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The First of Many
Hell Weeks

The First of Many
Hell Weeks


One hundred sixty-four people walk into the garbage compactor on the Death Star. Twenty-four walk out. The rest are turned into Soylent Green. I know I just mixed my movie references. Sue me.

I had lunch with a friend this afternoon. She was one of the surfing lesbians on the Logo reality series Curl Girls. Maybe you didn't watch it too. And I asked her if she was famous because of it. Did people recognize her around places? She said she always assumes that no one will know who she is because usually they don't. But then sometimes they do. "If D-list used to be the lowest you could go, then I'm several letters down the alphabet. G-list maybe. Gay celebrity. From a Logo show."

And so this statement:


...the one that opens Tuesday's show, in which 164 of the people from the past several weeks who've been given the gold tickets come to Los Angeles to be whittled down to 24 semifinalists, is always the thing I dread hearing the most on American Idol. Most of them will be wood shavings after this week, swept back home to wherever it is. But some will stay and seethe as the final 24 become the final 12 become the top 10 and on and on. And they'll try to find a shitty apartment to live in over in Koreatown or Silver Lake or Tustin. And they'll go on auditions and hate themselves and do all sorts of fucked-up things to lose weight and they'll network a lot and go out at night hoping to run into Brett Ratner or someone who'll give them any break at all. Because they came here to be singers, but sooner or later they'll write a one-man/woman show about their "crazy life in this wacky City of Angels." And then, eventually, one of their parents will die and they'll move back home to help take care of the remaining one and find someone there to marry. And they'll go to work at a regular job and buy an enormous flat-screen TV and talk to their friends about how they waited on Meg Ryan this one time or went to a party with that one short guy from Entourage and how they were really sweet and down-to-earth.

Seacrest looks sort of weirdly waxy and unwell this week. At least he looks that way in the opening bit. Ooh, but I don't care because now there's a montage of past winners and also-rans, each of them weeping and gnashing their teeth through Hollywood Week: Daughtry, Corey Clark, Sanjaya, Antonella Barba's blond pal, Kiki, then Antonella Barba clutching her own throat, Gina with the red streak of hair, Sundancehead. Oh, Sundancehead, what are you doing now? Anybody know? I'm genuinely curious.

Seacrest talks about the new Hollywood Week procedure. Everyone sings again. Some will go sailing through. But some will, of course, choke. All those fuck-ups are going to get more than one chance. But if they blow that second shot, then they're gone. Seacrest says, "They'll sing for their life. And it's gonna be...a bloodbath."

I perk up at this. I LOVE bloodbaths.

Even better? For the first time this year, a contestant will be allowed to play instruments if they feel guided by that still small voice in their soul that says, "You are Irene Cara and you are going to sit at the piano and warble "Out Here On My Own" and you will burn with the fire of 10 million stars." And you can thank Blake Lewis and his laptop compositions from last year and Daughtry's guitar-hero blah from the year before for all of this.

So here comes the blond woman from a couple weeks ago whose story hook is that she's been sheltered from the world in a human-size veal pen and has never seen an R-rated movie or done any other naughty thing, ever. She hides behind a keyboard and it gives her a kind of singer-songwriter sensitivity, even though her voice is nothing shocking. Well played, Miss Purity.

Next up is a montage of people playing their chosen instruments badly. Or playing them well and singing badly. Or playing them badly and singing badly.

Next up is some chick singing that Shania Twain song where one of the lyrics is "the best thing about being a woman." She's wearing a too-small black tank top and a truly weird and bad skirt. It's red plaid, it's microscopic, it's got a row of pleats all the way around it, it's got a big black built-in belt. Her boots rival the ones Julia Roberts wore that time she wrangled Richard Gere to take her shopping on Rodeo Drive. She sings the song like this. "THE. BEST. THING. ABOUT. BEE. ING. A WHOO. MUHN."

Surely there have to be better things about being a woman than any of what I'm looking at here.

