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
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
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.
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.
just the first two minutes. Then Seacrest says,
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.
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.
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
8. The single mom
who recorded a gospel record when she was 4.
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!"
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
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.
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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.
I'd like to give a special shout-out of hate to
"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.