off his mouth in the press, has announced that he
believes Kellie Pickler, Taylor Hicks, and Chris Daughtry
are going to be the final three. In other words,
he's dying for someone white to win. And if it
can be a guy, even better. A straight guy, please. A
straight white male for Simon. One that's not
all goony like Hicks. A man's man with
impeccable chick-banging credentials. One named...oh,
say...Chris Daughtry, maybe. That's such a
good, strong-sounding winner's name, don't you
introduces the top 11 and they all trot out to take their
applause. Pickler seems out of it. She's got dead-eye
face until she remembers she's on a stage where
people can see her, not hiding in a fort she made out
of the box the washing machine came in. That's when
she turns on the Pageant Grimace. It's a small
moment, but it'll return for an encore
theme is the 1950s, a time of racial segregation, rigid
social conformity, and repression of women and
homosexuals. You know, the Good Old Days. God, these
theme nights are the worst, chosen by what can only be
a team of dullards. When, for example, is Bjork night?
Danzig night? Joy Division night? Scott Walker?
Roxanne Shante? The Fall? That's the one I
really want. Mark E. Smith comes in and works with the kids,
pours booze down their throats until they're
raging, berates them until they cry, then gets into a
fistfight with Bucky. Or how about Everyone Sings
"Hey Jealousy" by the Gin Blossoms night?
week's special celebrity oldster is Barry Manilow.
Barry is, after all these years, still phenomenally
popular. He was the Clay Aiken of the 1970s, but even
more successful than Clay, in an era when it was still
impolite to publicly speculate on the sexual orientation of
a male performer, even if he played piano for Bette
Midler in gay bathhouses. Barry's latest CD, a
collection of boring cover versions of 1950s songs, is
the number 1 record in the country, so he's spent the
week with the AI kids, arranging and coaching
and freaking them out with his immobile face. His jaw
moves when he speaks, and that's how you know
he's still alive.
First up is
Mandisa, singing "I Don't Hurt
Anymore," made popular by the legendary Dinah
Washington. Before she takes the stage, Barry, in his
"How I Helped" reel, accidentally says that
Mandisa "has no range." He means, of
course, that she has no limits to her talent, but why
didn't they reshoot that quote? They could
have. It's not like he's providing live
commentary. I'm puzzled. And she's great
tonight, finally singing softly with some guts instead
of just foghorning her way through it. When she opens
her mouth wide, though, you can see that her tongue is all
orange. Someone was snacking on Cheetos, Sunkist soda, and
circus peanuts before the show. Afterward, Paula says,
"You took me right back to the
'50s." Except that Paula wasn't even
born then. Then Seacrest, in an archetypal Type 3 Gay
moment (see last week's recap for an explanation of
Type 3 Gay, because I don't have time to explain it
again), coos over Mandisa's shoes. Cut to
Mandisa's well-pedicured toes for the second time
in as many weeks. You just know that every dude in the
country with a thing for BBWs and feet is having a
very good TV-watching time tonight.
Last week Simon
tried to emasculate Bucky the Babymaker by comparing his
gleaming blond hair to Jessica Simpson's. This must
have stung poor Bucky, because it appears as though he
hasn't washed his hair since then. He was right
to do that, because he ain't the man I've come
to know and love without his trademark layer of grime.
And Barry doesn't get Bucky. This is clear. If
he did, he wouldn't have taken a cool old Buddy Holly
song and gayed up the arrangement with horns and tambourines
and whatever else. Why don't you call Rudy
Galindo and get him to loan Bucky one of his skating
outfits too, Barry? So now we know what sort of
"'50s" we're going to be
served this evening: the same version they have on the menu
at Wowsville, the "Authentic '50s
Diner" from Ghost World.
Paris comes out
in Fantasia's "Summertime" dress to
sing Peggy Lee's "Fever." I
wonder if Paris, at her young age, really understands this
song. But no matter. She's very good, as usual. Cut
to Constantine from last season sitting in the
audience next to Ryan Cabrera. What's their
story? Does Constantine think the Boy Ashlee Simpson is
going to bestow him with hit-making magic dust?
