By Adam B. Vary
Updated August 03, 2020 at 08:39 PM EDT

Okay, PopWatchers, the gloves are off. I disappear for two Idol on-the-scene posts, two fresh-eyed, quick-witted colleagues pinch–blog for me and Shirley, and judging from your comments on their (hysterical, insightful) entries, at least some of you had picked up on a so-over-it snarky malaise creeping into my entries like freezer burn growing on three-month-old frozen pork chops. (I’m deliberately not including Shirley’s on-the-scene posts in this mea culpa since she’s already all about thinking outside the Idol box and somehow manages to grab J.Lo quotes besides.)

To help you better understand why my behind-the-scenes dispatches could become a bit too ripe with snark, I’m going to make good on a threat from my very first results show entry: Recreate Corey the WUC’s entire warm-up routine. Don’t worry, after it’s over, I’ve got lots of behind-the-scenes info to share from the show itself (including what caused the audience to gasp after Barry Gibb’s final bow), but first…

(Cue generic hip-hop music)

Corey bounds onto the stage, bellowing “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah! Make some noiiiiise!!!” He commands the entire audience to get on their feet and clap. Then to wave their arms from side to side. Then to wave their arms three times and then clap. Then to punch their arms in the air. Then to punch once, and clap three times.

Next, he asks for a “gentleman” from the audience to join him on stage. First, Corey commands the gentleman to move his hips from side to side, then back and forth, then around in a circle. He follows by asking the gentleman to place one arm in front of him, and then ride the air like it’s a bucking bronco, turning 180 degrees until his back is to the audience, at which point Corey commands the gentleman to “shake that booty!” whilst pointing at said booty. He then tells the audience to yell, “Shake that booty!” Finally, he directs the gentleman to “take it low.”

I should also point out that at all times, most every move Corey asks of others he enacts as well. Except the booty shake.

The gentleman is sent back to his seat, and a “lady” is requested from the audience. (Last night, two 20-something ladies raced to the stage without Corey so much choosing them, but usually he does this portion of the routine with just one woman, preferably outside the 18-49 demographic, in either direction.) He first has the lady simply stepside to side for a few bars of music. Then he has her lift her left armto her chest, then her right arm, at which point Corey asks the woman to “show me that Beyoncé,” by which he means rapid fire booty and bosom jiggles. (As previously established, Corey demonstrates said booty/bosom jiggles himself.) Then he asks the lady to help get the audience to slide their necks and heads back and fourth a la Carlton on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Then he has everyone squeak, “Ooo ooo!” twice, and then scream, “Parrrrtay!” twice, and then just scream.

Everyone obliges every request happily, even eagerly.

(End generic hip-hop music)

“Welcome to American Idol, the number one show in! The!” Corey holds his mic to the air, and about half the audience yells back “World!” “How many of you watched the show last night?!” We cheer loudly. “How many of you voted last night?!” We cheer less loudly. “Oh, come on, it’s Hollywood, you can lie. How many of you voted last night?!” We cheer like crazy people. “Who’s your favorite Idol?” We scream out our favorite Idols. “Aw, nobody said my name. But that’s ’cause you don’t know me. I’m Corey!” People say “Hi, Corey!” “Okay, on the count of three, I want everyone to scream out their name, okay? One, two, three!” About 75 percent of us scream out our names. (Last night, this portion of the routine experienced a hiccup when Eric, the gentleman who shook his booty five minutes previous, jumped the gun and yelled out his name early.)

Then Corey tells us we have a hot show, that someone’s going home, and that it’s okay to be sad and emotional when the someone goes home. He announces the musical guest(s) for the night, last night deciding to clue us in that one of the guests is a surprise, but a pre-taped surprise, and although he won’t tell us who it is, asks us to help “fool” the viewers back home into thinking the mystery guest is actually there live by clapping and cheering when Ryan announces the mystery artist. (Later, the cat would leap out of the bag when Ryan said on air that “Pink is here” when really it should’ve been more along thelines of “the tape of Pink’s performance is here!”)

(Side note: Pink originally recorded this performance for Idol Gives Back, but got cut for time.)