Hey, let's talk about commercials. Here's one for that piece-of-shit movie where C.Z. Jones is an uptight chef whose life would be so much better with some of icky-sensualist Aaron Eckhart's tiramisu shoved down her throat. No lie, this guy wears Crocs, yammers on about opera. The kind of "ladies' man" who'd give anyone of any gender the douche-chills. I know all of this because I had the misfortune of having to see that movie. Anyone who gave me that fuckin' stale cookie for Valentine's Day would get stabbed. On the other hand I love the trancey ad where everyone's on little people-moving tracks. But then some messy-haired "rebel" has to ruin it for everyone. Oh, it's for I went there once. I didn't see Gamera and moved on.

Commercials are over. Some guy has decided to play drums while singing. He's whatever the opposite is of this Gene Krupa record I have where Anita O'Day sings. Much less good than that. Of course Gene Krupa didn't sing. He just drummed. So perhaps it's an unfair comparison. Whatever. This guy sucks it.

"There's a rose in a fisted glove," sings the melismatic man up next. We've been lucky in recent seasons because that sort of oversinging has kind of been on the outs. It ain't cool, and lots of people have clued in to that. Until now. But the judges are loving him. Paula says, "A hundred trazillion percent yes!" I hope that enthusiasm includes a trazillion percent push to make the guy lose the stiff, wet spiky hair.

And speaking of stylists, I can see myself growing tired of Nursey O. Williams fairly quickly, but not only because of her growly, derivative singing style. I'm already feeling like I want to fix her up in something a little less local-news in the rock clothes department. Everything she wears is the female equivalent of Chris Daughtry's wallet chain. She's going into the top 24 at least and probably going to move up higher than that. So, Nurse Chick, I advise losing the overly ornate Dykes on Bikes look. It's not going to win you any more fans. And stylists, if she gets far enough along in this show to receive your services, please begin introducing her to the kind of high-end Ann Demeulemeester chic-rocker Patti Smith clothes that'll help me to quit being annoyed every time I have to look at her. Jared Gold stuff would look good on her too. Hell, even Christian from this season's Project Runway could help her out if he didn't mind the fact that she's neither nine feet tall nor 19 pounds. Nursey had a car accident before Hollywood week, which she says reminded her how everything can be over in a second and how important it is to keep on dyeing her hair to make her look like a skunk.

Side note: Randy's shoes. For a while they were fire-engine red and made just as much noise. Today they're Klan-robe white. If he doesn't wear blindingly shiny loafers, does he forget where he put his feet?

Montage of people forgetting the lyrics. My favorite is the girl who ends her fucked-up moment with a very prettily trilled, "Kill me nooooowwww!" I like her.

Next is the Venezuelan Antonio Banderas who hluvs the ladeees. Hee wants to kees you! Do joo want to kees heem too? Then he sings. When he sings he's thinking about how the weird hair grease must not drip into his mouth while he seengs or eet weel bee all hover for heem. He's upset that he got no kees from Paola.

First day over. Second day begins. Seacrest calls it Idol's version of "Hell Week." That's a good one. Everybody knows that there are way more hell weeks on this show than that.

The Boy Who Lives in His Car is up next. We see him touch his hotel bed. Calls down to room service to see if they can install a steering wheel next to his pillow so he can bonk his head into it in the middle of the night when the cops rap on his window. Then he sings "Grace Kelly" by Mika. They play that song on car radios? Anyway, not that it's a big accomplishment but he's already out-cooled an entire season-full of Blake Lewis.

Gay boy with the Jane Fonda in Klute hair seems to be doing well. So does Carly (Hennessey) Smithson. But she's got a blue tongue. In fact, during the course of this episode it appears that everyone's got a blue tongue. There's this restaurant in my part of Los Angeles called Milk where they serve this thing called a "Blue Velvet" cake. It's got blueberries in it. And the cake is blue. Your teeth turn blue. Your tongue turns blue. And when it exits your body, you poop blue too. Not making that up. Anyway, either Milk is catering these auditions or everyone is giving the same backstage Smurf a blow job for good luck.

