On ''Celebrity Duets,'' the male contestants seem to have a lock on the top two, with Hal battling Lea and Lucy for the third spot
Credit: Celebrity Duets: Joe Viles

”Celebrity Duets”: Harmony reigns

Hal Sparks’ one-lobe-two-earrings combo is really bothering me. And I don’t want it to. I want to like everything about him as much as I like Talk Soup and I Love the ’80s, but the earrings are distracting. Their glare is blinding my eyes to the Hal I love. That said, his duet with Wynonna (making her Celebrity Duets debut) was fun. Wynonna punching his chest while they shouted, ”I want to know what love is!” and Hal air-humping her might as well have been a written guarantee that the comedian will wind up in the top four — maybe even the top three.

The only thing in his way: the ladies. Because unless something goes horribly awry, Jai and Alfonso are a given for the final rounds, so the battle is really for the third slot in the top three. (And could the top three be all guys?) Hal himself said in Fox interview that he thought the women were his toughest competition because they could hit elegant high notes, but there’s also the personality factor to consider. The blond Lucy Lawless has proven to be a fan and judge favorite, and Lea Thompson’s adorability could spell trouble for the Queer as Folk star.

I mean, how cute was it that Lea and one of her daughters were both rocking pigtail braids in that practice footage? And how funny was it to see her all foxy on stage, right after seeing her in mom mode? I’m not afraid to say it: Caroline in the City was looking fly in that form-fitting dress. I want to meet her Pilates instructor. I don’t particularly want to meet her voice coach, though. I just didn’t agree with the Go-Go’s Belinda Carlyle and the judges when they said she sounded good. But like every celebrity on the show, Lea isn’t in the music business, and she is sweet, and she’s there for charity. In short, knocking her singing makes me feel worse than drinking a Crisco-flavored milkshake.

I don’t feel bad about saying this, though: Cheech has got to go next. He’s a nice guy, but his performance just wasn’t interesting. The sole highlight: Clint Black kind of looks like a young George W. Bush, (it’s something about his mouth), so it was fun imagining that it was the president playing the harmonica and singing with Cheech.

But I couldn’t have imagined the crazytown things Little Richard would say to Cheech after his performance. Seriously, what’s going on there, and why does the wig look worse this week? How can it be both a pompadour and a mullet? Sigh. He is the father of rock & roll. I respect him. ”Long Tall Sally” might be my favorite song ever. But I’m divided between amused and troubled when Richard drops his zany verbal bombs. At least Wayne Brady made light of it by calling him ”a man who needs no introduction — an interpreter maybe, but no introduction.”

The other judges, meanwhile, are barely registering, though not for lack of trying. The forced Marie Osmond vs. David Foster conflict is already tired. They’re trying too hard to be Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, and it doesn’t work. Marie’s comments are so overwritten. Of course, it makes sense to prep, but the constant wordplay goes overboard: ”They love Lucy.” ”You said you were sick tonight. As my 15-year-old would say when he loves something, you were definitely sick.” If Marie limited herself to one pun per show, it would make more of an impact.

Speaking of making an impact, Alfonso Ribeiro’s duet with Jeffrey Osborne on ”On the Wings of Love” showed he is definitely a contender. I’m sure he will release a CD of standards or return to Broadway once this show is over. The performance sold itself without sentiment. He didn’t even have to kiss Osborne on the cheek the way Hal kissed Wynonna or hold Osborne’s hand the way Lucy Lawless held Kenny Loggins’.

Lucy and Kenny looked like BFFs. And Lucy did improve her vocals thanks to her coach, though if she skipped words the way Marie said she did, that could lose Xena some votes.

Also working with a vocal coach, Carly Patterson was told to open her mouth when she sings. It was pretty sound advice, since she sounded better than most of the kids on the American Idol tryout episodes — though she didn’t quite sound like an actual American Idol finalist, even if she did nail ”I’m So Excited” with Anita Pointer.

Jai Rodriguez’s sore throat didn’t hold him back. His voice broke once at the very end of his duet with Brian McKnight on ”Back at One,” but it wasn’t enough to ruin a strong performance that will probably also make McKnight’s ticket sales shoot up.

But viewers don’t have to call in to keep Brian McKnight on the show. Who do you think is going to be shown the door on tonight’s results show? Plus, does Little Richard make you laugh or cry? And, just for the heck of it, which cast member would you like to do a duet with?

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