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Welcome to
Hollywood—now go home

Welcome to
Hollywood—now go home


Fighting! Crying! Also some singing. But mostly fighting and crying in week 5 of Dave White's American Idol recap.

"To be an American Idol finalist is to be a superstar," says Seacrest as Tuesday night's show opens. And he's right. For at least a few weeks after you win American Idol you are a superstar. And then your record comes out and underperforms. I think what I'm trying to say is, Why aren't you people buying Fantasia's new CD? Because it's pretty awesome. Oh, wait, I just remembered--even I didn't buy it. I just borrowed a copy and put it into my iTunes. Oh, well, I'll go buy a ticket to see her live when she comes to Los Angeles. But you? You should go buy her CD.

They've chopped thousands of auditioners down to 172 young people who firmly believe they are now going to "make it." Of those 172, 148 are going back where they came from. In tears. Always in tears. Unless they decide to just stick around. That's the reality show I'd watch, the one about all the people who made it here in that group of 172 who just decided to get an apartment in Sherman Oaks. Maybe a group of them do that and they're all the cute ones, right? And they stick together like the Monkees in the same house and chase their stupid dreams and live and love and laugh and fail. Because really--spoiler alert here, like you care--when 16-year-old Bailey Brown goes back to Krum, Texas, after she's been to Pinkberry and Trashy Lingerie, how much smaller will it seem? Fox should sign her up for this new show idea of mine.

They're all at the Orpheum Theater, which, technically, isn't even in Hollywood. It's downtown. People who don't live here don't really get that. Hollywood is just one small part of Los Angeles. And almost none of the stuff people think about when they think of Hollywood--movie and TV production--goes on there. The prostitution does, though. There's plenty of that to be enjoyed. So, tourists? If you're in Hollywood proper, be sure to stop by the All American Burger on Sunset and check out the alley right behind it. Because that is the magical spot where Divine Brown gave Hugh Grant that very special kiss-in-the-pants-area that got them both arrested. Take your grandma's picture there. Except now that I think about it, that place might be over the line in West Hollywood. I really need to have a map in front of me to be writing this stuff.

It's the morning of the first day of chopping people's dreams down to the nub. All the Idol wannabes are sitting around tables of muffins and Dasani water, thoughtfully provided by Coca-Cola, the company that makes it. One girl is shown slumped over the table, passed out. This is now the image I associate with Dasani.

Then they move on to the Orpheum (I know, back and forth, back and forth. Thank the show's editors for that.) One stupid girl says, "It's so surreal because you watch it on TV all the time and now we're here. We're actually here."

But you know what, young lady? That's not what "surreal" means, and I'm kind of fed up with the way that word has been diminished by its overinclusion in everyday speech. It's become mistakenly synonymous with "unbelievable" and that's just wrong. El Topo is surreal. Kafka's Amerika is surreal. A talent competition, unless it involves the Lady In the Radiator singing "In Heaven, everything is fine...," is not surreal.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, let's talk about day 1 and who cries on camera once they've been surrealistically eliminated. Someone named Jory sings first. Then some more girls. Jory is very good. And they cut her. They cut all six girls in that line-up. This seems like the un-luck of the draw, like they just decided that to amp up the drama and fear, those first six, even if one of them had been Kelly Clarkson Jr., would be sent home. It's a little weird. Simon says, "None of you are any good," which isn't actually true. Again, I distrust the show's editors. For all we know the six girls who get cut "first" were actually cut after lunch.

Amanda, of the BFF team of Amanda and the Girl Who Reminds Me of Meadow Soprano, says, "I'm gonna shit my pants." That would make the episode very entertaining, so I'm hoping she makes good on that one. Next comes a shot of Perla the Shakira-ette from the audition shows getting off her plane in Los Angeles. "Oh, my God, it's like I'm a superstar already!" she exclaims, vamping and sticking out her butt. This means, of course, that she's going home by the end of the episode, but for now she's safe. Then comes that Army Girl named Rachel. She's also going home. Bailey Brown, the farm girl from Krum who wants to leave, is moving on to the next round.

Not moving on at all are the Girl Who Made the Weird Scrunchy Faces When She Sang, the Rocky-ish Chick Named Porcelana, and the Girl Who Lied to Her Dad About Auditioning. Goodbye to you, ladies. I no longer have to wonder whether I should try to start remembering your names. An unidentified girl sobs, "I feel like a failure!" which sends me, for some reason, into uncontrollable laughter. Does that make me a mean person? I think it might. But I don't really have time to ponder questions about my personality flaws because the even funnier sight of a discarded contestant badge on the sidewalk in front of the Orpheum is appearing right now before my eyes.

