Wednesday, May 20, 2009

AMERICAN IDOL -- If I'm being honest...

Wow! What an upset! Kris Allen won. The All-American fresh-faced boy next door beat a theatrical guy who wore leather and eyeliner. Who knew??? This country is not yet ready to crown a young man who looks like Liza Minelli their next American Idol. Not that Kris didn't deserve it but clearly Adam was the more interesting, original choice. And I suspect will have the greater career (whatever that means). They could both be stars or in five years one could open for the other at Magic Mountain.

Still, it was Adam who jump-started the series. He's the one everybody was talking about, he's the reason you watched every week. My guess is all those tweenage girls who were so shattered last year when David Archeletta lost vowed they would never let that happen again. Hell hath no fury like a middle schooler with a Twitter account!

Of course the real winner here is AMERICAN IDOL. People will be talking about this for days.

I felt bad for both of them on the final performance night having to sing that insipid song co-written by Kara DioGuardi.

Go farther and deeper and don’t give up your dreams, there are no boundaries, climb every mountain, spread your wings, reach for the stars
.

Those lyrics might inspire Mike Tyson to bite someone's ear off but otherwise they’re nothing but a string of tired clich├ęs. And the person who co-wrote that drivel is telling other people they’re not artists?? Mark my words: after this week you’ll hear “Letter to my Teenage Son” by Victor Lundberg on the radio before you ever hear “No Boundaries”. More on Kara later.

Here are my overall thoughts on this season. And please understand that I’m a fan of the show. At one time I loved it. It was the perfect blend of music, controversy, and stupidity all wrapped into one highly entertaining hour of live cheese. I just think they’ve gotten off the track.

AMERICAN IDOL has become American Airlines. You get far less for your money and it takes much longer to get to your destination.

In a Fox effort to get as much as they can out of their one cash cow (SIT DOWN, SHUT UP never panned out as the national phenomenon they expected) I’m sure they put pressure on IDOL to expand as much as they could. Y’know, a half hour here, fourteen hours there. But with no real new program content what we were left with was cocaine cut so thin it would pass a Major League Baseball drug test.

All of the “improvements” this season were designed to pump more air into the already stretched balloon. Adding a fourth judge. Good God, why? Two of the ones they already had were as useless as highway signs in Braille. Then, to compound matters, they hire a woman so annoying, so whiney that I find myself preferring the sound of a car alarm. And she’s still a better judge than songwriter.

Another “improvement” was to expand Hollywood week. They took 300 hours of Hollywood auditions and edited them down to 298 hours of airtime. Topped off by an entire night of kids stepping into an elevator that led to their doom. So much for follow your dreams, reach for the sky, etc. There may be no boundaries for Kris, but for the other 99,999 there definitely are and the sign at the border read KEEP OUT.

Once the live broadcasts began the show started to show some life. We were treated to actual performances. 90 second snippets that passed for songs but still! Of course we were now two months into the season already. (Compare that to 24 where by week eight more people had died than in World War I.)

This is the “psychopaths and opportunists on parade” portion of the festivities. Topping this year’s crop of loons was Tatiana Del Toro who was so off-the-charts obnoxious that Kara was tolerable. It’s like when your face is on fire you tend to forget that your tooth aches.

Here again, the producers’ “improvements” allowed whackjobs like Tatiana to just keep coming back, much like the Terminator or floods. The problem is after eight seasons we’ve become so conditioned to the freaks and losers that there’s nothing surprising or even entertaining about them anymore. So Tatiana on her knees wailing and groveling for one more chance is now as heart wrenching as the TV Guide program crawl.

Finally the Top 13 was selected (in previous years it was the Top 10). This gave producers the opportunity to stretch the show to two hours or more for weeks. Mentors were once again enlisted. Vocal advice from such noted singers as guitarist Slash, film director Quentin Tarentino, and actor (with a movie conveniently just opening) Jaime Foxx. Were fellow crooners Dick Cheney and Roseanne unavailable?

When they finally had to limit the performance shows to an hour it was like squeezing a Minnesota Viking into Nicole Richie’s leotards. First the judges had to team up and that was a disaster. Silence Simon so Kara could question everyone’s “artistry”. The cardinal rule of show business: You never replace Curly with Shemp if Curly is still alive.

Results shows that used to be a half hour swelled to sixty minutes. So there were now 58 minutes of shoe leather rather than 28. The rest of these hours were filled with former American Idols hawking their new singles (a Taylor Hicks pity booking), Ford commercials (they're zany these kids!), recaps of recaps, Up With People production numbers that transformed the tattooed contestants into Osmonds, and plugs for iTunes, tours, video downloads, their website -- pretty much everything short of Paula’s jewelry line and bottles of Mighty Mendit.

