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The Glutton: Dalton's notes from an ''Idol'' taping

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American Idol, Sanjaya Malakar
Frank Micelotta

The Glutton: Dalton’s notes from an ”Idol” taping

I’m going to start off with an apology. We write a lot about American Idol in Entertainment Weekly and on EW.com, because, well, frankly, it’s the biggest television show on the planet. But I also recognize that there are a lot of people who couldn’t care less about the program and curse out loud every time they are bombarded with more Idol info. (We have the reader mail to prove it.) So, to those who look to The Glutton for a respite from all the Idol insanity: I beg your forgiveness for this temporary intrusion.

I went to Los Angeles last week to meet with some people (sorry, no one exciting). Upon mentioning my upcoming trip to Fox publicist extraordinaire Jill Hudson, she insisted I attend Tuesday’s American Idol show (Gwen Stefani night!). I said thanks but no thanks, believing myself to be incapable of sitting through a two-hour cheesefest without my beloved Milwaukee’s Best to keep me company. But then Hudson informed me that we were finally down to one-hour performance shows, so I agreed to attend. Here are some mental notes I recorded from the event (because I was way too lazy to take actual, you know, written-down notes).

* I arrived at the CBS lot (where they film the show) and found myself standing in a long line waiting to enter. Only one problem: It was the wrong line. Turns out I was actually in the Dancing With the Stars line, which was taping its Tuesday results show on the same lot. This proved truly unfortunate, because then I couldn’t get the stupid Dancing With the Stars announcer voice out of my head, especially when he says, ”Carrie Ann Inaaaaaaaaaaaaaba!” I looked around for EW’s Nicholas Fonseca, who was attending Dancing that evening to try to score a picture with ”The Leg,” and then got in the correct line.

* There are few more frightening beasts in the world than the ”audience warm-up guy.” This is the person responsible for whipping the crowd into a frenzy before the show goes live and during commercial breaks. Their job usually consists of lots of ”Hey, where ya from? Anyone from Scaggsville here?” and the other old standby — forcing members of the audience to sing ”Rapper’s Delight.” Oh yeah, they also love to make senior citizens get on stage to shake their groove thangs, imploring people to mock their elders, which never struck me as particularly respectful — but then again, it is kind of hard to respect someone Cabbage Patching to Tone-Loc’s ”Wild Thing.” In any event, the regular warm-up guy (whom I’ve had to endure at several Survivor finales) was MIA, so there was actually a sub filling in. In a bold, cutting-edge maneuver, he actually went against conventional wisdom, and instead of bringing up a funky grandma to get down and dirty, he picked out a little kid to come on stage and bust a move. Apparently, the warm-up guy must have been working under the assumption that he was casting a second season of American Juniors, because every commercial break after that, he commanded other young’uns to croon their little hearts out. Unfortunately, unlike on airplanes, seats at American Idol do not come complete with barf bags.

* The majority of the audience members were crazed lunatics. I don’t mean homicidal ones, just American Idol-worshipping devotees. They whooped, they screamed, they stood up and cheered approximately every 14 seconds. And I’m not just talking about the kids in the crowd — the adults were going just as buck-wild. Believe me, I’m not trying to play a too-cool-for-school card — I’ve just never seen people go so absolutely nuts over people doing karaoke before. I estimate I spent 95 percent of my time watching the audience and only about 5 percent checking out the actual contestants, who were infinitely less interesting.

* Speaking of the contestants: I couldn’t help but marvel at how professional and media-trained they already appear to be. Maybe this is because every season the contestants seem to have more of a professional musical background than before, or maybe it is because every season the contestants have had that many more previous seasons of American Idol to study and mimic. Whatever the reason, these people always seemed to know just where the camera was, how and when to play up to it, and, most importantly, how to handle a superfluous, time-wasting, advertiser-sponsored sit-down Q&A with Ryan Seacrest. I was impressed. And frightened.

* I saw Jordin give Blake a back rub before they took the stage together to mug for the camera. Make of that what you will.