Next up is Nicole Turner, who I don't really remember. She's there with her mom and they're fighting over what song she should sing. Mom says to sing "Ain't No Way." Nicole says she "ain't feelin' it." But she sings it anyway, to please Mom. Then she's cut. If I were Nicole, I would parlay this moment in time into some really good Christmas gift leverage, but instead all she does is cry. "I sacrificed so much!" she weeps. And we just have to take her word for that because she doesn't elaborate. Then Mom demands to talk to the judges. Nicole grabs the microphone away from Mom and talks to the judges herself, claiming that she sang the wrong song. She goes back and forth with them until Simon yells, "It wasn't the song!"

"Hey, don't you shout at me," snaps Nicole.

Then the judges get swept up in the Crazy. Simon stomps off. Paula yells at Simon. Randy, bewildered and angry with himself over his lack of impulse-quick, camera-ready responses, rallies a show of applause for Nicole and Mom. For no good reason. Just to have something to do.

Melinda Doolittle, the no-necked, perpetually shrugging, hunched-over background singer, comes back for the next round, as does Gina Something, the one who sang "Black Velvet" with the bubba-boyfriend. Please show him again, because I need cues like that as mnemonic devices. And if you could show him again shirtless, that would really help my memory.

And now on to day 2. Time for the men to cry.

Brian Miller is a fresh-faced lad who seems to have just stepped off the set of High SchoolMusical. I have nothing more to say about him besides he advances to the next round. Jarrod Fowler, the Navy uniform guy from the audition shows, sings Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up," a song I wouldn't mind seeing banned from the Universe of Music. Fortunately for me and my ears, he is punished for his choice and gets sent home. Let that be a lesson to all of you dorks.

Matt Satos, 16 years old, eyebrow-challenged, and seemingly as emotionally fragile as a downtrodden Tennesee Williams character with a collection of small glass animals, cries a lot and doesn't know what it's like to receive parental approval. "Before this, my parents weren't really supportive of the things I did," he euphemisms. But then he moves on to the second round, so that's good. I truly want something decent to happen to this kid, because dang, the signifiers are piling up deep in here. He cries again after getting through to the next round. "My heart!" he gasps. Then he calls Mom on his little pink cell phone. She says she loves him. Shocked, he says, "She never says she loves me either." More crying.

Also through to next round are the Beatbox Kid, the Guy Who Quit Last Year, the Guy Who Missed His Daughter's Birth and Who Somewhat Resembles a Preemie Himself, and the Super-Long-Beard Guy Who Reminds Me of the Guy From Iron & Wine.

And finally, the best part of any American Idol season, the Group Round. The Group Round is like what happens when you're stuck with an awful lab partner in chemistry class or when you have to do a four-person research paper for poli sci. You're fucked, basically, because the other losers are never as committed as you are, and worse, they don't care if they drag you down with them. So, of course, that means suffering is imminent. And I love to watch televised suffering.

The kids have the night to find a group, pick a song, and get it together. Matt Satos can't find any men who'll let him be in their group. They're all like, "Yeah, sorry, Shakespeare's Sister, go skip rope with the girls." Even my partner's and my next boyfriend, the tall cowboy dude we plan to share, the guy whose name I can't remember but it doesn't matter anyway because he's getting cut by the end of tomorrow night's episode, even he shuns poor little Matt. This makes me not lust after him so much. Be nice to Matt! He hurts!

Cut to the following groups:

1. A happy cluster of boys that includes Chubby Little Hands Chris, the one who wants to make David Hasselhoff cry. He is joined by Beatbox Boy and some other guys. They are doing dopey choreography and the cameramen are laughing at them.

2. A troubled group that includes Bailey Brown from Krum, Amanda the Mean Girl, and her best friend, Meadow Soprano. They can't decide on a song and they're all pouting. I want the cameras to just stick with this group. I can't get enough of that My Super Sweet 16 bullshit entitlement and awfulness.

3. Perla and Gina's group. Perla is a bad harmonizer, not a team player, which means that even if she's cut--and she will be--she'll go far in life.

Amanda Mean is exhausted after several grueling minutes of rehearsal and needs to go flirt with boys. She leaves her group to go attempt some seduction moves on several young and possibly gay men.

