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Paul F. Tompkins Recaps American Idol’s L.A. Auditions

Whooooo! Yeah! American Idol is in my city of Los Angeles this time around! Idol, you are in MY house now! Surely, this will give me some sort of home-field advantage for viewing this TV show! I hate sports!

We start off by laughing in a young woman’s face. BAM! The first contestant is unencumbered by talent and the judges engage in a joyous session of outright derision. The target of their roasting gets a little bit of her own back when she later snipes to a sympathetic TV camera, “Not everyone can sing like ‘J.Lo’ [air quotes hers].” So she is saying, on television, on the show that includes J.Lo, “This lady Jennifer Lopez who can’t sing so well and has a singing career judged my singing.” I am somewhat surprised they aired that moment, but maybe they figure J.Lo will just fast-forward past anything that’s not herself when she watches the show at home.

Okay, someone who can actually carry a tune shows up. Nice to spotlight those types on your singing show. Tim Halperin has had a crush on J.Lo ever since the fifth grade, when he could only dream of growing the lustrous underbeard he sports now. He has a pleasant enough voice and he gets in, although everyone agrees his singing needs work. Randy gives J.Lo some good-natured ribbing about being so much older than this kid who has a crush on her. J.Lo takes it pretty well, and I am starting to really kind of like her on this show. Wait, what did I just write? No, I looked back over it. It checks out. I meant it.

Next up are the two best buds you could ever imagine, Daniel Gomez and Isaac Rodriguez! They are super-pals who believe in each other! Before auditioning they reveal something of themselves to us. Daniel says, “My voice is good enough to be, like, superstar status here in America.” Oh, okay, so, safe to assume he can’t sing at all. Sure enough, he can’t! Then Isaac says, “My parents still don’t know I have dropped out of college.” OOF. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this statement, plus his buddy being awful, will set Isaac up to be revealed as the true star of the duo! Oh, but he stinks, too. They each take the judges’ critiques with a smile, even though those critiques are nutshelled to “Singing isn’t for you.” The smiles turn sinister as Daniel and Greg later tell the camera no one tells them what to do and they will continue to support each other. They are like a karaoke Leopold & Loeb.

Hey, have you been wondering who’s still on MySpace? Turns out it’s the producers of American Idol. They’ve partnered with the social network that’s wearing a barrel to allow people to post video auditions online. Then they make those people come in and audition in person. So … thanks for that, MySpace! Take the rest of the day off from firing people! Tonight’s top MySpacer is Karen Rodriguez, who says she’s not sure if J.Lo will remember, but she sang to J.Lo when J.Lo appeared on TRL years ago. Again, if this girl sang for J.Lo once already, why are we going through this again? HOW MANY TIMES MUST KAREN RODRIGUEZ SING FOR J.LO? A few more times, I guess, because she’s in. Blinging her profile paid off!

Does this season have the most facial piercings? Not just this season of American Idol, but this season of the planet Earth? I’m not 100 percent on this, but I don’t think anyone with multiple facial piercings has made it through yet. So that may turn out to be an identifying characteristic of an inability to sing. It’s like they camouflage their singing source with shiny stuff so you’ll be distracted before they make their awful sound, and by the time you hear it — it’s too late! Because you’ve heard it! Clever girl.

Okay, time for another nutcase. I guess the awful people are going to be the bulk of this episode. Thanks, guys. Cheers. So this wackadoo brings her own microphone, can’t sing, won’t leave, chases Randy around the room, and is eventually escorted out by security. This is a supposedly amusing vignette that goes on just long enough at, approximately, forever. It is somewhat interesting to see that colossal security guard on-camera, and it washes over me that some of these people may be legitimately unhinged. Or superstars!

Attractive-testant Heidi Khzam is a belly dancer by trade, and her audition starts with some belly dancing. Then she is prompted to sing and does; she can carry a tune, but there’s really nothing there. Nevertheless, Randy immediately bellows, “Welcome to Hollywood!” There’s something unsettling about how they don’t even try to make a moment of debating her moving on. I mean, unless a discussion was edited out, Randy green-lights her and the other two just shrug. Intentional or not, it was a weird moment of bald commerce on the show. “Too many uglies are getting through! We need faces that won’t make our viewers upchuck their Beefy Crunchy Burritos! If you see a piece of ass that can get through a whole verse of ‘Happy Birthday’ in English, put ‘er through!”

Okay. We are now introduced to a guy whose name I am afraid to post on the Internet, who is clearly mentally ill. There’s no two ways about it. He claims to be a “freelance record producer” and he loves to “lock shows in.” This guy’s got some problems. We spend a lot of time with him. There’s a produced package on him, he chats with Ryan, we meet a buddy of his who is not helping matters, and his actual audition feels like it has a three-act story. Everyone’s laughing, but boy, it’s not funny. He finally leaves and rails against Randy to the ragefessional camera. Thumbs down.

What! Singing people somehow sneaked into the building! Mark & Aaron Gutierrez are brothers who seem very sweet and adorable. They sing “Lean On Me” together, switching off verses and harmonizing on the chorus, and it sounds perfectly lovely. They both get in. They really do seem nice and they are two people in a tiny handful of souls that I am actually not dreading seeing again in the weeks to come.

Finally, we close it out with Cooper Robinson, whose name I am not afraid to put on the Internet, because his telephone is most likely a cardboard toilet paper tube. He looks like an effigy of Nipsey Russell from The Wiz, and he rants and raves and accidentally sings for a little bit. By the time he leaves he is sweating profusely because he is wearing a wig under a man’s hat under a lady’s hat. What fun we had with the mentally ill this evening! Who cares how poorly our health-care system deals with mental-health issues when they’re soooo hilarious?

There. That’s done. Let me close with this: Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson are such creeps I am starting to develop Stockholm syndrome with J.Lo. She’s absolutely beautiful, she’s the nicest by far to the contestants, and she seems to put up with the unpleasantness on either side of her with good humor and aplomb. Wow. I did not expect my brain to break so early in this process, but there you go. I bet Kim Wayans thought she’d be the breakout female star of In Living Color. Life’ll surprise ya!

Next week: San Francisco.

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX