Thursday, February 24, 2011

AMERICAN IDOL: Oh no! Is this the end of Jennifer???

How hard is it to be a writer for AMERICAN IDOL? Just lift the narration from THE SORROW AND THE PITY, begin every sentence with “Coming up…” and change “death camp” to “singing competition”. But the rest is all there – the ultimate challenges, the heartbreak, the tears, the uncertainty. C’mon, IDOL writers, they’re just singing friggin’ Beatles medleys!

This brings me back to my biggest IDOL complaint. Stop trying to artificially manufacture suspense and drama when the real money of the show is watching the PERFORMANCES. This year in particular. Every season they boast that “this is the most talented group of kids we've ever had”, but this season they might actually be right.

Despite the horrifying fact that some of the kids had never even heard of the Beatles, the snippets we saw of them performing Beatles songs were terrific. Why not hear more? Why not see all the groups (the kids were split up into duos and trios)? My feeling is if you’re going to do a show on Fox that has music, unless you cut away to Jane Lynch I want to hear SINGING. Two hours of Beatles songs would have been fabulously entertaining.

Instead, here’s what we got:

The mother in PRECIOUS as a vocal coach screaming at two scared waifs.

A committee of Phil Spector-lookalike-slimeball music producers shitting all over other groups.

One of the loon contestants marrying her doomed boyfriend and being so excited because it’s the same chapel that Brittney Spears’ got married in. (She looks like MacKenzie Phillips in AMERICAN GRAFFITI, doesn't she?)

Endless shots of people crying. The kids. The parents. J-Lo. (Although in Jennifer’s case I didn’t mind it. It was refreshing to see a judge who really cared that much. Paula used to cry but that’s because her cartoon cat wouldn’t answer her texts.)

Soooo many recaps that even the guy from MEMENTO was going, “I remember! Move on!”

Ryan interviewing various nobodies asking innocuous questions. I thought I was watching Piers Morgan.

Deliberation. Nothing’s more riveting on television than deliberation.

An interminable hour of watching kids walk the length of an airplane hanger to learn their final fate.

And drawn-out misleads that now fool no one anymore. Well, maybe Sarah Palin.

Let’s see the singing because everything else is completely bogus. We know who’s going to get into the Top 24. They’re the kids we see all the time. And these competitive rounds mean nothing because if the producers like them, like the teenage stork whose voice is so deep he can’t burp, then they can screw up the words or sing off key and it makes no difference. They get sent on anyway. Meanwhile, someone who nails it but doesn’t have the right look or personality gets kicked to the curb.

It’s a casting call. They sent through a kid who’s a complete weasel. Another who’s a pretty blond who does every vocal gymnastic but sing while drinking a glass of water. Meanwhile, as one boy walked the runway of death Seacrest said, “The road ends now for Alex Ryan from New Jersey.” Who???

And they're trying to add even more phony suspense by suggesting that Jennifer is too distraught over delivering bad news and might not be able to go on. Talk about schmuck bait!  For what she's making, she ain't leaving if they ask her to deliver bad news while roller skating. 

Part two is tonight and I guarantee the Baby Huey teenager who cries at supermarket openings and the black kid from Compton who’s got an amazing voice (which is good because I can’t see him lasting an hour in Compton) will sail through.

I’m looking forward to next week and the weeks to come. I have high hopes that we’re going to be treated to some wonderful performances (unless they have "National Anthem" week). And I must say, the new judges are starting to grow on me. Steven Tyler is amusing in that “kid who got left back in the 7th grade for five years” sort of way. And Jennifer has empathy and unlike Paula, resides on the planet earth.

However, I think the producers are missing a bet with Jennifer. Watching this last episode where the judges give the contestants their final verdicts, it suddenly became very clear to me. If Fox wants to really utilize Jennifer Lopez and get a huge spike in male viewers – lose the desk. Simon Cowell may have been acerbic, witty, and compelling, but J-Lo’s got those gams.


Kate said...

"her cartoon cat wouldn't answer her texts" -- best. line. ever.

Blaze said...

The bogus suspense and flatulent drama are killing any sort of television that is not scripted fiction. On Discovery Channel, I happened upon a show featuring giant cargo ships. Should be an innocuous, informative half hour.

Except, it's an HOUR long. Padded endlessly with repetitive film clips. Before every commercial, fake danger and suspense. "There are storms and even typhoons out at sea. Will the ship make port or will it be DESTROYED by a monster typhoon???" And, back from commercial, "Nope, the weather was fair and we're making good time."

"The ship is practicing man overboard drills. Will some HAPLESS SAILOR fall into the clutches of the merciless ocean and meet his DOOM!??"...."No, they're all professionals and everything is going well."