Where's Constantine's old band? Are they
palling around with Cabrera now too? If so, why
didn't they get tickets to tonight's
show? What does Constantine even do now, anyway? Like, for
example, you know where Nikki McKibben is. She's got
her karaoke bar and appears on other reality shows.
She's got her life together in her own way. But
what's Constantine's postshow story arc?
Shouldn't he be rehearsing or something instead
of becoming a professional hanger-on? And now that I
think about it, whatever happened to Ejay?
Here's the trailer for the Shall We
movie called Take the Lead, starring Antonio
Banderas and featuring Ya-Ya from Cycle 3 of
America's Next Top Model (a.k.a.
"F*%#ing Ya Ya" in my house). Paige from
Degrassi: The Next Generation is in it too.
It'll suck, but I'm totally going to see
Once upon a time,
back when that crappy 1990s alterna-band Live was
popular, they covered Johnny Cash's "I Walk
the Line," all minor-key and alterna-bandish.
It wasn't the worst thing ever committed to tape. I
got no serious beef with crappy 1990s alterna-band
Live. But I'm growing a minor-key beef with
Chris Daughtry for covering it. He's a good singer,
and I want him to STOP WASTING HIS TALENTS ON INFERIOR
MATERIAL. And no, Johnny Cash fans, I'm not
saying Johnny Cash is inferior. I'm saying that
Daughtry's influences, like crappy 1990s alterna-band
Live, are just that: crap. He's already
demonstrated his affinity for the Red Hot Chili
Peppers and Bon Jovi, so I worry that this isn't
going to end well. But just like last week, when I
suggested he cover Jawbox (and can you even believe
how much he ignored me?), I'm going to offer up more
advice. Hey, Chris Daughtry, you should hear this band
called Death From Above 1979. They're good. Go
buy their CD. After Daughtry finishes, there's
another cut to Ryan Cabrera and Constantine.
They're Daughtry fans. So yeah, that's
the seal of approval you want. Meanwhile, the judges act
like Barry and Daughtry just invented that arrangement
of the song all by themselves.
In the Mix on DVD! Finally! My Usher collection,
complete at last.
Katherine McPhee's name and calls her
"McVie." Uh...McFly maybe, Simon,
but not McVie. She's no McVie. She'll never be
a McVie. McPhee sings "Come Rain or Come
Shine." She's bra-free and therefore
somewhat mesmerizing. But then she hits this weird squealy
note toward the end that makes the hair on the back of
my neck stand up. Not in a good way. But yeah,
otherwise she's fine. I respect her note-battling
ability, but I'm not moved by her yet. In fact,
I'm bored. I start wondering about other theme
weeks they could do. Prince week would be good.
I'd love to see him come in and stare them all down
(or up, rather), dress them in frilly blouses and
head-to-toe yellow leather jumpsuits, make Kevin
Covais sing "Darling Nikki" and rename Pickler
"Pyrranha." Simon tells McVie, "Tonight
you turned into a star." He really is saving
all his love for Whitey this week.
cements his position as King Tool of All Time by introducing
himself to Barry with his own Soul Patrol rendition of
"Mandy." Barry appears a little unnerved
by this and doesn't exactly look like he warms
to Taylor. Good instincts, Barry. Gray Charles, dressed in
an outfit that is, no lie, one red bow tie away from
turning him into Pee-wee Herman, lunges into a
by-now-routine spaz-attack performance. He does "Not
Fade Away" by Buddy Holly, wriggling like an
eel and running over to the left side of the stage
just in time for a horrifying '80s Thunderdome Sax
Solo Dude to leap out. Then they start jamming
together. Someday they're going to invent the
technology that allows you to actually reach into the
screen and smack someone, and I'm going to be first
in line to own it.
