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''American Idol'': In San Fran, it's a ''no'' for us

”American Idol”: Compared with Tuesday’s electrifying Greensboro, N.C., auditions, the Bay Area tryouts are a snooze

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American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

”American Idol”: In San Fran, it’s a ”no” for us

Not to be rude, but that was appalling. Simply not good enough. One of the worst we’ve seen.

Okay, maybe I’m being a smidge over-the-top, but seriously, following on the heels of last night’s spectacularly spectacular episode of American Idol, this evening’s roundup of San Francisco auditions was sorely lacking in both the comedic and dramatic categories. To be sure, when the show’s producers spend half the episode trying to amplify tepid tensions between Simon Cowell and his fellow judges, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, then clearly there’s not a lot of compelling footage for them to work with.

Surely nobody actually thinks it’s good television watching Paula and Randy get mildly bent out of shape when Simon doesn’t agree with their opinions. I mean, that’s been their shtick for four seasons running. And anyhow, why would they care about Simon’s input, considering that in the audition rounds, their two-to-one advantage essentially means they can veto the British curmudgeon’s every selection?

Case in point: When Simon failed to recognize the considerable talents of Jayne Santayana, whose controlled rendition of Anita Baker’s ”Sweet Love” was probably the night’s best performance, Paula and Randy quickly jumped to her defense (though it might’ve been nice if someone, anyone, had discouraged her use of a denim headband as a miniskirt). Still, even when he loses, Simon wins: His withering assessment of the situation — ”Beethoven and Mozart are going to put you through” — was one of the episode’s few zingers that actually hit the target.

Oh, and speaking of missing the mark: Why would Randy stamp a passport to Hollywood for former military man John Williams (whose human beatbox routine was deeply unfunky, and whose ”Human Nature” was good karaoke at best), and then deny the trip to ”Lady Big Hair,” Deborah Dawn Tilley, whose rocker-grrrl sensibility would’ve at least brought a unique flavor to the semifinals? Dawg, you’ve got some explaining to do!

Even the folks who left the biggest impressions tonight did so mostly because they reminded me of superior counterparts from the Greensboro, N.C., tryouts. Jose ”Sway” Penala’s ”Superstar” was aiight, but his song choice more aptly described last night’s auditioner, Sgt. Steven David Jr., than himself. Shawn Vasquez’s ”Neither One of Us,” meanwhile, was ”almost non-human,” just the way Simon described it, but it didn’t make me howl with laughter the way Marcus Behling’s sensationally slow, off-key rendition of ”She’s Out of My Life” did. And I’m sorry, but the only way I could possibly envision Katharine McPhee’s melismatic ”God Bless the Child” taking her to the final 12 would be to extinguish the smoldering memory of Paris Bennett’s ”Take Five,” which I heard only 24 hours ago — and let me tell you, that just ain’t happening, people.

But enough of my negativity. Tonight’s sub-par episode still beat the dickens out of tuning in to Yes, Dear or Freddie. And while I’m doling out half-baked compliments, let me add that I’m finding Ryan Seacrest far more affable and far less annoying as he carries out his hosting duties this season. (Is it because we’re only four episodes in, or did Seacrest spend his summer studying tapes of Phil Keoghan and Jay Manuel?)

On that same semi-positive note, I’m pleased to report that Paula has been showing the ability to fairly critique several contestants per episode — a fine skill to have for a reality-show judge. Tonight, for example, she described Heidi Fairbanks’ version of ”Angels” as ”just yelling” (before voting to send her to Hollywood, naturally), told Matthew ”Wolfie” Paulson that his butchery of ”Measure of a Man” ”wasn’t a great singing audition,” and even got saucy with self-described ”all-terrain entertainer” Marcus Phillips, shouting ”Let’s see all your terrain!” On second thought, scratch that last one: It sounds vaguely like something Paula could get in trouble for demanding. Even still, Ms. Abdul, two out of three’s not bad.

Were you disappointed in tonight’s episode of Idol? Do you see any of the folks showcased tonight winning your vote in the semifinal round? And how do you think the season is shaping up as a whole?