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Mr. Cowell, Mr.
Jackson, Ms. Abdul, and Mr. The Bee Gees

Mr. Cowell, Mr.
Jackson, Ms. Abdul, and Mr. The Bee Gees


In which Dave White, tireless recapper, fact-finder, and opinion maker of all things Idol, is heard to say, "Oh, shit. American Idol is back."

My husband/partner/whatever says, "How can it be a new season of this show already? I thought it was still on from last time."

"You're a bad payer of attention," I say. "The excitement is back and more electric than ever."

Then he expresses a litany of American Idol-related concerns that have been troubling him lately. Like, has it passed its sell-by date? Didn't three former winners just get dropped from their record labels? And what of that Idol-adjacent "next big rock band" show? How's season 4 finalist Jessica Sierra doing on Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew? And are the new Dreyer's ice cream flavors available?

I answer him calmly:

1. Yes.

2. Two former winners, Ruben and The Boogie, have been dropped. The Boogie doesn't seem to care. And Ruben's family is keeping the news from him. Meanwhile, McPhee was not a winner, she was the runner-up. But yeah, she just got canned too.

3. We didn't watch the next-big-band show, as didn't most of America. It happened, but it was inside a big soundless vacuum. One of those bands was composed entirely of the now-grown kids from American Juniors and no one even noticed.

4. Jessica seems to be doing well on the rivetingly distasteful Celebrity Rehab, alongside that girl from the Urkel show who did some lez-porn and now seems to think she's addicted to weed. They gave her a spot on that show instead of Brad Renfro? On their heads be it.

5. Yes, the new flavors are here. They are "Color Purple Grape," "Daughtry's Snarly Bits of Choco Bunches of Oat Clusters and Nuts," "Taylor Hicks's Smoker's Cough Crunch" (already recalled from stores), and "Clive Davis's Foot in Your Ass, Kelly Clarkson," which reportedly tastes like Clive Davis's ass-covered foot.

Now, some people aren't fond of the first act of each American Idol season. The long weeks of auditions strike more sensitive viewers as needlessly cruel. But clear-thinking people know they're a public service. They make it easier for families and friends of talentless loons to finally broach the long-festering topic of how their loved ones' singing sucks dead donkey dicks. In fact, it takes the burden away entirely and creates an environment where those hurtful words never need be spoken by anyone close to the "singer." You get a wealthy British guy with bad hair to do it for you for free, and on national TV, where it will really sting the most. Some people need hard lessons. They just do.

So for this first week they're in Philadelphia and Dallas. The camera zooms around giant stadiums filled with people who think it's their turn for the universe to bestow on them happiness-giving fame. They come from everywhere and do all manner of things for a living. One young woman is an Air Force pilot; one guy makes cotton candy for a living and has the teeth to prove it. Someone else makes balloon animals. I think the cotton candy-making job sounds like it might be kind of fun. Unless you had to clean the machine. I would only want to do it if I could have a machine-cleaning assistant and I just got to be the guy who did the swirly part all day. One girl in Dallas gives birth while waiting for her chance to audition. She names it "Idol" and considers this "only appropriate." Then we see a funny montage of people going, "Ahhhhhhhhh!" like they're doing that exquisite corpse thing, but with a long note in a string of different keys. The effect is that of a huge line of people about to have a giant orgasm.

And that's just the first two minutes. Then Seacrest says, "This...................... is A-MER-ican Idol," the way he's honed to a reflex over years of at-home practice instead of using that time to form meaningful human relationships. And the games begin for the seventh time. The theme music plays, affording Cathy Dennis another Hermes shopping spree.

[A pause in writing while I go to YouTube to watch old D-Mob videos featuring Cathy Dennis.]

Now, the great thing about recapping these first weeks is that you don't really have to go in any kind of chronological order. It doesn't matter. The good ones come in, sing, and get their gold ticket. The bad ones, if they're bad enough plus weird enough or calculated enough to appear bad and weird enough, get 20 seconds of notoriety, a week of Internet-y viral pass-arounding-ness, and then they disappear, leaving only a little greasy memory blot on your brain. William Hung gets to be William Hung, but who remembers The Hotness and cares about her well-being? I worry sometimes that I'm the only one who does.

