Thursday, May 01, 2008

A-Paula-ing

Wow! They didn’t even try.

I was so looking forward to the bullshit spin AMERICAN IDOL would concoct to explain away Paula’s idiocy from the night before and they didn’t even try. Ryan merely said the judges were thrown a curveball and that the online rumors weren’t true. Uh, what rumors would those be, Ryan?

I could just imagine the producers getting together earlier in the day trying to dream up a plausible explanation.

“We can say we threw them a curveball.”

“Yeah, yeah! A curveball. That’s good.”

“But wait a minute. Isn’t giving them a curveball only a problem when we ask them to do something more, something that they weren’t prepared for? Telling them to just sit there shouldn’t really throw them.”

“Even Randy seemed to get it.”

“Shut up! We’re going with curveball.”

“We did ask them to take notes. That’s new.”

“Didn't anyone check to see if Paula could read or write?”

“I did.”

“And…?”

“Her agent wasn’t sure but was going to get back to me.”

“What?! You gave that woman a pen without confirmation that she knew how to use it? My God! She could have eaten it, used it to clean her ears. Who knows?”

“You’re right. My bad.”

“Her death would have been on your hands!”

“Please, I feel bad enough suggesting Andrew Lloyd Webber week.”

“Look, she could take notes, we could give her notes, that still doesn’t explain how she could watch Jason sing one song and think it was two.”

“What about sleep deprivation?”

“Already used it.”

“Bad reaction to cold medicine.”

“Meaning what? She sneezed out her brains?”

“What if we say she was drunk… but with an explanation.”

“Which would be…?”

“Um….she was coming from her Passover seder and had to drink four glasses of wine.”

“Passover was over last Sunday.”

“She doesn’t own a calendar.”

“Or can’t read one.”

“Guys, let's face it. Any road we go down still leads to the same place. Cretinville.”

“Okay, how about this? We just insist it never happened.”

“How many times do I have to tell you? You’re not working in the White House anymore!”

"Right. Sorry."

“Well, I’m stumped.”

“Me too.”

“Same here.”

“Alright. Shit. We’ll just go vague. Say all the rumors about her aren’t true.”

“Come on. They’ll never buy that.”

“Sure they will. They buy it when we say we got 45,000,000 votes last night. And they buy it when we say Jason Castro got more votes than Carly Smithson. They even buy it when we say this is the most talented group we’ve ever had.”

“You’re right. Call Ryan.”

"We could make up ugly smear campaigns to discredit the other judges to take the heat off Paula."

"Again, this isn't the White House."

"You're right. You're right. Let's go with the vague rumors."

“Now, moving on to the next order of business. Who do we vote off this week? Syesha or Brooke?

“Call it in the air…”

38 comments :

Jake said...

Paula never ceases to amaze me. We have the days when she is with us and actually contributes some good advice and then we have the days when you think where did she earn the right to be on the panel.

steveh said...

Behind the scenes at a talent/reality show? You've got your next sitcom project right there.

Anonymous said...

Here's the true story of what happened, a Ken Levine blog exclusive.

Actually they were thrown a "curveball".

The original plan was to have each contestant introduced by Ryan and perform their first song and after they finished the contestant was supposed to introduce the next song and then sing it.

At the behest of people other than the producers, the decision was made to change the format to what you saw on Tuesday; each contestant would perform a song and then come out for a second round.

Unfortunately trotting each contestant out two times and having Ryan introduce them takes more time, so suddenly a show that would barely fit into one hour was too long. In order to save time the decision was made that for the first round the judges would not comment on the performances.

The only problem with that is no one told the judges, and when they found out during the show they were understandably a little miffed. (As in "then what the hell are we doing here?")

So with only a few minutes to pull it together, the producers decided to bring the contestants out and have the judges make a quick general comment about the first round. This was never rehearsed (as was pretty obvious) and consequently the judges were not entirely clear what they were supposed to do.

The fact that Paula referenced a yet to be performed song is not evidence of a deep seeded conspiracy. Although the judges are not in the studio for dress rehearsal, they will frequently watch the rehearsals in their dressing rooms in order to formulate their comments and because you can hear the songs better on television than in the studio where it can be very noisy due to the audience.