But unlike past years, the caliber of contestants (once you weeded out “Bikini Girl” and the future Mickey Rourkes) was much higher this season. Adam, Danny, or Allison could have easily beaten the "Soul Patrol", Jordin Sparks, or "the Velvet Teddy Bear (Ruben Studdard -- see how fast we forget?). All the more reason to be frustrated when performances were truncated so Randy had time to say “mad vocals” fifteen times a show instead of nine.

So congratulations to Kris. And Adam, who will probably get even more notoriety for losing. Most of the others from this year's crop will fade into the mist although Tatiana will surely resurface if they ever do a remake of SYBIL.

There’s a rumor that next year Fox plans to expand the show even more. This ranks up there in hubris with ticket prices at the new Yankee Stadium. I hope it's not true and I'll just conclude by reminding you of that one great truism of Broadway.

“Cut out twenty minutes and the show will run for two more years”.

Tryouts for next season begin soon. Eagle scouts only need apply. See you in January.

35 comments:

emily said...

I had heard something about Nicole Richie squeezing a Minnesota Viking into her leotards, but I didn't believe it until I read it here.

Elizabeth said...

"Were fellow crooners Dick Cheney and Roseanne unavailable?"

Funny!

Now we know, as if we didn't yet, that we must behold the awesome and frightening power of tweeting tweens.

I'm an AI fan, but I've never voted -- till now. Last night I tried to vote for Adam several times and each time the lines were busy (all three of them). (Tween conspiracy?) But unlike the young'ems, I have responsibilities, not to mention my fingers are not so fast any more, so I had to give up at some point.

Adam should have won, but Kris "needs" it more, I suppose (if that win still matters at all).

And yes, that "No Boundaries" song was just dreadful, in both music and lyrics.

P.S. C'mon, Rod Stewart? Seriously?

sweetie said...

Yes, it was nice of Mr. Hicks to take pity on Idol and show up. He was fantastic as always. The show hasn't been worth watching since he left.
I missed the show I was listening to Taylors album and checking on Grease.

The Milner Coupe said...

It's amazing Ken. You wrote everything I just said to my wife but without the profanity.

I wouldn't just blame the tweeners though. What can we expect from a country that keeps watching Two & 1/2 Men?

Good luck to Adam. Hope he keeps his wits about him.

Pat R. said...

I used to watch this show, but a combination of waning interest and having a new writing job that keeps me busy at night means I hadn't seen a minute of this season. So I only watched the final two shows. My impression (bearing in mind that I had no preconceived notions or burgeoning mancrushes) was that Kris is very talented musically, with a light but serviceable voice, and could be a successful MOR act, a la Jack Johnson. Adam, on the other hand, has a powerful and distinctive voice and amazing control, but sometimes the fact that he can do so much with it seems to lead him to do too much. I was blown away by his first song, but halfway through the second one, he was getting so screechy and over the top, it started annoying me and I hit the FF button.

The finale made it obvious what Adam should do: join the reconstituted Queen as the new Freddy Mercury. I could see the wheels of Brian May's mind turning as he accompanied Adam. They currently have Paul Rogers, and he's a great rock vocalist, but way too masculine for Queen. Adam's voice is perfect, and he would not have that excess testosterone problem.

Finally, I didn't think it was possible, but the winner's song lowered the bar for AI anthems to a new subterranean level. What an irredeemable hunk of cliched crap. The only entertaining thing about that was seeing Simon Cowell's superhuman effort at self-control in refusing to comment on it. In a very real way, perhaps Adam is the true winner, simply because he doesn't have to record that turdburger.

John said...

Saw where the finals tonight had 100 million votes, 38 percent of that from Allen's home state of Arkansas (obvious spot for gratuitous hayseed/inbred/hillbilly/Bill Clinton/Mike Huckabee joke here, though I'll take the other softball option, and just say I'm surprised with that sort of turnout, Carrie Prejean didn't end up as the winner).

gottacook said...

Although I don't watch IDOL, I always enjoy your reviews. "As useless as highway signs in Braille" made me laugh.

Did you happen to stick around to see the pilot of GLEE Wednesday night? Would be interested to know what you think - my family and I all thought it was quite entertaining (the daughters have seen Disney's first two High School Musical TV movies repeatedly, and they enjoyed this "anti-HSM" at least as much.)

jbryant said...

