Have you ever tried to watch American Idol without the benefit of the fast-forward button? In real time, like the Flintstones or your parents would? If you don’t absolutely have to, I cannot recommend it. I have been exhausted and crabby all day today just thinking about the forced humor and occasional singing I’d be facing tonight. Maybe that’s why ratings have slipped so far so fast: American Idol will suck the life right out of even a happy, music-loving guy. Feel free to use that as a pull quote for your promotional materials, Fox.
Tonight’s show takes place in Galveston, Texas, and opens with 25-year-old Phong Vu, a big, effeminate Vietnamese-American guy I kind of love. He’s one of those guys who can’t say anything that isn’t super-emphatic. “I will make you shock and wow. Being American Idol: It’s just so phenomenon.” And then he cries. And then he tries to enter the audition room, but he pulls on the wrong door. And then the producers add a gong noise.
So listen, Nigel Lythgoe and Celine Coot-Frottage or whatever: I know you like to mock the foreign and the gay and the mentally handicapped, so it must feel like Christmas to have a three-fer like old Phong Vu up there, but don’t do this. It is the year two thousand and twelve, a time of class resentment and anti-bullying awareness. Let’s not rake in Coke and Ford money kicking cripples. Let’s take this ignoble horseshit back where we found it, shall we?
We shan’t. Phong totters his way through “Unbreak My Heart,” and the billionaire judges laugh in his face and don’t even honor his request to show them his “iconic moves.” “What show is this?” asks a fake-astonished Randy Jackson. Well, Randy, I’ll tell you: It’s the show in which you pump naive people’s hopes up and then pull their pants down and giggle at their genitals in front of a massive but dwindling audience. It’s the show where if Adele showed up, you’d mock her accent and say, “Nah, dawg, you need to do some runs.” It’s the show that suddenly feels a million years old. It’s that show, you dick.
I get protective of my man Phong Vu.
After a montage of even more Über-gay, tone-deaf Texans, I must ask: Would you guys be interested in doing some kind of extremely violent fund-raiser for the Trevor Project? I’ll get to work on an idea.
We then meet Skylar Laine, a teenage Amy Madigan who works at her family’s failing lunch counter. Her Papaw and Mamaw promise us “she sings just like a meadowlark,” and I will have to take their word for it. But she sounds good, and we finally get someone through to Hollywood. And of course she has a friend who wants to kiss Steven Tyler. Who are these girls?
Baylie Brown is back after an Idol attempt five seasons ago, thwarted by an ill-fated group-week performance with those awful best-friend Jersey girls. Remember those Jersey girls? I faintly recall them being jerky and impressed with themselves, and I bet they just managed to live it all down sometime last October, and here it is all over again. Baylie makes it through. Sometimes there is justice in this callous world.
Here for her first and last chance is 28-year-old Kristine Osorio, who spent her divorce lawyer’s fee on a plane ticket to the audition. She’s very good! I can tell you this with certainty: Whatever time of day you are reading this, she’s getting a call from her divorce lawyer and hitting IGNORE right then.
What follows is a series of female singers who are talented but maybe not the skinniest, whom Randy and Steven turn down, and then a very bad but very fit one whom they send through. Finally, there is some drama at the judges' table, but it only gets as deep as “She is good,” “No, she is bad.” I’ve never missed Simon more. The judges argue halfheartedly in between auditions, and Jennifer moves her head all around while her hairstylist tries to pat some product onto her. I’m telling you: Gay guys cannot fucking win on this show. (Neither can women; they cut this segment together to make it look like Jennifer is the one with the problem, when she is clearly not.)
One look at Alejandro Cazares’s face and even small children wearily sigh, “There go the next seven minutes of my life.” Alejandro is a serious, troubled young man with dreams of revolution, of a world where “even a Lady Gaga can be a platinum seller, where a man like Barack Obama can be the president.” Jennifer politely informs him that there is a world like that, and it’s called the world. Alejandro simply had not thought this one through. Always, always take your manifesto through a second draft. He doesn’t make it through, he has to be escorted out by a mountain of a bouncer, and his tongue is blue, as though you needed evidence that he eats candy for lunch.
And then we move on to day two. Can you believe this? Randy wears another of his many pairs of sunglasses that look edible, and Steven goes for a look I will call Catherine Keener Goes As Mrs. Roper for Halloween. And he has an abacus around his neck.
First up on day two: Cortez Shaw, who does the peppy version of “Someone Like You” that nobody has been clamoring for. He’s got a strong voice, and he deserves the trip to Hollywood he’s getting, but I am marking him “needs improvement” in the area of lyrics comprehension.
Ryan stops by the judges’ table for a chat, and there’s an unexpectedly penetrating look behind the curtain. Ryan and Steven joke around a bit, Randy attempts to butt into the conversation and is ignored, and Jennifer grimly pokes at her BlackBerry. I want to see more of this.
Oh, but we are on to our final sob story of the night, and it’s one I can honestly say I’ve never heard before: Ramiro Garcia was born without ears. You may read that sentence again. The doctors gave him no chance of hearing or speaking, yet through a series of operations, here he is. Of course, his hairdo fully obscures those bionic ears, which is disappointing. But his voice is really something, soulful with just the right amount of rasp. He gets a golden ticket, and his sweet father cries, and so do I because I’m relieved they’re not making fun of him.
It was an emotional roller coaster tonight, if a roller coaster can always be slowly descending. Just eleven or twelve more weeks of this and we’re into the real show, guys! Until then, help a stranger in need. America has been left with a massive karmic debt tonight.