None of the conversations Ryan has with the judges, and nothing the judges say, is scripted.

Bottom line is if you do live television you run the risk of things not always going the way you planned.

And that's the truth.

Bitter Animator said...

So you're saying they form their opinions and comments not on the perfomances that we get to see, but on rehearsals that we are not privvy to. So... if their rehearsal goes much worse than the actual taped perfomance or the opposite... they risk being judged unfairly.

Am I getting that right?

The Crutnacker said...

Being "Shocked! Shocked!" that AI uses canned commentary is a bit disingenuous, isn't it?

I used to watch the show religiously, from the very first episode. At some point, the formula got stale for me. I think I just got tired of 16 year olds emulating Mariah or Christina while trying to sing soulfully. Singing loud and running the scales isn't the same as having passion or soul.



If you want an amusing experience, go back to those first few AI episodes, filmed before the show even hit the air. I remember the show being mocked and Paula Abdul being mocked for being on it proving how washed up she'd become. If memory serves, Paula was dressed very casual in those episodes and looking like she'd landed a spot on the Gong Show, not the soon-to-be top rated show in the nation. When the show took off, her wardrobe and her appearance started to do the same. At some point, she's had to realize that asking her for advice on singing is a bit like asking Randy Jackson for hints on a crossword puzzle.

Frankly, I'm waiting for the next season of MILF Island.

The Crutnacker said...

In regards to the judges watching dress rehearsal, has anyone else ever watched the show and seen a comment from a judge that had you scratching your head, wondering "What the hell were THEY watching?"

This was an irritant for me when I used to watch because a lousy performance would be proclaimed "BRILLIANT" and a halfway decent one would be trashed. I always wondered if seeing it there in front of the audience added (or subtracted) from the performance in a way that the cameras just couldn't catch. I know I've been to concerts I thought were awesome then seen video from the same tour and thought, "That really kinda sucked."

Anonymous said...

So... if their rehearsal goes much worse than the actual taped perfomance or the opposite... they risk being judged unfairly.

Am I getting that right?


No. It's not as if they don't watch the live performance. If the rehersal sucked and the live performance was great then they'll judge it accordingly. If the rehersal was good but during the live performance the contestant forgets the words, they'll mention that too.

It's not like the idol contestants sing some wildly different reggae version for rehersals and then another version for the live show.

I think there's a big difference between "canned" comments and giving a little fore thought as to what you're going to say on live televion in front of 25+ million viewers. To me it seems like reasonable preperation.

Anonymous said...

Ken: Why do you love this show so much. It's a bad karaoke contest. It has destroyed real music, and it is killing scripted TV. Please help drive a stake in its slimy heart.

A. Buck Short said...

Hey KL, you ought to think about writing more things with dialogue. You're really good at it. Oh wait, you do. :) The rest of us who rarely get the opportunity, what are we stuck with? Ventriloquism?

Ian said...

Brilliant, Ken. Especially the bit about the pen.

Tom Quigley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Quigley said...

Two ways they could have gone in dealing with this issue:

(1) RYAN: "There have been a lot of rumors floating around for the last day, and we want to dispell those rumors by saying: Paula, you bring so much to this competition, you are who you are, and that's why we love you."

(2) RYAN: "There have been a lot of rumors floating around for the last day about Paula, and I just want to say we'll be right back after these messages."

Jamie said...

Oh my god. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

So.....Paula gives "forethought" to her critiques, but still only musters a parrot-mimickry of what Randy just said...or some schtick about the person's great spirit or "looking beautiful tonight?"

A better explanation: The fix is in.

Mary Stella said...

On Results nights, the taped playbacks often sound better than the live performances. I listen and think, "Wow. Maybe that didn't suck as badly as I thought." Not that my ears are as trained as Simon's. Or even Paula's.

Bitter Animator said...

Mary, just going by process of elimination, are you Randy?

Bitter Animator said...

Jackson, I mean. I'm not asking if you're horny. That would be inappropriate.

KEN LEVINE said...