Actually, Jamie Foxx is kind of a noted singer. He's a hit recording artist as well as an actor. I was surprised at how engaging a mentor he was this season, especially since he often seems to make the entertainment news for putting his foot in his mouth about this or that.

Kara's flashing (how could you not mention that?) almost made up for that dog of a song she co-wrote.

Tony Mariani said...

I get a kick out hearing comments about who should win, didn't win and Paula, Simon, Kara, Randy et al. Its a TV show that FOX makes a ton of money on and they don't care about who wins. The show is getting so stale and to hear Ryan say a hundred million voted! Please. Where is the accounting firm of Dewey Screwem & Howe to verify? Are they running out of singers to mentor that they run out and get Slash? Idol is reminding me a little of WWE wrestling and Simon, Simon and Fox are looking like Vince McMahon laughing all the way to the bank.

A. Buck Short said...

Now they tell me it was the wrong spoiler alert.
My wife watched Idol on Fox. I watched the BBC/KCET documentary WWII: Behind Closed Doors on PBS. But that was only because I hate to watch a show where I already know who wins.

ROGirl said...

Well, at least Adam won't have to sing that godawful song again. Maybe that deal with the devil fell through.

After Rod Stewart tottered down the stairs and performed in his familiar croak with an added layer of breathy wheeze, I half expected Mick Jagger to prance out and leer his way through Satisfaction.

A. Buck Short said...

I think Pat R and John may be on to something. The full tally:
38,000,000 votes for Adam
32,000,000 votes for Kris
30,000,000 Californians got a good look at Adam and voted again for Prop. 8.

If Adam had gotten just 6,000,001 of those 30,000,000 Prop. 8 voters, he would be this year's American Idol. It's Ross Perot all over again.

Tom Quigley said...

I was thnking about watching last night's show, but then, Damn! I discovered that one of my cable channels was doing a retrospective on the career of Wink Martindale... It was entitled "A Wink is As Good As A Nod".... Couldn't pull myself away from it... The NAME THAT TUNE segment was particularly touching.... Finally at the end, Wink (How old is he now? 102? 105?) stumbled out with his famous signature pompadour hair, now white with age, and flashed that familiar cross-eyed, toothy, crooked-mouth smile, and I just went to pieces... Now that's what I call ENTERTAINMENT!!!!

Uhhhh... So some guy named Kris won?....

Mary Shelley Overdrive said...

I think the obvious reason that the AI "results" rarely match the contestants' later careers is the flawed voting process. When every 13-year-old girl in the country votes 30-40 times, it kind of skews the curve toward the singer with the "fans" who have the most time on their hands. These same fans aren't going to go out and buy 30-40 copies of their album, though.

Nathan said...

"Those lyrics might inspire Mike Tyson to bite someone's ear off"I'm pretty sure those lyrics would inspire Mike Tyson to bite his own ears off.

WV: CONQU: The line for the prison PX.

Mary Stella said...

As soon as Danny Gokey was voted off, I knew Kris had a decent shot at a huge upset because Danny's voters weren't going to swing over to Adam.

Never underestimate the power of Simon Cowell. His comments can sway votes like gravity affects the tides. If he says that a popular contestant is in real trouble, he motivates that singer's fans to double up their voting. If he heaps too much praise on someone, that person's fans relax and the opponent's base doubles up their voting.

So, when Simon said Tuesday night that they've found a true International Star In Adam, it could have been the kiss of death. (As opposed to the Kiss of wrinkle-concealing makeup and humongazoid platform boots.)

Not that Adam's career just went up in flames. He'll be the next AI loser to make it super big for awhile.

Or in 10 years he'll be headlining in Vegas impersonating Cher and Liza in the Legends show.

Doktor Frank Doe said...

Here's exactly what I've been thinking and not only about Idol, about a lot of things, makes for a good Friday question or Monday comment... "What the hell already with all these 'stretches'?" I REFUSE to give any network that much of my life at a time, two hours for the Apprentice? Two hours 99 times a week for Dancing with the Dickweeds? The IDOL mess is just as you said, a mess and I monitored most of it through Yahoo news, I just can't devote or donate or have robbed from me that many brain cells as to sit through two hours of commercial television, or what's even better yet 90 minutes of Deal or no Deal. Good God almighty how pitiful it now is, especially at NBC.

Razor Rob said...

People will be talking about this for day.

Craig said...

I thought the big reveal would be "Kris or Adam" and not Kara's brazier. My eyes are still burning.

The show (and judges) wanted so badly for Adam to win, that there was a backlash. I, too, hate being manipulated by silly Hollywood types, so I am glad the hillbilly won.