* One thing about American Idol contestants that continues to annoy me no end? When they wiggle the corresponding number of fingers on their hands to match the number people are supposed to call to vote for them. I blame this all on Clay Aiken, who first invented the Idol Finger Wiggle back in season 2. It has since evolved into a full-blown epidemic. Hello! I can read the number on the screen. I can hear Seacrest methodically provide your number. A finger wiggle is not going to convince me any further to call in and vote for you! (Besides, I haven’t voted since I pressed digits for the luscious Ryan Starr back in season 1.)

* I’m seriously considering growing my hair long again to bust out a ponyhawk like my man Sanjaya (pictured, above). Of course, that may lead my wife to seriously consider filing for divorce. But respect is due, for as bad as Sanjaya may be, tell me you honestly look forward to any other performer more. Sanjaya is the talk of season 6, which probably says as much about the other contestants as it does about him.

Okay, we now return you to regularly scheduled Idol-free Glutton column…

OBSESSION OF THE WEEK

After the Idol show and a lovely dinner with friends, I rolled over to a premiere party for The Shield. (I know that sounds glamorous, but it really only consisted of me watching colleague Alynda Wheat inhale every appetizer tray that made its way within a 15-foot radius of our ”losers in the corner” positioning). [Alynda’s response: ”You creep! That was dinner!”] The party seemed fun. I just don’t know or interact well with famous folk. But if ever a show was worth celebrating, it is The Shield. How often does a drama get better with age? Not often. But last year, in its fifth season, The Shield hit a new creative peak. The FX cop drama started strong when it first debuted in 2002, but by season 3 had devolved into a mere shock-value-packed parody. Bringing Glenn Close and Anthony Anderson aboard for season 4 was a step in the right direction, and last season’s addition of Forest Whitaker was a move nothing short of genius. As an Internal Affairs detective obsessed with bringing down dirty cop Vic Mackey, Whitaker was electric, even more so than in his Oscar-winning turn in The Last King of Scotland, if I do say so myself, and I believe I just did. The good news is, Whitaker is back, for two episodes at least (the first aired the other night). His ongoing battle with Mackey dominates the first pair of installments, but the real storyline to follow in season 6 is Mackey’s quest to find out who killed his good friend and strike team member Curtis Lemansky. What he doesn’t know is that the man responsible is none other than his partner Shane, who was worried Lemansky was cutting a deal with Whitaker’s Kavanaugh to turn them in. He was wrong, and now the guilt is swallowing him up. As a drama, The Shield will swallow you up as well. If you’ve resisted so far, it’s time to become obsessed.

THE FIVE

The Sopranos starts its final run of episodes this weekend, providing me the perfect opportunity to throw in a shameless plug for this Friday’s EW cover story! It also provides me with this week’s list: My Top 5 Sopranos Characters.

1) Carmela (Edie Falco)
I’m slightly bummed her hair and nails are not as out of control as in past seasons, but her internal conflict between wanting to be a good person while also enjoying the spoils of her husband’s dirty work has always been the most intriguing part of the show for me.

2) Christopher (Michael Imperioli)
I hate it when he gets bogged down in a drugged-out haze, but it’s comedic gold whenever he tries to go Hollywood, either hanging with Jon Favreau or punching out Lauren Becall.

3) Adriana (Drea de Matteo)
Just for her repeated cries of ”Christofuuuuuuuuuh.”

4) Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi)
That white suit that made him look like a Miami Vice reject? Classic.

5) Richie Aprilie (David Proval)
The best in a long line of badasses. How we loved to hate this character.

READER MAIL

Misery loves company, so I loved hearing that I was not alone in my pathetic addiction to mediocre serialized dramas. Many of you wrote in to share your own sad tales of woe…

Just this week while watching Prison Break I yelled to my roommate in the other room, ”I hate watching shows that suck!” I realize I have a choice, but it doesn’t feel like it. Even though I’ve been kinda sick of this show since the middle of season 1, I can’t stop watching, because I need to know what’s going on and how it’s going to end. —Andie M.