NO explanation -- from the show's producers or anyone -- can excuse Paula from WATCHING a performance with her own eyes and not realizing she only heard one song, not two.

That's just sheer stupidity.

And P.S.

Sometimes when you see that brief recap of the performances they use the dress rehearsal footage instead of the actual performance you just saw. And that's a proven fact.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Now you know why those Coke glasses on the judge's desk aren't see-through. Paula's should have a tiny umbrella sticking out of it. Really, it's so obvious when she's shit-faced and when she isn't.

Annie said...

From a network tv pov (shudder), instead of trying to explain Paula away, wouldn't they prefer to worry about how they're gonna top that gaffe next week?

maven said...

No matter what inane or lame excuse they try to come up with the bottom line is Paula (and everyone else) heard just one song from Jason at that point! Is being an idiot an excuse?

jbryant said...

Paula's mike was live during the commercial break. Here's a transcript of the feed:

"So, we don’t have to judge the first songs until after the second songs, right? …What? You’re changing it? We have to judge them NOW? But didn’t they only sing once? Or do we use the rehearsals…? … Oh, our notes? So this is why I had to take notes? Oh, right… Okay, let’s see, what did I write? … 'Jason – you’re a bright shining star'… 'Jason – You are who you are and America loves you'… There are TWO Jasons, right? … Oh, two DAVIDS! That’s right. So Jason sang twice already? I think I’ve got it now… What? I don’t? Then explain it to me, Nigel… oh crap, there’s that damn music and here comes Ryan… what am I supposed to do again? We judge the second songs first, is that it? (sotto:) I think I'm gonna drop a couple more, um, 'vitamins' in my, um, Coca-Cola."

Sam Kim said...

Here's my take - because I know everyone has been eagerly awaiting it.

Paula usually doesn't write comments in advance. If she did, her comments would surely be more substantive. But this season, her ad libbed feedback has been so especially horrendous that the producers finally insisted that she prepare in advance by taking notes during the rehearsals.

Great plan. Her comments for Jason were actually interesting and coherent. Except that the last-minute change confused Paula and led to her moment of apparent premonition.

Also, Paula is on prescription drugs that leave her scatter-brained.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that the idols are not decided by the votes of the viewing audience calling in, but rather that the judges or the producers decide who stays and who goes? Sort of like the 'fixed' quiz shows back in the day? That would be sad, IMO.

BTW, I started reading you on the Huff Post. I like what you have to say. :)
I'll sign here because I don't know how to do any of the other choices beside 'anonymous'. I hope I don't get deleted. :)

Eleanor

D. McEwan said...

Let's see, they threw Paula a "Curveball" and she didn't realize she was playing baseball, so she went on Dodgertalk with Ken, and criticized the teams playing in the World Series, forgetting that they haven't been selected yet.

Another thing they haven't addressed: her on-air excuse that she was reading her notes for David Cook, despite that fact that she was saying how lousy Jason was (Already suspicious because he is lousy, and Paula usually doesn't notice) and what she had to say about David was how great he was, which means explanation number 1 was a - what's the word again? Oh yes - a LIE! Kind of throws doubt onto everything she has to say.

But that's our scatterbrained, lovable mop-top idiot Paula. Not born for improv. Ask her "How are you today, Paula?" when she's not expecting it and she'll panic, and start telling you how LOST will finish it's final season. Tell her that's two years off and she'll say, "I'm sorry. These are my notes on The X FIles."

The "Notes" explanation is completely unbelievable. As if she could read. And no matter how it shakes down, getting a critique from Paula means taking the advice of someone who sobbed when told she wouldn't be affiliated with the BRATZ movie. Along with no brains, she has no taste. Can we vote Paula off?

But let's focus on the good that came last night. Brooke is GONE!

m. said...

Best. Post. Ever!!!

Annie said...

Maybe the gaffe was scripted, too. It certainly spiked the ratings. Oooh, murmur, murmur, rumble, grumble....!

Kevin Lehane said...

Best post ever.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

"They even buy it when we say this is the most talented group we've ever had."

If this is the most talented group ever, Hello Larry was funnier than Cheers.