Now it's Group Day. 8 a.m. Everyone performs. Everyone sucks it. Amanda and Bailey and Meadow forget their words. Little Matt forgets his words. Gina does not. "I don't care about anybody else in this competition but myself. Sorry. I'm going to be the next American Idol," she says. That's the spirit. Perla, on the other hand, ruins it all and makes what I'm sure she believes to be a charming "Love Me Anyway" face. The Happy Group of Boys sing "How Deep Is Your Love" and, even with the dopey-ass beatboxing and perhaps because of it, knock it out of the park.

Then comes the group with Sundance Head in it. You may remember him as the guy whose name is actually Sundance Head, the one with the wildly untamed goatee, the one who can't button his shirt and is constantly displaying an entire football field of chest hair, upon which rests a huge class ring on a chain. Presentation-wise, he's both a huge mess and a bear magnet. But what's important right now is that he's fucking it up with the singing. And not in a good way. Mumbling lyrics that actually sound like he just sang the words "my hard-on" and straining to reach high notes and failing. It's awful, and I may need to take back what I said about him being able to sing the ribs off a pig. Because seriously, dude, you are making the mush-mouthed girl in your group sound good. And then the judges cut everyone in his group except him. Huh? Is that chest hair magic? Does the class ring hypnotize everyone who gazes into it?

Cut back to the Bailey-Amanda-Meadow Soprano group, who all claim that no matter what happens they will always be friends. So naturally they fuck it up. Bailey forgets the words. She's going home to Krum. Meadow Soprano and Amanda stay. "I worked the hardest out of both of them," whines Bailey.

Cut to Amanda gloating over her and Meadow Soprano's advance to the next round, "You know what? It's because God likes good people." I love it when clearly awful human beings cite God as their copilot, like that guy, that basketball guy, whatever his name is, the one who this week said he hated all gay people. That shit's hilarious. So anyway, now we know more things about Amanda, like that she's not simply a work-ethic-deficient bitch, she's also a noted theologian.

Bailey confronts Amanda about getting her ho on when she should have been practicing. Amanda says, snorting with laughter, "That's a little bit insulting. You probably shouldn't say that." Translation: "Meadow's family is going to have you whacked." Amanda turns to the cameras and says, "We don't flirt with boys here. This is a job interview. This isn't fun." Flashback cut to last night where Amanda is seen lying on the floor laughing like a drunk Tri Delt while young men stare greedily at her tight little bod. Because, you know, when a young woman wriggles around on the carpet in a room of young men, that means nothing.

A total of 36 more people are cut, including Super-Long-Beard Guy, Some Girl With Big Earrings, and a Guy Wearing a Hat. This is the problem with providing backstories for people you're not exactly sure about. People we've never seen before make it through to Hollywood and we never see them or know who they are. And then, poof, they're gone. Then you get people like My Daddy Shot My Stepmama and Then Hisself showing up in the audition shows and then you never hear from them again. Where is that girl? Dang you, story editors, I need closure.

Now it's day 4.

More singing. More cutting. The judges are shown looking at photos. Wannabe faces flash while the judges fake you out with comments like "boring" and "amazing." They divide everyone into three rooms. Two are "Yes" rooms and one is a "No" room.

Yes Room 1 = Gina the Ballbuster Who Doesn't Care About Anyone Else, Beatbox Boy, Chris Chubby Little Hands, Melinda No-Neck, Cornrow Guy Who Sang "Cupid," That Korean Guy.

"Congratulations," says Paula.

Yes Room 2 = Sundancehead. I know his name is Sundance Head but I say it all like it's one word when I'm talking about him in my living room, so I thought you should know that. That Sanjaya Kid With the Sister Who Can Also Sing. Meadow Soprano.

Randy says, "I should just put you out of your misery now, right? I am really sorry to say that you guys are gonna see a lot more of us--you're through."

The No Room = They can hear the first two rooms celebrating, so they know they're all about to be executed. People are already crying. The Sister of Sanjaya. Some Blond Girl. This Other Guy. That High School Musical Kid. Amanda Mean Girl. All gone.

OK, now on to Wednesday's episode. This is my other favorite episode of the season, the one where it's all about people riding in an elevator. In my house we call it several names. Elevator of Doom. The Failure Chute. The Losers' Lift. We like all the names and can't pick just one. But seriously, it's an hour of people riding in an elevator, the ending of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory stretched out to 45 minutes plus commercials.

Cutting to the chase:

Making it to the Final 24 are...

