Tonight’s American Idol starts off with two bits of welcome news. First off, Bones is on tonight. That means Idol is only an hour long and I don’t have to wait all goddamn night to watch Community. (They dressed Malcolm Jamal-Warner in a Cosby sweater! Shit was incredible!) Shout-out to Bones.
Second: The first actual shot of the show is a guy histrionically crying and singing and banging at a piano. He didn’t make it through to Hollywood. Good! Fuck that guy! Too many overconfident drama nerds make their way through to the later episodes; it’s nice to see at least one get knocked off early.
Something I forgot to mention about last night’s audition episode: It was in New Jersey, so we got lots of fist-pumping and obvious Jersey Shore jokes, even if the auditions themselves were at the Meadowlands, a world away from that stuff. Tonight, we’re in New Orleans, so we get beads and masks and a steamboat and alligator footage and Ryan Seacrest saying “N’awlins.” (Seacrest also mentions “Mardi Gras intensity,” which I guess is always preferable to “Hurricane Katrina intensity.”) You know what’s great about all these local-color vignettes that Idol always does? Nothing. Nothing is great about those. They should stop doing them. They never will.
This particular audition episode was almost comfortingly banal, which at least shows that the producers are getting comfortable enough with the new judges that they can stop trumpeting these judges’ names from the rooftops. Steven Tyler’s big moment was actually slightly entertaining: He shows up with a tiny hat and says, “You know what they say about a little hat: Good for a little [bleep].” Took me forever to figure out that he probably said “head.” (Here’s me: “Good for a little… shit?” I never said I was smart.)
Again, the show didn’t focus too much on the theatrically awful contestants. That’s good; there aren’t too many interesting ways left for people to suck. One nice moment: I could swear I saw Eli Porter, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, mid-reject-montage.
With only an hour-long show, we also didn’t get too many glimpses at future contenders, but my far-and-away favorite was Sarah Sellers. She looks weird, and her attempt at flirty banter with Tyler was just cringingly awkward, but her breathy version of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love” was great enough that the judges didn’t interrupt her for a full 18 seconds or so. Jordan Dorsey seemed pretty good at straight-up r&b, and Idol could use more guys like that, but points off for ignoring his own finger-snaps as he veered wildly off rhythm, and for the dignity-free rotating-pogo victory dance he did when the judges let him through. Jovany Barreto seemed pretty good at singing the cheesy Spanish love songs that would’ve had Simon dismissively rolling his eyes, but he also proved to be the sort of tool who will happily take off his shirt for camera time, so I’m out on him. (He also incited Tyler to take off his own shirt and Randy Jackson to show his belly. Forced wacky hijinks, thy name is American Idol.) And Brett Elliott, a redheaded 16-year-old who looks like a 38-year-old cokehead, turned out to be a good singer who’s also so awkward and flinchy that he made me brain-curdlingly uncomfortable every time he talked. He won’t last.
We may have to deal with Jacee Badreaux for a little while, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Badreaux is the show’s transparent attempt to manufacture a Susan Boyle moment: An unassuming roly-poly baby who, it turns out, has a nicely creamy little voice. And yeah, he sounded pretty nice, but the whole mental disconnect is pure gimmick, and it’s already old. That gimmick will be enough to get grandmas voting for him if he makes it through to the actual show, and that seems preordained at this point. So I guess I’m hoping that he doesn’t turn into a serial killer 10 years or so after he finishes 6th on the show and turns out to have no career at all. Don’t turn into a serial killer, Jacee!