, changing her look a little and hopefully getting her wedding band out of hock. She may come back for more next year, she may not. Hopefully she'll stick with it. For everyone else, life goes on.

The case of Marlea was interesting. She made it to Hollywood, made it through the first round of cuts, got homesick and quit. WTF!?!?!? Why would you bail on your chance for the brass ring? She said, "I don't know how Fantasia and the others did it" when talking about leaving their children behind to be on the show. I'll tell you, Marlea: they were thinking about the prize. That if they stayed on the show and toughed it out, they'd having something to show for their effort and six months living away from their kids. That the million dollar prize and recording contract was worth it. Marlea also said the people there weren't friendly and were "standoffish"; what we don't know is how hard she tried to be friendly to the others. To be fair, she may have tried, but remember, this is a competition, and while making new friends is nice, winning is better, especially when you know that after two days, half of them would be gone.

The group competition is tonight; two years ago, the contestants got to pick their groups, we'll see if they assign them groups this year or if they leave them to their own devices again. I remember that half of the foursome that included Kimberly Locke and Frenchie quit their group because Kimberly and Frenchie made them look so bad.

We'll see how many of these folks advance to sing and be voted on.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Super Bowl Summary

We had a bunch of folks over for the Super Bowl; 22 to be exact. I put on three pounds over the weekend, so I can't really complain.

As much as I think he's a self-promoting grandstander, Terrell Owens came up big in the Super Bowl. He led the team in receptions (9) and yards (122).

I'm happy the Eagles made a game of it. If not for Donovan McNabb throwing 3 INTs, they had a good game (he threw a fourth to Troy Brown which was called back due to a penalty and he also had a fumble that was reversed by a coach's challenge). McNabb's other other numbers (30-51, 357 yards, 3 TDs) were actually pretty good, but between all the turnovers (3 INTs, 1 fumble lost) and not being able to establish the run, the Eagles could never hang with the World Championships.

Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, who was just the fourth receiver ever to be named MVP (Lynn Swann, Fred Biletnikoff and Jerry Rice being the others) tied a Super Bowl record 11 catches for 133 yards including some clutch third down grabs. I'm always happy to see someone other than a QB or RB win the award. QBs have won the MVP 20 times, and RB has won 7, so it's good to see a guy who moves the chains and makes some clutch catches win the Cadillac.

After time ran out, there was a nice shot of Bill Belichick, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel sharing a group hug. Since the Patriots's coaching staff has to be rebuilt, it was nice to see the three of them savouring the moment.

Since we had a bunch of people over, I missed out on all the Super Bowl commercials, but what I saw seemed to be watered down in the post Nipplegate era, I'll settle for watching them over the internet.

I was also disappointed in the half-time show; Paul McCartney is great, but the show was boring as hell.

Now I just have to wait another seven months to see some real football again.

Friday, February 04, 2005

An interesting take on AI's auditions.

I just read a very interesting commentary on American Idol's auditioning process. The author, who runs a website called Reality Blurred, says Fox is going out of their way to be mean with the auditions.

The jist of the article is that only the best and the worst are let through, the best because they have a shot at making it and the worst because they make for good TV. I am continually astounded at how bad some people are when the obviously believe they can sing, but I am also puzzled by the willing throngs of people who not only know they are bad, but they are willing to embarrass themselves on national TV just to get on TV.

Of course, Fox encourages this by showing us over and over the bad auditions, the ones that make us cringe and the ones that make us feel sorry for the folks on the TV. Yet we watch anyway.

Fox will continue to bring these people to us, because it brings them high rating. I wonder what that says about us. Taking delight in the suffering and humiliation of others. Fox's line is that they allow through a "cross-section" of the contestants. That some of the bad goes through along with the good. This is pure crap.

Fox could, and Fox should only allow those people through who stand a reasonable chance of making it. It should be a given that the people who get to Randy, Paula and Simon at least have talent. The majority should wash out. But there is no way people like the mime and the girl dressed up as a cow should get past the first speed bump in the vetting process.

Some of the folks, the "novelty acts" just want to be on TV. They're not serious about the competition. But the people who are above-average to good are getting the shaft. And we're bombarded with the bad acts and only shown a handful of the good ones.

The Super Bowl

I must say that I am sick of hearing about Terrell Owens and his ankle. To his credit, he's taking all of the attention and the heat away from his teammates and has it focused on him, which is the way he likes it. I just wish he were less of a jackass.

For the record, I'm picking New England. Despite all the labels (genius, dynasty, next Joe Montana, etc.) have been passed around, the fact of the matter is this: In the divisional round of the playoffs, they destroyed the best offense in football. Then, a week later, they laid 41 points on the best defense in football.

The Eagles are the best team in the NFC, but unless they can coax at least 3 turnovers out of the Patriots offense, they won't win. The Patriots do not beat themselves. They'll give up yards, but they don't give up big plays. They don't over-pursue or try to make plays when there's none to make. They'll play field position when they have to and they'll throw downfield when they have to.