I actually cut the cord on Prison Break pretty early on. I liked the concept (as ridiculous as it was), but found the characters weak (all stereotypes that seemed plucked straight out of The Shawshank Redemption or Oz) and the writing even weaker. But even realizing that, I still hung on for a few months.

Dalton, thank you for calling out 24 for all of its bad, clunky absurdity this year. And yet…I remained hooked too! I think it’s like any bad relationship: you keep hanging on, thinking that next embrace will curl your toes like it did in the beginning, but then continuously feel disappointed. Every twist 24 throws at me this season makes me roll my eyes. I find myself cheating on 24 and thinking about Heroes halfway through. Eventually, I expect this disappointment to turn to resentment and I’ll leave 24 behind…only to come across it while channel surfing months later and wistfully remember the good times we had long ago… —David Timberline

I’m still a week behind on 24 episodes, but last’s week’s installment was truly the show at its worst. First, they actually had a Rain Man-esque character go undercover for CTU, which was nothing short of embarrassing, then we had to endure lots more ominous talk about ”Denver,” and then two CTU agents started sucking face right in the middle of the office. I’m told the action will pick up starting next week, but truthfully, is there any other direction it could go in at this point?

Oh, Dalton, I am so here with you (makes gesture with two fingers pointing to both eyes) about hanging on to these dramas too long. 24, Prison Break, Nip/Tuck…I had to ask, ”Why you do me like this?” So I got the equivalent of the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, and hypnosis tapes to quit cold turkey: HBO, Netflix, and a good old-fashioned hobby. I simply ran out of time to watch everything. I don’t miss them at all….I lie. But EW.com’s TV Watches make it a little easier for me. —Patricia Pitpitan

Wow, Patricia, you are a stronger person that I. Such willpower and self-control. However we all know that Netflix can be another addiction in itself. Ever find yourself ordering crappy movies that you don’t even really want to see just because you want to feel like you are getting your monthly fee’s worth? We all have our demons.

I’m in the clown car with you, dude, about Invasion! Although, I offer a bit of a revision to your theory about needing closure — it’s partly that, and partly our emotional investment with some of the characters. Sure, Lost‘s Jack had some crazy Bai Ling fling that made water come out my nose I was laughing so hard watching it, but I’m still rooting for him and Kate to hook up. Okay, and I’ll admit it — Eddie Cibrian is HOT, and so I wanted another season of Invasion. —Barbara White

At least you’re honest about the Eddie Cibrian thing. But I’m a heterosexual male, so what’s my excuse? I was actually taken aback by how many Invasion fans wrote in lamenting the loss of the show. Maybe we’re all alien half-breeds and don’t even realize it. Pretty soon we’ll all be showing up in a swamp somewhere hanging out with a one-armed deputy and creepy preacher.

I’m sorry, but I don’t agree that Jack’s Back is a ridiculous example of one actor playing twin characters. James Spader is so head-and-shoulders above Elvis and Van Damme acting-wise it isn’t even funny. And as the titular character, who knew that Spader was so damn ripped? That right there was worth the price of admission, although I saw it on VHS. But while Elvis and Van Damme were the same in different clothes, Spader’s characters were a mild-mannered doctor in a free clinic and a leather-and-boots-wearing tough guy. Totally different miens as if twins were raised apart throughout their lives, not knowing the other exists until one psychically cries out at the moment of death. —Jeri Thomas

Jeri, no one loves the Spader more than I do, especially when he was in his prime ”yuppie from hell” phase, but this one was just plain silly. Maybe even sillier than Mannequin. Although I don’t recall Jack’s Back containing any sassy gay characters named ”Hollywood,” so on the other hand, maybe not.

Have any thoughts on this year’s Idol competition? Loving The Shield? Have a particular Sopranos character that floats your boat? Send your questions, comments, and quibbles to theglutton@ew.com, or simply fill out the handy-dandy form below. See ya next week!

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