KEN LEVINE said...

Carl,

Anyone who's read my posts or seen the shows I've written knows I've made a very nice career plagiarizing for 35 years.

Let me check Dave Barry's column so I know what to write tomorrow.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Paula Abdul has to be the Manchurian Idol judge, because somebody's got her as doped up as Martha Mitchell. If she ever said anything except how proud she was of everyone, I'd assume she had something to do with how embarrassingly bad these final contestants are.

And how can Simon complain over and over about contestants sounding "old fashioned" when the show makes them sing Neil Diamond and Andrew Lloyd Weber? They were always old fashioned.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes when you see that brief recap of the performances they use the dress rehearsal footage instead of the actual performance you just saw. And that's a proven fact.

As far as I know the recap package is entirely comprised of the dress rehearsal performances. That's not an effort to deceive the public, it's a necessity because the show is live and the amount of time between the last performance and recap package make it very difficult to complete the package before it airs. The last thing they want is a repeat of the incident where the incorrect phone numbers were shown.

Are you saying that the idols are not decided by the votes of the viewing audience calling in, but rather that the judges or the producers decide who stays and who goes?

In seven years I have never seen or heard anyone credible suggest that. I know for a fact there have been times when the producers would have preferred to see one contestant leave before another. If they were fixing the results that should never be an issue. I don't think they would ever run the risk of it anyway, at the very least someone at AT&T knows the results and there is always the chance they could be leaked. If the credibility of the results were ever seriously called into question that would irreparably hurt the show. Believe me, the last thing the producers want to do is jeopardize the golden goose. Although they may have their own personal favorites the producers don't especially care who wins, they really care that viewers care who wins.

KEN LEVINE said...

Anonymous, I assume you work on the show and that's why you don't want your identity revealed.

I was being facetious when I suggested the producers rig the voting. But two things: there should be some validity attached to the voting, much like the Motion Picture academy has that accounting firm. If someone needed to know the actual vote count there should be some notarized documentation. Otherwise, we're just taking them for their word.

Secondly, it seems abundantly clear that the judges are instructed to lead the audience. Sometimes it backfires but for the most part I'm sure they can slyly steer America to vote their preferences.

And from what I understand, during Hollywood week, it is the producers not the three judges who really determine the finalists.

And finally, so am I hated in the AMERICAN IDOL offices?

cpo snarky said...

Gee, I thought Dodger Stadium was the only place in town where the person in Center was useless...

TCinLA said...

Someone is worried what a drooling moron with a severe chemical dependency has to say - about anything???

How otehrwise-perfectly intelligent people get involved with that swamp of stupidity is beyond me.

Proud to say I have never watched one episode - not this, not Survivor, not any of the rest of the waste of perfectly innocent film stock and video tape.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Someone is worried what a drooling moron with a severe chemical dependency has to say - about anything???

Probably a section of the public that's exactly like that.

Anonymous said...

there should be some validity attached to the voting, much like the Motion Picture academy has that accounting firm.

I agree, I don't know if they've ever considered it.

I can see why they don't release the actual vote totals because it could influence subsequent votes. Also if a contestant was consistently getting 90% of the vote (for example), it would certainly diminish the drama of the contest.

It seems abundantly clear that the judges are instructed to lead the audience.

I have never heard or seen any evidence of that. And let's be honest, would you trust Paula to execute on such an instruction? "Well I think you're great, but the producers told me to say..." As far as I know they're totally on their own.

And from what I understand, during Hollywood week, it is the producers not the three judges who really determine the finalists.

I don't know. It's possible they discuss it, but based upon everything else I've seen I would be surprised if the final decision is not left up to the judges. Frankly I'd be shocked if Simon would ever let the producers tell him what to say. As you may have noticed he's pretty confident in his own opinion.

Am I hated in the AMERICAN IDOL offices?

What's it mean when they have a doll with your likeness hanging from the ceiling with pins in it?

To be honest, I don't know. Actually the producers are nice guys to work with, I don't think they object to anything that brings attention to their show.

Seacrest out.

Eleanor said...

I enjoyed your take on the discussion. Made me chuckle. :)