The guy with the shitty hair -- I know, I know, narrow it down -- and who also had on the Blake Lewis argyle vest during the auditions but who fancied himself a somewhat emo-ish rocker man comes on to sing "Everything I Do I Do It For You," or whatever that pure evil Bryan Adams hit from the '90s was. Can anyone make that piece of shit sound good? I mean besides Hijokaidan. They'd know what to do to it. But otherwise, can we dump that slice of freeze-dried audio barfness into the toxic waste compost pile of history?

Probably not. It's going to hate my ears forever.

Oh, good, here comes supernerdtronicbot boy with the glasses. The one who always wears the tie. You know the producers are like, "Wear more of those. The uglier the better. We want you to stand out. We love you and we love your look. Keep doing that." He's being groomed to be the next Sanjaya, mark my words. He sings what may be one of my all-time favorite songs, "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes," performed originally by Edison Lighthouse. I had that 45 rpm record when I was 6 years old and played it until my oldest brother, Tim, used it as a Frisbee and broke it. My brothers -- there were four of us, my poor mother -- were always doing shit like that. I did it too, though, so it's not like I'm all scarred by it. My little brother, Matt, had a copy of Lynn Anderson's "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" that he played even more than I played "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes," and I distinctly remember my older brother, Mark, snapping it in half. My little brother cried and threw a conniption fit and my mom went out and bought him another copy. Then my dad would come home and put in a Buck Owens 8-track and that would be the end of all arguments. But anyway, back to the glasses nerd. The judges don't dig it. Simon actually gets up and walks out.

Day Two

Anyone who sucked on Day 1 gets a second chance. Today they get to sing a cappella for a few seconds for one final shot. They'll be cut on the spot if they fail.

Here are people who were spotlighted during the audition rounds who get cut:

1. The single dad with the long hair. I don't remember much more about him.

2. Abstinence Cheerleader, who happens to be wearing kind of flashy slut-top at the moment. She'll be back when she fucks off some of that baby fat.

3. The near-fatal car accident woman from Texas.

4. The girl who auditioned to earn her father's love.

5. The giant African-American queen's sister. Apparently he didn't bother helping her sing better like Simon admonished during the audition.

6. The single mom with the disabled daughter. Even worse? Her father died right after the audition. She says he "was killed." No explanation. AND THEY FUCKIN' DUMP HER. And this girl can sing too. So who knows what's up with that. Now she gets to go back to Philadelphia and watch as her daughter remains a victim of the American health care system's lack of single-payer universal coverage.

Day Three

A hundred or so cuts later, about 50-something remain. They all sing again. This time with the band and some background singers. Some are getting cut immediately if they truly fuck it up. The rest will be cut or retained on Wednesday's show where the Top 24 are selected.

Clearly going on through:

1. The kid who won Star Search Junior or whatever it was. He's got that poised Zac Efron Jr. quality, minus the occasional Efron-ish lapse into bitch-face. This kid is kind of adorable. And I don't mean that in a NAMBLA way. I like my men mannish, for the record. But he's cute and not gross (yet) and he totally knows what he's doing. He even makes another shit-sandwich-of-a-Bryan-Adams-song sound good.

2. Nerd boy is back. This time he makes them goose-bumpy with a (will it never end?) Josh Groban song. It's the tie. The tie is his Batman Utility Belt.

3. Syesha. I only know her name because she's sick with a cold and can't speak. But she does that thing where she pulls it out of who-knows-where and just does it.

4. The good-looking Australian guy. The one Simon said was "like a white soul singer." I don't need to rehash that bit of dumb.