In my opinion, for Philadelphia to have a chance, they need to score early and make the Pats come from behind. If New England gets up early by 10 or more, the game will be over.

Of course, I may be wrong . . .

Thursday, February 03, 2005

AI: San Francisco

Well, the auditions are over (and not soon enough!).

I was struck by how delusional people are. Not only the girl who looked like Britney (back before Britney went slutty) but fishnet girl, the other Molfetta brother, and the flaming gay guy who was 8 feet tall. Have any of these people heard themselves sing? Obviously not.

The fishnet girl probably should not have gone through, and I can't for the life of me figure out how "We Are the Champions" guy advanced. Both were okay, but I don't see either of them getting out of the next round.

My mother called about half way through the show and I didn't record it, so I only caught bits and pieces. Apparently the people in San Francisco are more talented than those in Orlando; something like 32 people made it from the City by the Bay, so either they did better or the judges were so tired, they let more people go on than should have.

That leaves 190 or so folks to be whittled down to 45(?) when we start voting and get it down to 24 for the main event. Can't wait to get to Hollywood and starting cutting people who should have been cut before (like James Brown dancing boy, fishnet girl and that hot girl from New Orleans who was very cute, but whose voice clearly isn't top 12 material, much like Kimberly Caldwell a couple of years ago).

I was disappointed by the white kid who made up an original rap for the show; he was good and had a lot of personality. Maybe if they had asked him to sing he may have come through.

Simon had one of the best lines of the night when he told the girl in the cow suit, "You'll be slaughtered!"

Having the guest judges during the auditions is kind of confusing to me. I thought they all did well, offering some constructive criticism (Mark McGrath, Brandi), seeing things from a business perspective (Gene Simmons), reminding us of the power of 80s movie soundtracks (Kenny Loggins) and enticing even Simon Cowell into a group hug (LL Cool J). But why now and not during the main event? I think many of the contestants enjoyed the coaching the guest judges did during the competition and now they will only have AI's coaches to work with. We'll see how this goes.

I'm not sure who came out ahead in terms of judge eye candy. The ladies got a couple of hot guys in LL Cool J and Mark McGrath, and the guys got Brandi and Paula popping out of several tops so I think we're even there.

Can't wait for the tears next week as people's false hopes are dashed with a harsh dose of reality.

See you in Hollywood.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Another double standard

A study by the Parents Television Council criticised MTV for putting "incessant sleeze" on the air. You can read more details about their study at their website.

In perusing their website they have a "Best and Worst of the Week" feature and conspicuously absent are a dearth of FOX programs like "The Littlest Groom", "Temptation Island", "The Swan", "Married by America" and "Who's Your Daddy". Lots of conservative groups flock to FOX news because of their slanted political agenda, but they fail to condemn the trash that is the bread and butter of FOX studios, their broadcast TV station which is regulated by the FCC (unlike MTV).

At least with MTV, parents can have the channel removed or blocked, unlike FOX's prime time lineup which is available to anyone with a TV and a UHF antenna. If you're going to get on networks for airing lousy shows, at least do it in an even-handed way.

AI: Cleveland and Orlando

How bad is it that Orlando only gets 15 minutes of airtime? That's less than one minute for every person that made it to Hollywood (16 total). You'd think there would be more people being turned out by the Mouse Factory down there, but then again, maybe Disney and Universal Studios employees are contractually prohibited from appearing on American Idol.

Thankfully, there weren't too many really bad folks that they showed beginning to end. The mime was pretty funny and it was good to see LL Cool J giving out hugs.

I wonder about an apparent double-standard. There was the one girl who sang the song from My Fair Lady and the guy who looked like a cross between Rainman and a serial killer whose father said he was worthless. Both were unattractive, definitely not American Idol material, but both had good voices. The guy made it through, but the girl didn't.

Then there were the two sisters, neither of whom were great, and had the misfortune of going in back-to-back. I don't think she would have made it anyway, but the second sister was in tears and clearly wasn't in any condition to be auditioning for a TV show. At least they didn't try to sing together.

A guy here at work was wondering about the James Brown dancer guy. He can dance and he was an okay singer. That's entertainment, but singing is (or at least should be 80%) of the competition. What I wonder is why Paula was in tears over this guy. Simon clearly didn't think he could hack it in a singing competition and Randy was so-so on him. I'm not sure he should have made it but the way Simon should have solved the is by saying, "You can dance and you did a good job of singing a bad song. Sing something else and don't move your feet." I think that would have either put him over the top or shut Paula up.

It looks like we have one more night of auditions (San Francisco) and then it's off to Hollywood, baby!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

How much is it worth to you?

Some fans of the Philadelphia Eagles are taking out home equity loans to pay for a trip to the Super Bowl. The Eagles, who haven't been to the Big Game since 1981, and their fans are going all out since some people are unsure of the next time they'll get back.

I consider myself a Florida State and a Jaguars fan, but I don't think I'm so die hard that I'd borrow $8,000 against my house to go to the Super Bowl or a national championship game. Of course, it might be different if my team hadn't been to a title game for a long, long time (think Cubs or Lions) . . .