After checking out how the auditioning singers (and nonsingers) did in the season premiere of ''American Idol,'' we list the best critiques from Simon, Paula, and Randy

By Michael Slezak
Updated July 02, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

The ”American Idol” premiere: Rating the judges

If you’re anything like me, you had a heart-to-heart with your significant other this weekend, gathered with your closest friends for a big, festive meal, and sent a flurry of e-mails to out-of-town relatives, trying to break the news to all of them in the kindest possible terms:

Yes, Mom, I still love you, but you’ve got to understand, American Idol is back, and those wily Fox executives are promising that season 5 will be the best one yet. (I know! Seriously! Better than seasons 1 and 3, they say. We’ll just have to see about that.) Anyhow, what I’m trying to say is this: I’m going to be emotionally, physically, and spiritually unavailable for the next three months, maybe a little bit longer. Unless, that is, you learn to embrace the madness, choose a couple of favored contestants — no later than the semifinal rounds, mind you — and join me in post-show commiseration about the agony and the ecstasy that is Fox’s supremely addictive singing competition.

Approved topics will include (but not be limited to) the following: the maddeningly arbitrary whims of the American voting public; the murderous rage you feel regarding said public’s inability to vote off some to-be-determined vocal horror show who makes Nikki McKibbin sound like Aretha Franklin; the irritation/amusement/bewilderment you experience every time Paula appears on your TV screen; the blatant favoritism Simon is showing to the most [insert either positive or negative adjective here] singer in the history of the series; whether or not Clay Aiken is a genuine pop superstar or the future Candlestick in a road-company production of Beauty and the Beast; and why Trenyce was robbed from her rightful place in season 2’s final three. (Yeah, yeah, I know I’ve gotta let that last one go. I’ll work on it in therapy next week.)

The thing is, you’re either with me or not on my radar till mid- to late May. And since I know you watched tonight’s two-hour season premiere — yes, Mom, I know you missed your Commander in Chief, but it’s time to invest in a DVR already — let’s discuss, shall we?

Now it’s only episode 1, and we’re going to have plenty of time to evaluate the competition’s future Fantasias (how on-point was Mandisa’s version of ”Fallin’ ”?) and its more, um, overrated participants (methinks Zachary Smits’ looks got him farther than his vocals during ”I’m in the Mood for Love”), so let’s kick off the season by examining the sharpness of judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson after a seven-month layoff.

In my mind, Simon was refreshingly tart and enthusiastic tonight, determined not to rely (for the most part) on threadbare barbs of seasons past, while Paula was rather lucid (for Paula, that is). Randy, on the other hand, well, let’s just say he didn’t utter a single word that would become one of my picks for the evening’s 10 Best Judges’ Comments. In descending order, here they are:

10. ”That was a mess. A right mess.” Simon on scrappy blonde Jessica Nelson’s bleep-filled (and badly sung) audition.

9. Paula’s surprisingly amusing stripper pantomime during Yuliya Matus’ gyration-filled ”Bohemian Rhapsody.”

8. ”You’re an ass. You’re an ass. You’re an ass.” Paula, responding with fury to Simon’s humiliating (and homophobic) critique of Charles Berry’s performance.

7. ”All together now?” Simon, trying to get his fellow judges to vote no midway through Stuart Benyamin’s traditional Assyrian song.

6. ”You remind me of a wasp. Because he’s like a little buzzy energetic thing.” Simon, on diminutive Kevin Brenneman’s shrieking version of ”The Weight.”

5. ”You could make a great living doing voice-over work for Rugrats.” Paula, trying to put a positive spin on Brenneman’s rejection but merely piling on the humiliation. (Anyone remember she trotted out a similar helpful hint last season, also resulting in unintentional comedy?)

4. ”Imagine a bag with nine cats that you drop in boiling water.” Simon, describing Yvette Gomez’s torturous ”How Come You Don’t Call.”

3. Stony silence from Paula, Simon, and Randy after hearing Justin Sticht’s grimly committed mashup of ”I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” and ”Beyond the Sea.” Because sometimes there are no words.

2. ”Do you have any jurisdiction here?” Simon, preparing to vote no to Deputy Sheriff Brandon Groves’ wobbly take on ”I Shot the Sheriff,” during which he repeated the same line over and over and over.

1. ”Thank you! Out you go.” Simon, cutting short a stunned Blake Boshnack (dressed as the Statue of Liberty) only two words into his rendition of ”New York, New York.” Huzzah! With glorious efficiency, he of the snug T-shirts cut an overly precious wannabe’s 15 minutes down to less than 30 seconds.

Still, while I was generally delighted with Idol‘s season premiere — especially its decreased emphasis on gimmicky attention hounds and the reduced number of cameras chasing sobbing kids who had just discovered their lack of talent — there were still a few cringe-inducing moments. I mean, I could totally embrace Simon in all his evil glory if he would kindly refrain from taking infantile potshots at heavy-set women (note he almost never discusses the physiques of male contestants) and effeminate men. For starters, such barbs have nothing to do with the talent (or lack thereof) of the singers in question. Second, they’re incredibly tired. Finally, they’ve got no place on a program that’s otherwise a rare example of highly entertaining family programming.

Indeed, was there any reason for Simon to snarl, ”Forget Frenchie, she’s like France,” after agreeing to send the zaftig and uni-monikered Mandisa to Hollywood. And as for his interaction with the not quite Marlboro Manly Charles Berry, why not just tell the kid he doesn’t have the pipes to make it in the music biz? Simon’s critique — ”Shave off the beard and wear a dress, because he’d be a great female impersonator” — is the kind of trash talk that makes me want to turn off Idol for good and devote my life instead to…oh, what am I saying? That would imply I’ve actually got a life outside this blasted reality show.

What did you think of Idol‘s season premiere, and more specifically, how did the performances of Simon, Paula, and Randy compare with their work on previous seasons? Also, did you spot any potential favorites in the Chicago auditions, or are you reserving judgment until the kids get to Hollywood?

Episode Recaps


American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

  • TV Show
  • 16
  • 574
  • ABC