The ones who get through (no, you don't get names. When they get to Hollywood and get whittled down some, then I'll bother with names):

1. The guy who used to be super fat, lost 204 pounds, and can now take running leaps and kick his heels together. He sings a Maroon 5 song. He also wears a gold chain around his neck. Strike two.

2. The girl who sang background for Taylor Hicks.

3. The guy who sings an Elton John song.

4. The guy who sings "Unbreak My Heart" in Spanish.

5. The super tall Zac Efron-sings-country guy.

6. The single mom in the wedding/bar mitzvah band whose daughter has something akin to cerebral palsy and whose family is already wearing themed Lakisha Jones-esque T-shirts. Good singer who never stops closing with the "heh" and "yeah" and "grrrnnt" noises. She needs to knock that shit off. When she gets her gold ticket her family goes apeshit and tackles Seacrest. One of them loses her purse. Seacrest says, "I got a new handbag." Then he tosses it back because it's not a Birkin. Simon confesses that he's baffled by how Americans are so easily made happy when someone they know gets good news. This is why he lives in Los Angeles now. People don't do that here.

7. The cage-fighting, log cabin-living, horse-training country singer who used to have a deal with Arista. I read that somewhere after the fact. Anyway, now she doesn't. She sold one of her horses to a glue factory, bought a horrific red top, and wants another chance. Now she gets one.

8. The single mom who recorded a gospel record when she was 4.

9. The dreadlocked guy with pretty pretty lady face -- representing HOUSE OF LABEIJA! -- who sang an Uncle Kracker song.

10. The nanny who's never seen an R-rated movie or had an alcoholic beverage. She's married to an equally media-shy man. I used to go to a church like that when I was a kid. Women weren't even supposed to wear pants. One Sunday night -- yep, Sunday night church, y'all -- a lady got up during testimonial time and confessed both to having had an abortion and to wearing shorts. That was a fun place.

11. The Texas single mom with the cold sore who used to be a full-on meth addict. They show pictures from when she was using. Gross! But also kind of amazing.

12. The Carrie Underwood-alike who doesn't understand Simon when he says the word "latter." Which means she's also a Pickler-alike.

13. The blond mohawk girl who sings a Gladys Knight song. She's a background singer, which causes Simon to opine that most background singers (Melinda) "come in here like whipped donkeys" (Doolittle).

14. The guy who brought a plastic sandwich bag full of his own fingernails. He's saved them in this bag since middle school. Now they're old and brown. Oh, I'm sorry, were you eating lunch while reading this? Well, the gross part's over. But it will probably linger in your mind for a while. And what's awful about it -- I mean, besides the thing of SAVING YOUR FINGERNAILS IN A BAG AND CARRYING THEM WITH YOU TO YOUR AMERICAN IDOL AUDITION -- is that this guy is sort of scruffy-cute and is a decent singer. But now all I want to do is throw up. He says to the judges, "I want to be the next American Idol." Well, too late.

15. The growly Janis Joplin girl who lost half her face in a car accident and sings like a vacuum cleaner with part of the Christmas tree stuck in it. That just happened to me, by the way. I had to call the Dyson customer service line to get help dislodging a big branchy bit of the tree from the machine. They were really helpful and it worked. Dysons are pretty great. I like how they sound. They sound better than this woman. Simon's playing a trick on her by letting her through.

16. The blond girl that Simon wants to bang. "300% yes!" he says. I hate to think that all middle-aged lust looks this icky, being a man in my early 40s and all, but I fear that it might.

17. The guy in the Alex P. Keaton tie. Minus the face boils and the incontinence, he's also kind of like a vaguely homosexual-ish Nat Nerd from The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. I know that if you've been reading the Project Runway recaps that I write for this website, then you're probably sick of hearing me go on about my recent viewing of TGPKM, but it really left a big impression on me. It's in my heart now and colors much of what I see in the world. Anyway, this kid is notable mostly because Simon compares him to Clay Aiken and advises him not to become like that. And speaking of Aiken, did you hear about how he joined the cast of Spamalot and had never heard of Monty Python before? And then thought that Monty Python was a person? Idiot. I wish that dude wasn't on our team. He's so fuckin' lame.

