Group night! Group night is a super-fun American Idol institution because it’s the one moment the show, usually a strictly individual competition, devolves into the bitchy backstabbing and infighting that make so much reality TV great. It’s the moment that all the contestants, for whatever reason, have to form groups to sing a song, and it always, always involves tears and recrimination and freakouts when one person wants to go to bed instead of practicing all night, or another wants to leave one group for another. The whole idea of it makes no sense whatsoever, since the things that generally help people during group night — harmonies, choreography — are absolutely no use once the proper competition starts. But it works anyway, since the group songs are usually fun to watch, and because we actually learn a little more about these contestants when they’re thrown into a high-pressure scenario and forced to interact with each other. Some are total dipshits, some are lost little kids, and some seem like total basket cases who, it turns out, can handle themselves when the moment comes. I love this shit.
As the show loves to trumpet, this is the first season where 15-year-olds get to compete, and so we saw the stark difference between really young contestants who fuck up and grown-adult contestants who fuck up. Consider, for instance, the case of cherubic, roly-poly 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux, kicked out of one group by Clint Jun Gamboa, the odious fucker with the worst glasses I’ve ever seen. Jacee sort of wandered around hopelessly for a while and eventually got drafted into a group with a bunch of girls and one seriously sassy dude (talented ratface Brett Loewenstein, who I’m starting to really like). This group was singing Duffy’s “Mercy,” a snappy retro-soul song and the sort of thing that made absolutely zero sense for Badeaux. He ended up forgetting the words and ad-libbing a sort of swagged-out plea to the judges to keep him on. And because the show’s producers obviously have dollar signs in their eyes when it comes to this kid — and also because it made for a much better story, and the kid is cute as all hell– the judges put him through to the next round anyway.
But then there was the other guy who forgot the lyrics, grown-up sad-sack turd Rob Bolin, who keeps working with his ex-girlfriend even though they’re not friends anymore or whatever. Bolin was in a group with his ex and this one really hot girl whose boyfriend got sent home, and he seemed sort of bitchily uninterested in learning anything about his song, Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You,” which of course became “Forget You” on the show and which we heard about a bajillion times. When Bolin forgot the words and ad-libbed some bullshit about how he was so tired but he was going to keep trying anyway, it wasn’t cute or inspirational — it was sad and pathetic and really sort of disgusting. Try harder, dude! His ex didn’t seem to care that much when he got sent home.
Another fun little plotline: The group of stage moms, who were really too much fun to be considered “stage moms,” and who got to jump around really theatrically when their group of teenagers kicked ass by turning Queen’s “Somebody to Love” into a teen-pop gospel thing. I would totally watch a show about just these moms. Also: Tiffany Rios, the nutcase who wore stars on her breasts at the audition and who could only convince one dippy blonde chick to be in a group with her. She and her sidekick got sent home real quick. A bunch of kids I’d never seen before did awesome. A lot of familiar contestants got sent home in one short, brutal montage where we didn’t even hear most of them sing. One guy read his lyrics off a phone. One group did amazingly well singing Blu Cantrell’s “Oops (Hit ‘Em Up Style),” a song we should all listen to more often. All fun stuff! A very fun show!
But we’re going to have to talk about Steven Tyler again for a minute here. This guy. Oh man, this guy. When this show turns into live TV, is he going to hold his shit together long enough to complete a sentence? Is he going to trail off mid-critique? Is he going to start audibly singing along during performances? Nothing is off the table with this tool. When one group was late to start, the show didn’t just throw some other group out there — instead, Tyler got to entertain the audience with his drumming skills. Another time, he talked about why he “joined forces” with American Idol, which is a funny way to talk about getting a job. At another moment, Seacrest said something about how Tyler offered comic relief, and we cut to a shot of Tyler saying this: “High five? I wish I could give you a high five. [Beat.] Because that was awful.” There’s a pretty good chance that, come next month, Tyler will drag this show into a wormhole of absurdity. We can hope.