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''American Idol'': The talent doesn't show

The ”American Idol” auditions in Los Angeles spend too much time on deluded but not very funny wannabes

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American Idol

American Idol

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

”American Idol”: The talent doesn’t show


Just three.

One hour of my life spent watching tonight’s episode of American Idol, and all I get to see are three of the forty-plus Los Angeles auditions deemed worthy of a golden ticket? I’m not particularly superstitious, but after I noticed that this was the sixth episode of the series’ sixth season, I began searching for a third six that would indicate that the devil was somehow involved here — because, honestly, Idol was pure hell this evening.

Yes, yes, yes, I appreciate that the audition rounds are about deluded masses yearning to sing free. But aren’t they supposed to be funny? Or entertaining? Or at least a little scary? Actually, to be fair, one wannabe, Martik ”Panther” Manoukian, actually lived up to all three of those adjectives. Growling like a randy Austin Powers impersonator with the left half of his goatee inexplicably shaved off, warbling through what I can only hope was an original composition (called, I think, ”Princess”), and peppering his (shirtless!) performance with intermittent hissing of the word ”eccentric,” the dude came thisclose to delivering a great performance-art piece — though I’m still uncertain whether it was all completely self-aware or utterly clueless.

Just as riveting was Martik’s pre-performance boast that ”I’m an athlete, I will get into acting as well, I will get into modeling, and I will get into being an author, as well as a singer-songwriter, rapper, choreographer, producer, and a composer.” Hard to say. I think his destiny is more likely to involve displaying his trademark moves — the panther crawl, the eccentric, and the flash — in some kind of low-rent Chippendales knockoff. Here’s hoping none of us ever has to bear witness to it.

And here’s hoping we’re never subjected to the work of most of the other folks who got airtime tonight, either. Oh, Cecile Frot-Coutaz (the Idol producer whose name always makes me go ”hmmm”), why must I be forced to endure folks like Sophat Peou, whose banana-suit spaz-out wouldn’t have amused a classroom of third graders, let alone a prime-time viewing audience? What made you think anyone would delight in Grace Pugal singing ”One Moment in Time” while strapped to a foam horse? And don’t you realize that you shouldn’t be encouraging fame-obsessed crazies like Mariana Riccio by giving them a flash of the national spotlight? I wonder how long she’d been practicing that dramatic drop to her knees and that monologue about how getting a golden ticket meant the world to her? I bet longer than she’d been working on her rendition of the Clash’s ”Should I Stay or Should I Go,” which Simon accurately noted sounded like ”Cher after she’s been to the dentist.”

As desperate as Mariana was to go to Hollywood, however, I can assure you I’m twice as eager to get past the audition rounds myself. This despite the fact that there was something kinda cute about girlfriend-boyfriend auditioners Cavett Carr and Darold Gray. Watching her moon away over Darold’s grill and then enter the audition room and make Simon squirm with her ”come to mama” facial expressions did have me chuckling. And Darold’s response to Simon’s question about whether the cops ever responded to his singing — ”It depends on what kind of music we’re listening to” — was the one-liner of the night.

Still, by the time I shut off my TV, I was making like Clara Peller and asking, ”Where’s the beef?” In fact, if it weren’t for Brandon Rogers’ sensationally good performance of ”You Were Always on My Mind,” a first-time viewer of Idol probably never would have guessed the series’ point is to discover the country’s next singing sensation. Now I’ll admit, Brandon had me in his pocket the minute he mentioned he’d sung backup for two of my favorite singers, Christina Aguilera and Anastacia. I mean, anyone who can pass muster with divas of that caliber should go directly to the final 12, without passing go and without collecting $200. And not only did his rich, restrained voice touch guest judge Olivia Newton-John’s heart and draw praise from Simon, but his biceps seemed to have Paula’s salivary glands working overtime.

Tonight’s other two successful auditions, on the other hand, had me quoting the McDoctors of Grey’s Anatomy: ”Seriously?” Alaina Alexander’s rendition of ”Feeling Good” was decent, but if the judges had really wanted to do something kind, they’d have pointed her in the direction of the nearest college admissions office. And if Brian Miller’s not entirely pleasant ”Change Is Gonna Come” was really an improvement on his audition from a year ago, then I’d like to know how he made it to the Hollywood round last season, too. I guess we’ll find out how the guy fares this time around when the hell-week festivities air on Feb. 13 — that is, if I can survive the wait.

What did you think of the Los Angeles auditions? Were you perturbed by the talent-to-trash ratio? And wasn’t that a precious moment when Paula and Randy physically blocked Simon from asking that atrocious singer about his use of their how-to-sing DVD?