Then things get a bit looser, depending on how much time is left before the start of the show and whether the judges are ready to be introduced. Last night, three goofus tween boys loudly requested a chance to “get their shake down” on the stage too, and Corey promised them the opportunity during one of the upcoming ad breaks. (Quick rewind: I passed these boys on the way to my seat, and one asked if I was related to Sanjaya. Why he asked me this, I have no clue, as what hair I have left is quite short and my smile is not nearly as blindingly bright as Sanjy’s. Maybe it’s ’cause I’m skinny? And now a quick fast-forward: When Ryan was “introducing” Pink, you may have noticed a wild-eyed boy waving to the camera in the background. Yes, that’s one of the goofuses. And we’re not through with them yet.)

To kill more time until the judges appear, Corey introduces Debbie the stage manager, who instructs the audience to put up their signs so the director can decide which ones he wants to cut to during the show. It’s at this point that I realize I’m behind the couple holding that impressive “the Original Dawg Pound” poster you saw at the opening of the show, the one with the three judges re-imagined as dogs. I loved the sign, but not so much the fact that when held in front of my face, it obscured the entire stage from my view.

Finally, the judges are ready to enter, and Corey introduces them like so, every time: “Everyone say ‘Raaaaandy!'” Raaaaandy! “Raaaaaaandy!” Raaaaaandy! “Jack! Son!” Jack! Son! “Jack! Son!” Jack! Son! “Everyone make some noise for Raaannnndyyyyyy J-J-J-Jaaaaacksoooonnnn!” We make lots of noise. Randy enters, races down the aisle parallel to the stage, high-fiving as he goes. The Idols are brought in. Soon Paula follows suit — “Everyone say ‘Paulllla!'” Paullllla!…you get the idea — and then Ryan, and then Simon.

Sometimes Paula’s last, sometimes Ryan’s last, but otherwise the preceding script unfolds pretty much to the letter every night Corey headlines the pre-show. Once is fun. Twice is kinda cute. But after that, the wow factor’s pretty much kaput. You’re left comparing how the nine-year-old from this week and the 73-year-old from last week show off their “Beyoncé,” and placing private bets with yourself over whether the audience is going to clap loud enough about whether they voted to prevent Corey from telling us it’s okay to lie in Hollywood. (They never do; I always lose the bet.)

I know, I know, there are far, far worse occupational ordeals in the world than having to attending multiple American Idol broadcasts. You know what they say familiarity can breed, and I guess it took a bit of the barbed snark from you folks for me to realize it can just as easily breed in readers sick of the same basic blog post about one of their beloved shows.

Okay, enough; on with the show. As Randy high-fived his way through thestudio audience, exec producer Nigel began adamantly motioning for hisattention; we shan’t leave the Fantastic Four waiting! Watching thejudges greet the comic-book flick’s cast, I realized that apparentlythere’s something about Michael Chiklis that just inspires bear hugs.Maybe he got one from Randy because he knows the Dawg personally, but Isomehow doubt he and Simon are hanging out on a regular basis. And yet,there’s Simon, giving the Thing the full-on arms-around-both-shouldersaction.

Indeed, Randy and Simon truly were so wrapped up conversing with Albaand Co. that they barely made it to their seats in time for the show tostart; we’re talking seconds to spare. (Why Paula thought sitting inthe chair closest to the Fan 4 cast would help expedite Simon’s trip tohis seat is a mystery known only to Ms. Abdul.) Debbie admonished usnot to cheer until Ryan says those four magic words, so we hold ourtongues until “THIS! Is A-MER-ican Idol!”

Finally! The actual show! During the extendedTuesday-recap/person-on-the-street-a-quarter-mile-from-the-studio tape,Simon, Paula and Randy do the lean-in-and-gossip thing, while Ryanwatches his work from the contestants’ bench and Mindy Doo does herbest to reassure Blake in the face of criticism by Real People™.

We hop into the first ad break, and Simon breaks for the door. I noticethe Idols have been seated in the order of their general level ofanxiety. Quiet, solemn, contemplative Kiki has returned, followed by achatty Mindy Doo fighting a losing battle with her nerves, then thegenerally happy-go-lucky Blake sports an unconvincing perma-smile, anda positively effervescent Jordin, waving and smiling and talking withthe audience members yelling her name. And the people in front of mewith their giant The Original Dawg Pound sign make the first of manyattempts to get the judges to sign their masterwork. Randy appreciatesit, sure, but no dice with the John Hancock. Drat.