The best part
happens at the end: Paula is standing, dancing, waving her
hands in the air, like she does, and then Taylor--hip
cocked out, shoulders hunched, neck squooshed down,
and left arm contorted into a triangle--ends
with a note of seriously bugged-out finality, his left hand
zapping the judges with what can only be Invisible Magic
Saxophone-Fortified "Love Me!" Jizz,
impregnating them all with adoration for Whatever the
Hell That Was He Just Did. Cut to a child yawning in the
audience. Then the judges mix it up, getting all crazy and
in each other's faces. Simon, of course, calls
it a "hideous party performance." Taylor
responds unwisely with, "But that's what the
'50s were." (So there's your
proof that he's been lying about being 29 this whole
when Paula goes awesomely mental, jumping up and down and
screaming at Simon about...dancing.
upset about...dancing...is anyone's guess,
but it sure is excellent to watch. I just read today
that the AI powers-that-be debated firing Paula
earlier in the season, and I'm here to publicly thank
them for not letting her go.
"Why Do Fools Fall in Love." Barry must not
dig her much, because his arrangement is frantic and
all over the place. It's as though he's
pranking the poor girl somehow. Meanwhile the stylists must
hate her too, because they've dressed her like
Rizzo. The whole thing is a disaster, and I want
Olivia Newton-John to descend to the stage in that
flying car and take her under her protective wing. Get her
out of this mess. Paula, who has no sense, says,
"The energy of what you brought tonight is who
you are." And the AI bosses wanted to fire
this woman? Don't see they see the TV gold
they're sitting on?
what I love about Covais tonight: he sings the entirety of
"When I Fall in Love" by Nat King Cole
with one hand in his pants pocket. He's wistful
but jaunty, opening his little pencil sharpener mouth into a
perfect Charlie Brown Christmas "Ooh." The
whole thing is very, "Hi, I'm Perry
Como, welcome to my ski chalet. Warm yourself by the fire
and have a hot toddy, won't you, while I smoke
my pipe and slip into an Arnold Palmer
cardigan." When this boy falls in love, it totally
will truly be for-frigging-ever. Cut to Jasmine Trias
from a couple seasons back, sitting in the audience,
big flower still in her hair, big grin on her face.
Will she befriend Ryan Cabrera too? After the song, Randy
announces that it's "one of the
introducing Captain Caveman Elliott, busts out his
"A" material and makes jokes about Simon
being so old he actually remembers the 1950s. Wow,
jokes sure are funny. Elliott has the cast iron ones to
admit that he didn't care for Barry
Manilow's music before meeting the man. Then he
admits that Barry was so good to him this week that
he's now a fan. Smart boy, Elliott; you
don't want the arrangement curse that's
already befallen Bucky and Lisa. And he's the
only one in this competition that I don't feel
I have to worry about when he opens his mouth to sing. I
have too much emotionally invested in little Paris
because she's my favorite, so I fret for her.
But Elliott is like a note-hitting machine. He does
"Teach Me Tonight," and while he's
still got to figure out how to sell a lovey-dovey song
like this so that people actually want to cuddle up to
him, I still think he's great and pretty close to
giving me the same goose bumps I always experienced
over Fantasia and Kelly. But...my man! Bangs! Fix
those effin' bangs!
Wow. Barry hates
Kellie Pickler so much, he's actually slyly making
fun of her. There is no possible way in this entire
world that he can be telling the truth when he says
he's never heard of Pickler's selection
for tonight, the Patsy Cline song "Walking After
Midnight." It's not possible. The man is
a hundred years old. He knows the great American songs
of the 20th century. I guarantee you he does. He's
just taking the piss by mimicking her self-consciously
adorable Know-Nothing stance.
Then he says,
"It's not just a happy doo-doo song."
I have to make
TiVo replay the quote about three times to make sure he
actually said, "doo-doo." Then I have to sit
quietly for a moment to understand what he's
talking about. Then I realize, after that moment, that
there's no telling for sure, so I press
"play" again and watch Pickler resume
her dead-eyes look. And what in tarnation happened to her
makeup? I think Barry hates her so much he got his own
personal makeup crew to drive her out into the Valley
somewhere to hit a mall Merle Norman franchise for a
makeover. I want that reach-into-the-screen technology
again. But not to smack her. It's wrong to hit
ladies. I just want to gently tap her on the shoulder
and tell her that she's doomed if she
doesn't wake up.