Congratulations to those film makers who follow this Survivor/Idol formula. The Uni-Bomber would have to have my entire family hostage before I'd watch that crap. Reading this blog is as close as I'll get.

The Milner Coupe said...

I am liking this year's judges as well. Mostly for their seemingly true concern to be truthful, but nice. Steven Tyler offers true idol status and experience. His street/stage cred can't be denied. This new panel is better than any year previous.

I agree with you 100% that the phoney baloney drama is ruining the show. The talent IS there. And if we're going to witness the eliminations, let us watch the singing. And the crying. Do they make these kids watch Terms Of Endearment just before the dead man walking routine?

American Idol has legs. It deserves better than to be made into a bad imitation of Glee, which is horrible enough already.

But it IS Fox, so...

Oscar the Grouch said...

My perfect situation for American Idol would have been dumping Ryan Seacrest and have Simon Cowell be the host--could you imagine those exit interviews, "You have no talent. Listening to you made me wish I was deaf. Go back to the trailer park and live in the squaller you deserve."

And dump Randy Jackson, too. Keep Steven Tyler, J-Lo, and bring back Paula. Can you imagine that train wreck? Great Tv.

Southey Blanton said...

Hi Ken,

I'm a huge fan of Idol, well my wife is a huge J Lo fan, which in turn means I am a huge fan of Idol.

Living in west hollywood last year we would see most of the final 12 at the Beverly Center every weekend while shopping which was a weird thing and every middle american housewifes dream come true.

I had a question for your weekly question post. When writing a pilot or even episodes in a series, what is the strangest quirk you've ever given someone, aside from cross-dressing which is an obvious one from MASH. But even that seemed to have some basis in reality, it was done for a reason.

I was wondering what's the weirdest quirk, skill, or hobby you've seen a character get? I ask because I recently watched the first 2 episodes of the original 21 Jump Street on Netflix, more out of my own curiosity than anything else. Being up at 3am with a 4 month old baby can cause lapses in judgement like that. But as I was watching the pilot, and trying to contain my laughter, I saw a scene with Johnny Depp, young police phenom, rocking out a bluesy, soulful tune on his Saxophone in his small studio apartment. It came out of nowhere, and I don't remember seeing it addressed or mentioned in any later episodes, unless he is in a battle of the bands with some mexican hoodlums in season 4, I didn't get that far.

I was just curious if there have ever been any instances where you have written something that made you later say, why would he be doing that ever? Or if you had seen it anywhere else.


Mr. Hollywood said...

I have a suggestion to everyone: don't bitch about the show. Just don't watch. Truly, I would find watching paint drying more enjoyable then this dreck.
I actually remember when people had talent. And intelligence.
These people want to be singers ... and they've NEVER heard of the Beatles? Please ...

Cap'n Bob said...

Check it out, dog. You started out a little pitchy but got it right after that and ended up a strong high note.

"Squalor" is the right spelling, Oscar. Or were you being playful?

bettyd said...

I agree about wanting to see more singing. I think there were 60 people, which would be at most 30 groups, probably more like 20 b/c of trios. Even if each group got 2 minutes, that is less than one of two hours of the show! Is my math wrong here?

Phillip B said...

I'm inclined to give the kids a break on remembering too much about a band which last performed together 40 years ago. There do know the music - it is part of the DNA of the culture now.

Steven Tyler is a perfect choice to bridge a generation. If you check the album charts in iTunes, the only pre-2000 releases consistently in the top 200 are by the Beatles, Journey, Aerosmith and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Hard to explain CCR - but it would make an interesting night on Idol.

RockGolf said...

If there's a CCR night (and Lord knows they do Proud Mary often enough) don't expect John Fogarty, who wrote all their hits, to participate. When he was younger he signed away all songwriting royalties on his songs to Saul Zanetz. Hasn't earned a penny on them since 1970. Meanwhile Saul has a lovely Oscar for producing a movies funded largely by Fogarty's creativity.

And the "baby Huey" kid (Jaycee?) actually doesn't make the top 24, if you can believe - and they've been spectacularly accurate with spoilers.

Oscar the Grouch said...

You caught me Cap 'n' Bob, I was being playful by using the Urban Dictionary's version of Squalor:

Squaller (especially 2):

1. Extremely disgusting conditions. Usually related to living conditions.
2. Any genitalia that is poorly maintained or foul in scent.
1. Mate, I can't believe you live in this squaller!
2. I went to give him head and I almost threw up. It's not a dick, it's fucking squaller!

Dupree said...

I don't watch the show. This doesn't make me a TV snob, because I'm a huge fan of Joan & Melissa. Anyway, Nigel Lithgoe tweeted yesterday that FOX made him cut the Beatles show down to 1 hour. From @dizzyfeet "Because of all the Drama in the #AmericanIdol green mile show we have been asked to cut the Beatles Vegas Challenge to 1 hour instead of 2!!"

