Recap: ‘American Idol’ Hollywood Round – Night One

02.03.09 9 years ago 2 Comments

Michael Becker/FOX

Under normal circumstances, the Hollywood Week content that filled an entire hour of “American Idol” on Tuesday (Feb. 3) could have been dispatched in maybe 10 minutes. But if the “American Idol” producers had done that, it might have been necessary to trim the Group Performances, always the most entertaining part of Hollywood Week, down to maybe 35 or 45 minutes just to fill a single episode.

On “American Idol” and in Hollywood Week, the first cut isn’t actually the deepest. Over an hour on Tuesday, we cut from 147 to 104. We appear not to have lost more than one or two contestants who even sang a note in the audition rounds. If Tuesday’s eliminations were a haircut, nobody would even notice that you’d been to the salon. You’d have to turn around several times, point to the back of your head and swear, “They took a half-an-inch off!” 

Because they spent a bloated hour on those 43 eliminations, we’ll get to have what ought to be a much more entertaining full hour of Group Sing drama on Wednesday night. So we’ve got that to look forward to!

Pity about tonight, though.

[More after the break.]

One of the things they’ve done in past seasons was cull together a “Best of the Rest” audition special. That let the producers showcase five or 10 singers who didn’t earn a place in their own audition city’s episode, but who the producers knew had advanced far after Hollywood. It was a way of equalizing screentime so that there would be fewer complaints about singers eliminated in the voting because viewers at home had never gotten the chance to warm to them.

If you ask me, that’s how Tuesday’s episode should have functioned. The producers could have isolated a handful of previously unrecognized performers to foreshadow tomorrow night’s breakout performances.

Instead, we wasted a tremendous amount of time on familiar faces including some who probably didn’t even deserve to make it to Hollywood.

That’s how shallow the first set of cuts were. The judges peeled off 43 people who were worse than Bikini Girl and worse than Nick “Norman Gentle” Mitchell, two entirely unworthy candidates who survived just because there was no urgency for them to be cut.

It’s good to keep Katrina “Bikini Girl” Darrell around for a while because she brings out such ugliness in Kara DioGuardi, raises such insecurity in a fairly good looking and allegedly talented professional. Could Katrina possibly have been one of the 100 best people to try out this season? Nope. And in her inappropriate black audition nightie was she even all that cute? Not in a significant way. Then why did Kara feel the need to run through so many catty one-liners — “Leave your number in the back room.” “Bring your pole tomorrow.” — negating her? Because Katrina looks like a girl who stole Kara’s boyfriend in high school? Because she hates scrawny, semi-pretty white girls? Credit Simon for recognizing how Bikini Girl turns Kara into a blithering fool and recognizing it makes good TV. Oh and Katrina’s version of “Breathe” was bad.

I don’t really know why it behooves anybody to keep Norman Gentle around, but I wouldn’t have sent him to Hollywood in the first place. The fact that you get occasional inklings that his voice is pretty decent under the mincing and sashaying and gay cabaret stylings doesn’t change the fact that the guy swore in New York that he was going to take this seriously and then came to Hollywood as a joke. He’s always going to be a joke, so every cut he survives means that more viable people are being eliminated. You could sense that feeling in the room when Norman was put through, that the other contestants didn’t understand why they were all collectively being mocked. 

Katrina and Norman aren’t very good, but I don’t sense I’m going to have to  worry about them much longer. The judges were, however, mighty encouraging of some singers who I’ve already built up animus toward, singers who I fear we may be seeing a lot more of.

Jackie Tohn? Fake. Fake. Fake. When she does Janis Joplin affectations, it feels like she’s playacting, like it’s all fraudulent and her mugging for the camera has already gotten on my nerves.

Von Smith? Did we meet him in Kansas City? I don’t remember him, but he was presented this week like we were supposed to know who he was. His ultra-theatrical, shout-y, pitch-averse performance was even worse than Norman Gentle, but the judges liked him enough to let him through. That’s a bad sign.

Rose Fleck? She seems like a sweet girl. We’ve heard her sob story twice now. I feel for her. Vocally, though, she’s pure amateur hour.

Nathaniel Marshall? Stupid, monotonous song choice. Annoying vocal vibrato that the judges didn’t even comment on. It just concerns me when people are carried so totally by emotion and he broke instantly into tears and his declaration, “It’s on my skin, it just burst out of me” left me wanting to get him therapy rather than vote for him.

Lil Rounds? She was sharp. VERY. I’m not saying she can’t sing and I wouldn’t have included her here if Paula and Kara hadn’t gone way overboard in their raves. That was not a good verse of “I Will Always Love You.” I suspect she’ll be better later.

There were plenty of performances I did like, though.

We hadn’t heard Steven Fowler before, but he had swagger, a good look and he handled a tough Stevie Wonder song with aplomb.

Might Anoop Desai be for real? The guy we saw tonight looked little like the folklore-studing geek we met in the audition round. He looked polished and sounded fantastic.

The Elliott Yamin vibe is so strong around Danny Gokey. His Seal cover might have been a smidge breathless, but he’s instantly distinctive and likeable. I just don’t want to hear about his deceased wife every week, but otherwise, I can root for him.

Jorge Nunez has a big voice, fantastic hair and Paula and Kara’s tongues come out of their mouth when they watch him. They look at him with genuine lust, not the way that Simon and Randy react to Bikini Girl where they know she’s a joke, but they’re happy to play along for a bit. Mostly, I look forward to getting clarification for why Ryan pronounces Jorge’s name Spanish-style and Kara calls him “George.”

I’m looking forward to tomorrow night, when I hope they’ll given more time to the truly talented people and less time to the hacks.

Oh, who am I kidding? It’s Hollywood Group Day! I just want to see people cry.

Thoughts on Tuesday’s episode?

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