18. The farmer boy whose physical presence exists somewhere in the creamy-white, rosy-cheeked perfect middle of the intersection of a character in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and a Hollister model. Bruce Weber is screaming for his assistant to get the boy on speed-dial. The young man has a literal piece of hay between his teeth. Presidential candidates are now challenging Bruce Weber to a death match for the kid's soul. My husband/partner/whatever just said, "I have my crush for the season." (See "300% yes!" above.)

The crazy ones:

1. The "Go Down Moses" guy. He compares himself to Paul Robeson, which is a nice "Go look it up, dummies" moment, even if he actually sounds like what would happen if someone were twisting Paul Robeson's arm around behind his back.

2. The guy who sings "White Christmas." I like him because when he gets to the line about "to hear sleigh bells in the snow" he actually repeats the words "the snow," like when Marlon Brando says "the horror, the horror" at the end of Apocalypse Now. Showmanship like that I haven't heard since the guy from several seasons ago who sang "Siiiii-yah-lent niiiiiight... I said-ah hohhhhhly niiiiiiight."

3. A guy named Udi, who bases his entire life on being the boss from The Office. The judges call him Oogie. He asks Simon to explain what he means by "You can't sing."

4. Alexis Cohen, the reeks-of-incense, glitter-dipped girl who lives in a one-room Gummo sadness den with her equally odd mother. She's from Allentown and thinks Bon Jovi wrote a song about it. "That 'Allentown' video was a great source of male nudity for me in my teenage years," says my husband/partner/whatever. I have to go to YouTube to even remember what he's talking about. Sure enough, guys are showering for approximately three seconds, which might be plenty of time to inspire a 13-year-old gay starved for any glimpse of male flesh, but in reality comes at the price of listening to a Billy Joel song and is barely more erotic than any locker room scene from Just One of the Guys. She does a weird Grace Slick impersonation that honestly wouldn't sound out of place in a shitty bar band. She could get some free drinks out of it, at least. Alexis has two cats. "Because I'm studying to be a vet," she says. So I guess she performs little kitty operations on them for practice. She hopes she's "victorious" enough for the judges. She isn't. Ejected from the room, she says that "Simon is a big fat bad word. Very bad words!" In turn, Simon describes her as Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man. Cut back to Alexis, who finds Simon to be a little too "snug" for her liking. Then she yells, "FUCK YOU SIMON! TAKE IT! TAKE IT! TAKE IT! I'M GOING FOR ACTRESSING!" It stays at about this level of ranty for a bit more, and then the camera's done with her. "For America," she says, "I couldn't do this without you." Nor I you, Alexis Cohen. I assume we'll see her on the season finale getting some kind of award.

5. The montage of really loud girls.

6. The girl dressed like Princess Leia who says that one day her children will be saddled with StarWars names. Because that's not cruel. She's a true-blue stone-cold supernerd. But I'm not really fazed by people like this because the husband/partner/whatever drags me to the San Diego Comic-Con every summer. Her kind are a penny a gross. They ditch her. She cries. Whatever. See you at the San Diego Convention Center in July. Bring soap.

7. The big lug grounds keeper who's also a member of the American Roller Coaster Enthusiasts. He seems like the kind of guy they used to call "slow" when I was in elementary school. What do they call that in 2008? Then he heaves out the song. Can you describe breathing as "doughy"? That's the only word that comes to mind.

8. Opera-singing male-female duo. Incomprehensible.

9. The deeply unsettling father/son team. Son is nearly 20 and has never so much as kissed a girl. He's proud of this. Dad put him up to it. He's proud of his son. It's some kind of "Promise Keepers" thing gone horribly hard-core, demented, and incesty. Dad's got a heart pendant that he wears around his neck. There's a hole in that heart. Guess who wears the missing penetrative piece around his own neck? The only part that will fit in Dad's hole? Guess what they do for the camera? Right out in the open? If you guessed that there's some interlocking stick-it-in stuff going on, some virgin chocolate stuck into middle-aged peanut butter, then, yes, you are a good guesser. They explain, with straight faces, that the heart pendant is meant for the poor unsuspecting woman the son will one day marry. She gets to wear it on their wedding day. She also gets to be the first and only person to ever kiss the son. ON THEIR WEDDING DAY. AND NOT BEFORE. Hey, ladies, show of hands, who feels excited about the prospect of dating this upstanding, clearly herpes/HIV/syphilis/all other STDs-free young man? (Except that he could still have a MRSA, the hot new infection. Because in spite of recent "It's all the gays' fault" reports, it's not usually sexually transmitted.) And does Jesus -- who never said in the Bible that you weren't allowed to totally make out with anyone you felt like making out with -- feel implicated? What does this kid's mom say about this? Or is she not allowed to speak? I blame sports.