Mac said...

"Paula used to cry but that’s because her cartoon cat wouldn’t answer her texts.)

Soooo many recaps that even the guy from MEMENTO was going, “I remember! Move on!”

Ryan interviewing various nobodies asking innocuous questions. I thought I was watching Piers Morgan."

Three belters in a row. On top form today, Ken.

cshel said...

Ken -

Fantastic, high-larious post as usual!

You are the best blogger EV-ER!

If you weren't already married, and I wasn't so put off by 55 year old men, I would want to marry you.

Forget that boring baseball stuff - you need to replace Ryan Seacrest.

Please blog about EVERY single show this season.

I think I've had too much coffee.

I have a feeling when the guy who married the MacKenzie Phillips wack-job got sober and realized she lost, he got the marriage annulled even faster than Britney Spears did.

Dan J said...

In my living room JLO's crying drew laughter. We wondered whether or not anyone told her that AI doesn't need Oscar clips.

Jonah D said...

"I don't think I can go on..." -J Lo.
Pa-leez. You mean you can't go on with your 12 million dollar contract??? If you were Mother Theresa, I might believe you'd trade away your obese paycheck because of a broken heart, but Jenny from the Block?? Hardly.

Oh, I SO miss Simon. I was begging for someone to tell the "Loon" (who just got married), "We hope you have a happy marriage because now you're getting a divorce from American Idol"! Simon would have chewed her up, spit her out and vacuumed up the crumbs.

Everybody is too darn nice.

Cap'n Bob said...

Didn't know about the Urban Dictionary, Oscar. Thanks for telling me. I was sure you were joking with the spelling, but I didn't want some impressionable yute led astray.

bubbabubbos said...

Nice 'Little Caesar' reference, Ken. Nice to know that with all that's wrong with the world, JLO cries over sending someone home from the most vapid show in the history of television. I really hope she never watches Old Yeller. She'd be so devastated.

Anonymous said...

Ken, Really the finest rant ever written. It's all I need to know served up in a nice cup of snark.

Tom Quigley said...

Watched some of it for the first time this season tonight. What's with the long walk through the dark airplane hangar? Should we expect to hear Ryan announce at some point: "And coming up later, each of our finalists undergoes the critical body scan and invasive patdown before learning his or her fate."?...

It really creeped me out, as if they had all died and were now moving toward the light...

Dimension Skipper said...

Off-topic from AI, but at least TV-related...

Alan Sepinwall at HitFix:
CBS calls Charlie Sheen's bluff, shuts down 'Two and a Half Men' for season

I was wondering if you would care to comment... Also, how might you handle it if you were asked/forced to write Sheen off the show?

I say kill off the Charlie character in an off-screen highly embarrassing, drunken stupor, compromising situation, promote Jake to "man" (it's about time), and somehow introduce an illegitimate son of Charlie's as the new ".5 man." Alan & Jake could (in a surprisingly sentimental move) inherit the house (and Charlie's fortune) so the set wouldn't have to change.

Given Charlie's wealth, Berta could stay on. In fact, that could even be some sort of weird provision of Charlie's will. Imo it wouldn't hurt for them to take the opportunity to scale back the sex either, but maybe that's just me.

I don't know if the show would be able to make it without Sheen, but as Sepinwall has previously indicated, what would they have to lose by trying?

analee said...

Absolutely! Everything you write is absolutely right..

Very Excellent!

Pat Reeder said...

Normally, I would think that a singing contest would be more entertaining with more singing. But then I heard the singing. This show needs more long walks down dark airplane hangars. Or better yet, more long walks off of short piers.

I haven't watched "AI" in years, but my wife is a singer, so she watches it. That means I see it when walking through the living room or when she calls me to come witness some flabbergasting awfulness, like the Beatles competition. I think they only claimed they'd never heard of the Beatles so they wouldn't be suspects in their murder.

The lowest of many low points for me were the black guy who sings like Christina Aguilera hanging onto a mechanical bull explaining how he was worried he'd toned it down too much and made it too simple; and the judges raving about how his trio had nailed those harmonies, when they were actually so off that the cheese in the sandwich I was eating curdled in my hand.

I asked my wife, "Where is Simon Cowell when we need him?" Somebody who's not tonedeaf needs to explain to these people that the word 'harmony' doesn't mean emitting a sound that resembles three cockatoos tied to a windmill's blades.

Anonymous said...

One of the most gratifying moments in my half hour career happened was when I was on "Alf." During notes, the network liaison said: "I think that line is a little sitcom-y". One of the writers immediately fired back: "And I think your note is a little network-y."