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'Idol' recap: A sad farewell

Glossing over the Paula Abdul controversy, the show sends a sentimental favorite, Brooke White, home

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Brooke White, Syesha Mercado, ...

American Idol

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
15
performer:
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
broadcaster:
Fox
genre:
Reality TV

‘Idol’ recap: A sad farewell

If Tuesday night’s performance episode of American Idol was, as Simon called it, ”officially the strangest” in the show’s seven-season history, then tonight’s results-show edition was perhaps its most disappointing.

Which isn’t to say that America got it wrong by sending home Brooke White, the wide-eyed nanny who for the last several weeks assumed the role of the show’s tortured artiste (emphasis firmly on ”tortured”). Indeed, while Brooke’s lovely warble made her a fan favorite early in the season — particularly during her potent one-two-three punch of ”You’re So Vain,” ”Love Is a Battlefield,” and ”Let It Be” — the weekly pressures of performing in front of a TV audience of almost 30 million appeared to take a gradual psychological toll on her, culminating in last week’s awkwardly flubbed lyrics and thudding false start on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ”You Must Love Me.”

Still, for those who wondered why anyone would keep voting for a contestant who’d begun to resemble (musically speaking) a dehydrated marathon runner staggering through the final mile, limbs covered in ”energy gel,” arms reaching out for the dreaded foil poncho, Brooke at least redeemed herself on Tuesday with her final number, a gut-wrenching, piano-driven take on ”I Am…I Said.” The woman may not be ready to pack a football stadium, but put her in a more intimate setting, and her career forecast may be all blue skies and sunshine.

That said, here’s hoping that whatever path Brooke pursues, she’ll avoid a reprise of ”I’m a Believer,” her significantly less successful Neil Diamond cover. Although Brooke tried to convince Ryan Seacrest tonight that she’d ”genuinely had a good time” with the song on Tuesday, I still contend her petrified smile told a very different tale. And I’m not alone on this one. My sister Debby called me this afternoon to tell me that midway though ”I’m a Believer,” my 8-year-old nephew Sam looked up at her and declared, ”Mom, that’s a good song, but I don’t like the way the lady is singing it.”

And to think the kid didn’t have to attend Brooke’s dress rehearsal or rely on a crib sheet to cook up his priceless one-liner!

Oh, snap! You didn’t think I’d forgotten about Paulagate in the last 24 hours, did you?

Indeed, though the basic outline of tonight’s results show could be summed up as ”Boys to the safety couch; ladies to center stage to await elimination,” I spent the whole hour waiting for the Idol production team, or more specifically executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, to get sent to the naughty mat for a much needed time-out.

Instead, my jaw dropped when Ryan glossed over last night’s fiasco — during which Paula Abdul critiqued both of Jason Castro’s songs, even though he’d performed only one — by saying, ”Last night, the judges were thrown a curveball on the air, which is just part of our live show. But it sparked a lot of gossip about Paula. I read some of this online this morning, and just for the record, the rumors — they’re not true. She’s part of our family, and we love her.”

Excuse me?

First of all, no one was asking for Idol to address any ”rumors.” And as for all that talk of ”family,” well, let’s be honest — sometimes we all need a little tough love from our blood relations.

NEXT: What should have been said

If Idol‘s powers that be had a shred of respect for folks like you and me, who’ve devoted two or three nights a week to fattening their sacred cash cow for the last four months, here’s what should’ve happened tonight:

For starters, Paula owed Jason an on-air apology; whatever the reason for her Glaaaadiator” moment, and regardless of the fact that Jason’s fan base came to his rescue, it was exceedingly unfair that the dreadlocked dude had to perform ”September Morn” only moments after hearing Paula give his future performance a negative review.

Second, Idol fans deserved a clear and concise on-air account of Tuesday night’s credibility-crushing antics. Did Paula confuse her notes on Jason Castro and David Cook, as she said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight? (And if that was the case, why did she change course and tell Rocker David he was ”fantastic”?) Or, as she said Wednesday morning on Ryan Seacrest’s radio program, did she catch part of Jason’s dress-rehearsal performance of ”September Morn,” then accidentally reference it after getting confused by the unexpected change in Tuesday-night plans? In either case, Nigel & Co. shouldn’t have assumed Idol‘s 29 million viewers all had the time and inclination to track down these conflicting reports. The show could have and, more important, should have postponed, say, the unveiling of the Coca-Cola Cup contest winner and directly confronted the most mortifying gaffe in Idol history.

Furthermore, if in fact the latter scenario was true, that Paula formed her critique based on dress-rehearsal notes, then Nigel should’ve come out on stage and promised viewers that he was putting an end to the show’s policy of allowing Simon, Randy, and Paula to attend or view rehearsals in the first place. Seriously, if, for example, Syesha showed up for a dress rehearsal in sweatpants and a T-shirt but slipped into an Escada gown right before showtime, would it be fair for Simon to take a jab at her sloppy fashion sense? (Of course not.) So why is it okay for the show to be any less stringent regarding contestants’ vocal performances? (Oh, and if the judges can’t hear properly during the taping of the Idol telecast, then how about investing in some decent ear monitors for ’em, and maybe getting rid of the absolutely infuriating, frequently shrieking, rhythm-free sway-bots who are standing in between the performers and the panel?)

Whew.

Sorry, I probably need to take a deep, cleansing breath right about now, get a little bit of perspective on the situation. I mean, heck, at least I’m not Syesha, who’s fast becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of season 7. It seems no matter how well she performs, how much she improves, the best she can hope for is a ”good…for Broadway” critique from the judges, and a near brush with elimination from the show’s viewers. (Then again, watching Syesha performing the mashed potato with Brooke during the abysmal group-medley performance of ”Cracklin’ Rosie,” perhaps she was, at least on some level, praying for merciful elimination.)

Anyhow, I’m not entirely sure what Ms. Mercado will have to do to give herself a fighting chance at cracking the likely all-male final three, but as far as next week’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame night is concerned, this would be my advice: Make sure you’re great during dress rehearsal.

What did you think of tonight’s results show? Were Ryan’s comments a sufficient way to deal with the Paulagate situation, or were you expecting something more? Do you think the producers let Paula field two viewer questions to prove she can handle live television with at least some degree of coherence? Did America get it right by booting Brooke? What did you make of Natasha Bedingfield’s flirtation with David Archuleta, and Simon’s flirty phone call with his long-lost first kiss? Finally, did any of you get a little queasy when you realized Constantine Maroulis’ shirt was unbuttoned down to South America? If all those questions are too much to handle, relax with our next episode of Idolatry, featuring a performance by Josh Gracin, below.