So then he sings. But before he sings he tells the judges his tale of supervirginity. They're freaked out. Meanwhile, Seacrest tells Dad that if son meets a girl out in Hollywood then Dad's going to be in big trouble. Dad says, "You'll be guiding him, right?" Yes, Dad, Ryan Seacrest is going to guide your lithe, blond-haired, swimmer's-build son all right. Seacrest's response: "You don't want that. I've kissed a girl today." He leaves out the part about it being someone's mother. Then the kid sings and the judges tell him to get lost. Randy tells him to go kiss girls. Simon tells him to stay away from Seacrest, as the Notorious Girl Kisser standing outside the door with Dad will go right for anal sodomy on that boy if he so much as turns his back. This is why I watch this show. For the cuckoo, for the bananas, for the cuckoo bananas, and for the way that Simon is constantly telling the world what a total butt-fucking FAG Seacrest is.

10. The monotone chick who talks like Stephen Hawking and sings like Tiny Tim.

11. The fake gay rocker wearing eyeliner (he insists on calling it "guyliner," but trust me, it's eyeliner) and Michael Kors's flayed orange skin stretched over his face, singing Kelly Clarkson's "Never Again" into an invisible microphone. Or a ghost-dick. I don't know. When told that he sucks, he offers to sing them something by Better Than Ezra. Oh, well, since you put it that way. We didn't know you were serious about it until just now.

The ones who are Asian and therefore mocked for their ethnicity because it's somehow the one group of nonwhites the show still feels comfortable doing that to:

1. The shell-shocked Asian guy who whispers a baby lullaby.

2. The guy bucking to be the next William Hung in the all-white outfit who sings his own composition about how we're all brothers. He seems to worship Simon. I hope he gets a career out of this, though, because I find him sort of enchanting.

The ones from the local improv scene who seem like actors getting footage for their comedy reel:

1. The Egyptian Borat who likes "Mr. The Bee Gees" and considers himself a "sexyface" and wants to love a girl "from the hair to the nipple." He has an interesting conversation with a young African-American woman who questions his sexual orientation and then laughs at him when he says that he has no children because he's not married. "Welcome to the new city, baby," she says, "Cuz that's all that's goin' on over here."

2. The "No Sex Allowed" Guy. He's 40. Sings a song about how he's not going to have sex. "Sex is weak, and love is strong... If you don't like it, get out of town." The outfit tips his fakey hand, I think. Only Chris on Project Runway wears that much leopard-print.

3. The generic bear cub in the Princess Leia slave outfit he bought at Hot Topic. Someone, somewhere, is masturbating over this guy right now. Later he waxes his chest (shown on-camera, even though he doesn't bring the gag home by shouting "KELLY CLARKSON!" when they strip him of his pelty outer layer) and comes back to sing, smoothly anticlimactic.

4. The guy who sings the stalker song directly to Paula. "If I were Columbo, I'd Peter Falk her," he croons. He's the most transparent of the fakes. But I want him as a guest judge next week.

The plain old sad:

1. Temptress, the 16-year-old girl linebacker with the enormous wheelchair-bound mother who breathes through a tube. She can't sing. She cries. Too bad.

2. The seemingly mentally ill guy who keeps his terrible non-singing a secret from his family. He says his own father said "I hate you" to him. Nice. But then you think his dad could be the heart pendant guy instead and you wonder which one would be worse. During his audition he actually loses touch with reality, begins ignoring the judges, and has to be escorted out by security.

And finally, I'd like to give a special shout-out of hate to Seacrest's Tuesday-episode "Monarchy" T-shirt. Those shirts are the scourge of clothing, the black plague of fashion. Everything's got a skull and a rose and a cross and gothic font and sparkles and a tiger and a conquistador and Deepak Chopra and words like FAITH and TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION on it now. Please, stylists of Seacrest, talk some sense into his thick bedazzled skull. As it stands now, my eyeballs are puking.

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