Pan said...

In two weeks we've had two "controversies", both Kalifornia based where the runner up will end up remembered long after the winner has gone on to do strip clubs due to a queer set of circumstances; the Adam and the well presented Prejean.

A case, I guess of Adamned if you do and Adamned if you don't....

Alan Coil said...

"People will be talking about this for days."

Not me. This is my only comment about the show's outcome. Before today, I had no idea who any of this year's contestants were. And if presented the names next week, I'll likely not remember them.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

"Kara's brazier"? She brought a metal pan for holding hot coals to the show? I hope it didn't melt her brassiere.

Kudos to my co-worker, Rick, who rightly predicted the teenyboppers would elect Kris. He also said this was a break for Adam because the winner has to sign with AI's (or is it Simon's?) recording company while the runner up can go to a recording company that won't try to turn him into the next pop sensation.

Thanks, Ken for the recaps. I didn't watch the show this year and like won't watch it in the future. In fact, I onl watched a few past seasons because my teenybopper daughter wanted to see it, but she's outgrown it now.

Cynthia said...

How did this happen people??????? I thought Adam had this in the bag..my heart hurts!

Roger Owen Green said...

Adam- Razor Rob said, "People will be talking about this for day." Not days. I'm sure the singular was intentional.
I haven't watched at all since Taylor Hicks was crowned. the only reason I even know Jordin Sparks is that her father played in the Super Bowl for the Giants. And I'm serious; I have no recollection which David won last year.

WV: nuends. The allusion of change, such as on AI.

D. McEwan said...

The worst of this is that Bill O'Reilly will be swollen with smugness, claiming that his call for Christians to vote for the nice Christian church-going boy over Satan's fag contstant is responsible for the hilarious final results. (On no imaginable scale of musical ability does Kris beat Adam. They have again proved the irrelevancy of the whole process.) Anything that makes Bill O'Reilly happy and/or smug makes me ill. (If he's so influential, how come Obama won the presidency?)

Tweens making phone votes count not at all. The votes that count are made at box offices and record stores. Kris will be playing folkie festivals and religious revivals while Adam hangs up his 5th Platinum album.

Emmett Flatus said...

What is this "American Idol" of which you speak?

Anonymous said...

It would have been more interesting if part of the prize is the winner would get a BJ from Ryan Seacrest. Maybe then we would have seen Adam show some emotion and throw a fit because he had lost.

Sandy Koufax said...

Hey Ken...

What ever happened to the "Idol Gives Back" show that they were promoting for several weeks and then NO mention of it again. Is the economy that bad that they couldn't even afford to help the needy?? What are your thoughts? Maybe you know something I don't.

Mr. K.

StewartIII said...

Media Let Culture Wars Cloud 'American Idol' Win
http://newsbusters.org/blogs/colleen-raezler/2009/05/21/media-let-culture-wars-cloud-american-idol-win

Swissgirl said...

I agree, Brian May was looking at Adam like "hmmmm, could he be Freddy reincarnated?" Kris might as well have gone up in smoke during that number, it was Adam's all the way. I also thoroughly enjoyed Adam and KISS, even though I can't stand them and their tongues. Rod Stewart, OY, and he's going on tour??? Do they keep a walker and oxygen handy? Steve Martin and Santana were totally ridiculous, I mean, what a dumb show for their talents. But all in all it was Adam's night and I'm kind of glad he's not The Idol--he can do what he wants. I hope to see him on Broadway in some blockbuster musical before long.

Dave Mackey said...

Ken, as always, thank you for making sense of it all. You will be the first place I look for the Idol poop I at times so desperately crave.

WV: "grater" - I got nothin'.

terri said...

I agree with much of what you said, but the idea that people were justing watching AI for Adam is silly. Ratings were down this year which would suggest the opposite. Here is the other thing...Adam wasn't really all that original. Compared to almost anyhing played on college radio, Adam is actually pretty pedestrian. He would have been original in 1976, not so much now. There is a reason he looked comfortable with has been bands like KISS. The idea that Adam is edgy and modern just shows the limits of most people's musical exposure.

Minor said...

Very excellent performances by every participant and excellent show.Pied a Terre

dish network said...

WOW! This was an upset. Clearly Lambert was the better talent and he will go much further than Allen will.

Aleta said...

My husband and I started to really enjoy American Idol when David Cook sang Billy Jean - classic and well done. First time we voted for a singer.

This year, we both wanted Adam to win.

Next season - we won't watch it. The teens can run the show.