The Guy Who Missed the Birth of His Daughter, No-Neck Melinda, and Sanjaya. Sanjaya is kind of a lady-boy. And I can see his underwear. Pull up your stupid pants, kid. And I want Melinda to de-hunchify her shoulders now that she's made it to the top of the heap.

Extremely tall Anna Kearns gets cut. So does some guy named Bernard Williams. The Butchy Girl With the Lip Ring gets cut. Gina Ballbuster moves into the top 24 and runs into the elevator doors on her way out. Oh, Other Door, where are you when we need you?

Cornrow "Cupid" singing guy is out. So is a guy I've never seen before. Haley Something is going through.

Chris Chubby Little Hands says to the judges, after elevating up to their room, "You guys are probably wondering why I called this meeting today." The judges laugh. Then Simon speaks and the editing does this thing I hate. Here is the transcript:

"Chris, um, I think you were probably amongst the contestants one of the most popular. You know you've got a great personality, everyone seems to like you, but, um, you weren't one of the better singers. [Pause] Unfortunately [another pause] you're going to be seeing a lot of us. You've made it through."

THAT SHIT MAKES NO SENSE, EDITORS! If you're going to chop up Simon's words and make them sound forbidding, then at least try to make them also sound coherent.

Beatbox Boy, whose name is Blake Whatever, gets to stay. Thomas Lowe, the Brit from the one-hit wonder boy band North and South, and who seems to be openly gay (I read all this on, just so you know), is gone. Rudy Cardenas--yes, I know it's a lot of names, it'll all be straightened out next week, I promise--gets to stay. Paul Kim, a.k.a. That Korean Guy, also makes it through. He announces that his new thing is to always be barefoot (gross) and to always wear the same underwear when they cut people (also gross, unless he is a diligent launderer, and so many young men are just not, you know?).

Jordin Sparks, 17 years old, says to the judges, "I did as good as I could do." She stays. If she sticks around long enough, I want to send her a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

Cut from the proceedings are the formerly and now future-ly anonymous Olivia Someone, Tatiana Nobody, and Monique You'll Never See Her Again.

A.J. Tabado is going through. So are Stephanie Edwards and Leslie Something and the Quitter From Last Season Guy. Good for them, whoever they are.

Alaina Somebody is next. She pulls on her armpits and says, "I don't want to go home." She's shown singing horribly in a crappy white skirt and tit-spilling leopard-print tube top and gold biceps bracelet. For the judges she's wearing a red miniskirt that is also a bathrobe. She makes it through and asks for some advice from them. They have none. But I do: Dress better.

Chris Richardson, who sings sort of Timberlake-y, is in; so is someone named Sabrina. Simon says dumb stuff like "We have decided not to exclude you" and "You have not [pause] failed." So annoying.

Kicked off: Jerome Wacky Shoes, Joelle Crazy Hair, Matt the Cowboy Who Is My Next Boyfriend, and Princess Makeup-Face.

Lakisha Jones makes it through. She's a big girl with a big voice and a big wig. And yes, I know it's a gay cliche to be all about the big African-American girl who sings like a thunderstorm and gives off that whole "and you, and you, and you, you're gonna love me" thing, but I'm already really into her and I refuse to apologize for that.

Amy Krebs, whose family obviously invented all those Krebstar products on The Adventures of Pete &Pete, is going through.

And then come the final four. Two men and two women. Of each pair, only one will exit Thunderdome alive.

Marisa Something Who Cries a Lot versus Meadow Soprano: Obviously the horse's head in Paula's bed worked because Meadow's through to the next round. The crazy swirl of emotions explodes as the Elevator of Doom descends back to the bottom floor. Meadow Soprano pats Marisa on the back. Marisa jerks away with a very nicely played "don't TOUCH me" move, sobbing, "How did this happen?" as she crouches to possibly vomit in the corner of the elevator.

Meadow Soprano says, "Some of the best people here get eliminated!" (Subtext: "Well, not me, thank God, but some of the other best people, like you, for example, who were better than me, but life's just weird, huh?")

Finally, it's Tommy Who Used to Have a Big Afro and Now Has a Jheri Curl and Sundancehead. Tommy is big and still very cute. Sundancehead is short. Like really short. Like Dio short. Like wearing a big red pointy hat and living in your garden short. I didn't notice this until just now. But there it is. And in spite of all evidence to the contrary, Sundancehead makes it on through. Tommy flips off the camera with both hands. Sundancehead, sensitive soul that he is, says, "If I do make it big, I'll make you my bodyguard."

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Dave White