And we’re back! And back into yet another video, this one hyping the IdolTour. The final four seem to enjoy watching the recap, and when it endson Blake’s “You Give Love a Bad Name,” Mindy and Jordin both teaseBlake’s penchant for pointing his finger up when he goes for the highnote. “It’s like this?” asks Mindy, pointing up. “Or more like this?”queries Jordin, pushing her pointed finger up in the air. “No, no, morelike this,” corrects Blake, flicking his index finger up. (At least,that’s how it goes down in my head.) Kiki, meanwhile, keeps staringstraight ahead, probably internalizing her mantra of “Don’t cry,remember your lyrics, don’t cry, remember your lyrics.”

Speaking of forgetting your lyrics, it’s time for the group number! Yetagain, the Idols were aided by the teleprompter, but I picked upseveral flubs by everyone other than Melinda, and, it seems, so didRandy, who at one point pivoted his chair around to regard the giantprompter at the back of the studio with a look that said “huh, theyhave a prompter and they’re still missing the lines.” (Nigel surewasn’t; a colleague told me he spotted the exec producer lip-syncingto every single song in the medley. So now we know why Idolslipped on its leisure suit so late in the game.) At the end, youcaught Simon and Randy mocking Paula’s clapping abilities, but I thinkyou missed that, seconds earlier, Simon even broke into what I can onlysuppose was his attempt to parody Paula’s dancing but struck me morelike a spot-on copy of the “My Little Buttercup” sequence from Three Amigos!

Anyhoo, we’re at another ad break! All three judges broke for the doorthis time, and while the Idols got their make-up touched up, Corey madegood and invited the Three Goofuses onto the catwalk behind the judges’table to “get their shake down.” There was no time to cue any music, sowe clapped to give the boys a beat and they… kinda wiggled like goofytween boys. Okay, one of them does do an impressive floor wave — youknow, where he rolls his body on the floor like a flopping fish — andit was enough to get the boys a single Idol karaoke system. When Corey asked them their names, one said Jake, the next Ryan, and the last Shanequa. Ah, youth.

Then it’s on to the Fantastic Four hard sell — Debbie thestage manager really did have to give Ryan the “speed it up!” signal tobreak him out of his Albastic reverie — and the video that finally toldus more about the contestants than what’s in their online bios.I have to admit that I was so intrigued by these revelations that Imissed any further interactions between Ryan and Ms. Alba. And it seemsduring the following ad break, I was so distracted by the final four’sgroup hug/jam session, that I missed Alba’s exit from the premises. Tobe fair, a straight male colleague missed it too. Just sayin’.

But, yeah, the final four pretty much huddled like that during theentire ad break, and 15 seconds before we were to come out of thecommercials, Debbie walked over to them and told them to stay likethat. ‘Cause it makes for great TV, right?

Jordin’s safe, Idol is apparently going to one-up Rock Starand look for an entire band (gotta buck up that Fox fall schedule!),and, now, ladies and gentlemen, Barry Gibb…’s nipples! If you checkedout during this performance, wondering if the Bee Gee had long passed thepoint of drawing an audience to their feet — all props to Gibb’s musicallegacy, but I don’t blame you — well, I did notice that this was thefirst guest performance I’d seen that had a healthy number of theaudience members (i.e., the parents) singing along. After the song wasover and we went into the final ad break, Gibb took another bow andbegan his exit stage right. As he stepped on the ramp, he took a hardtumble to the floor, and an audible gasp rippled through the audience.People rose to their feet with concern (me, included), but we needn’thave worried; Gibb leapt up and smiled, signaling he was indeed okay.Phew!

Back from the break, Mindy’s safe and soon in a clutch with Jordinwaiting for the final verdict. Ryan gives Kiki the bad news. During herIdoljourney, Kiki spins and points on the “and you, and you” of “And I AmTelling You,” dislodging her air-mic. Debbie races over to fix it.(That’s the phantom head you saw behind Kiki as she watched her journeyunfold.) Kiki knocks out her “Stayin’ Alive” final performance — Iwonder, if she’d gone in the audience like that on Tuesday, would shehave gone home on Wednesday? — and we’re out for the night. All threejudges walk up to give Kiki their condolences — Simon is especiallysweet, giving her an even tighter hug than he gave Michael Chiklis — andcongratulate the final three. Corey the WUC directs us to the exits,and we all shuffle outside and begin the trek back to our cars. TheOriginal Dawg Pound poster folks go home signature-less, but happy.

Outside the studio, goofuses Jake, Ryan, and Shanequa are asking any andall passers-by: “Did you see us dancing on stage? Do you want ourautograph?” We had, and, well, we didn’t.