5. Carly (Hennessey) Smithson. I really need to go back and listen to her failed album so I can hear what she's capable of. I mean, she's fine here. But I need more proof. And also, it's not that I'm trying to be all Woodward and Bernstein about her. I'll leave that to the overly excited YouTube conspiracy theorists. Because, at least now anyway, it's clearly not against the rules to have failed in the music industry before coming on this show, even if RANDY JACKSON was the head of A&R at the label you used to have a deal with. And now I suppose that ringers aren't against the rules either. I seriously don't care. Fantasia Barrino finally having a moment of clarity, lifting her preggers belly up and out of the lawn chair in front of her housing project and stubbing out that menthol before dragging herself off to the audition at the last minute is a wonderful story. It's the populist promise of Idol. But sometimes, like they say on Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, "even a miracle needs a hand." So if the producers went and sought out the former Ms. Hennessey, so fuggin' what, I say. She can sing. Let her sing. I want her husband to come onstage and tattoo something on her tongue while she does it, though. No real reason why. I just think that would be kind of cool to watch. Also cool is the way they keep showing the picture of her giving Simon the laser-beam death stare from the audition rounds, like she's about to rip up a picture of the pope (or maybe Paula) and scream "Fight the real enemy!"

6. The girl whose father died two days before her original audition. Thankfully, this week the show doesn't trip over itself to wrench tears out of the whole world.

7. Living-in-Car Boy. Gets cocky. Dismisses the band. Sings a cappella. Tells them that he's got a lot of guts to do what he just did. They cut him down. He cries. In fact, he's cried quite a bit lately, risking becoming the Ricky* of this show.

(*Oh, you're not reading the Project Runway recaps on this site, also written by me? You got something more important to do? I mean, it's pretty clear that you don't. You're reading a blow-by-blow of an audition round for American-fucking-Idol, for crying out loud. But don't sweat it. They're archived. You can catch up.)

Not Going Through:

The annoying pageant girl. Best thing about this? PAULA ABDUL IS THE DECIDING NO. SHE AND RANDY SIDED AGAINST SIMON. This may be a first in the show's history. What I like most about this moment is the look of irritation on Paula's face as the girl tries to browbeat "the nice one" into giving her another chance. Oh, wait, I'm sorry, did I say that's what I liked best? I meant that what I liked best was seeing the girl cry afterward. "I just wish I was given a fair chance," she says. Hey, Miss Florida Cream Cheese, that's what that WAS.

OK, the next night is all about people riding in elevators and walking across long rooms. The only things of note in the entire episode are:

*The craft services table, on which there is a Crock-Pot. I like to think that it's full of those Swedish meatballs you get when you take a break from shopping at Ikea. I love those meatballs.

*The soul-crushing Jumper tie-ins. I just saw that movie earlier this week, and it's as good as a film that stars Hayden Christensen can be.

Notable Ejections:

1. The yellow hat guy who says, "Now I don't know what I'm going to do with my life."

2. Insanely hot farmer boy. On the way out he asks Simon, "Hey, some ol' boy named Bruce Weber's waitin' down in the lobby for me. Y'all know who that is? Says he wants me to take some pitchers of me on a trampoline with a dog and a few other guys in their drawers. Whadda y'all thank a' that?"

3. The woman whose infant is waiting for her at the bottom floor of the doom elevator. "At least I get to go home to this," she says. Yes, a money-sucking shit-and-puke factory is my idea of a consolation prize too. Seacrest says, "The important things, right?" I LOVE IT WHEN SEACREST IS PHONY! I think it may be edging out his gay-baiting antics with Simon in terms of pure entertainment for me.

4. Car Boy. Wearing a shitty hat. Dang, he IS the Ricky of this show now. I think Idol should give him a promotional Ford Focus to live in now. Or Cowell could give him at least first and last month's rent on a little studio with kitchenette in Alhambra. That'd be lunch money for him.

5. Nerd Boy. Guess they didn't want a Sanjaya this year. They chose some little blond gayish kid who sang -- badly, I want to add -- "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" Isn't that a great song? All about restless warriors, kings, and vagabonds. Makes me wish Elton John weren't playing for our team every time I hear it.

6. It comes down to the final two, a skinny girl and the plus-size model from last week. You just know that Thin Mints thought she was going to beat out Miss BBW. But the Crock-Pot of Ikea meatballs was on the side of goodness. I guarantee you that skinny girl didn't eat any. A fatal error. They were lucky meatballs. That'll teach you to be svelte and leggy.

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Dave White