And the song
itself? A miserable embarrassment. She was Alannah
Myles-Black-Velvet-If-You-Please-as-Patsy Cline. And she
blows the last key change. Sad. Cut to her grandpappy
in the audience wearing a T-shirt with her face on it.
I want one, too.
Seacrest goads her, "Anything new to share?"
But she seems confused and borderline upset: "I
The judges like
her performance. But then, the judges are nuts.
Nothing can be
said about Ace that hasn't been said before. Ace is
dreamy, blah blah, etc. Ace sings passably well. Barry loves
Ace. Paula loves Ace. The camera loves Ace. A
7-year-old girl in the audience loves Ace and
announces his entrance. Everyone alive on Earth with a
television loves Ace. But most of all, Ace loves Ace.
And that's enough for Ace. He sings "In
the Still of the Night," and he's...I
don't know...fine, I suppose. I'm
just so tired of looking at him, always sticking his arm
out, reaching for Love. I think about how it would be
funny if he got a pie in the face. But then, that
would be a wasted pie. And I have strong feelings
about pie. Stronger feelings than I've ever had for
The judges, I
must say, have been more superfluous and useless than usual
tonight. According to them, everyone was
"back," everyone "worked it
out," everyone "made the song [their]
own." And that's not true. Like, at all.
Bucky blew it, Lisa blew it, Pickler blew it. I predict
Bucky leaves tomorrow night...
it's time to find out if I'm right about
Bucky. It's "Chopped &
I missed last
week's Ford commercial starring the AI kids. I
don't know why. I guess I just forgot it was on
and I let TiVo speed through it. I rue that day.
Tonight's commercial is an homage to From Justin
to Kelly. The commercial is not only set on a beach,
does not only involve a musical number that includes
giant beach balls, but is set to "We Got the
Beat" by the Go-Go's. Now, as you all remember
from when you rushed out on opening weekend to see
From Justin to Kelly, revisiting it
multiple times in its theatrical run to make it the
highest-grossing film of 2002, that movie opened with Kelly
Clarkson singing the Go-Go's song
"Vacation." It's a secret message being
sent to us from the Go-Go's. We just have to
figure out what it is. Taylor Hicks thinks he knows
because he's shoving his face into the camera to the
beat. Nightmare material.
Back in the
studio, the crowd is cheering for Barry, making it hard for
him to focus on Seacrest's questions. Barry cannot
not respond to a cheering crowd. He's so
old-school that if an audience is making a ruckus for
him, he can't help himself. He has to acknowledge
them. "My public!" appears in a thought
bubble over his head. Barry begins to sing "Love Is
a Many-Splendored Thing" and HOLY CRAP IT'S
remember Bobby Bennett. The big boy with the Jackie Gleason
vibe and the gay way of clapping. The BARRY MANILOW
OBSESSIVE. There he is, standing up in the audience,
swaying to Barry, clasping his hands together like an
excited schoolgirl for Barry, ready to leap up onto the
stage to hump the leg of Barry.
Does Barry know
that this kid is in the same building? Are his bodyguards
standing by? Because it's gonna be Rupert Pupkin time
up in here if he doesn't. Cut to Katherine
McPhee laughing her head off, but no cut to what
she's laughing at. And then we know. The song stops
and Bobby Bennett rushes the stage to bear-hug Barry.
"I'LL BE IN VEGAS ON THE 12TH!"
Bobby Bennett shouts at Barry's face. Barry, quickly
attempting to disguise himself as Santa Claus,
exclaims, laughing, "Oh, ho ho ho! Come see my
show!" Bobby Bennett is led away from Barry and his
time for the anticlimax. Cut to the 11 Fame-Hungerers on the
couch. Cut to Pickler being told that Simon called her
"ballsy" last night. On cue she says,
"What's a ballsy?" Cut to Lisa, Covais,
and Bucky taking the bottom three slots.
Lisa is safe.
And then Bucky
takes his seat too. Kevin "C to the L" Covais
is going home to be stuffed into a locker by the first
jock who crosses his path in the hall.
P.S. I just
learned that Constantine divorced his old band and might be
in a sitcom. Of course.