It’s been a big week of news stemming from a FOX singing competition show. Of course, that news has all involved “The Ex Factor” and its revolving door of talent, which has put “American Idol” in the odd position of being under-discussed and under-the-radar.
Has “American Idol” become FOX’s neglected underdog?
Probably not. But maybe “American Idol” will find some underdog singing talent in Portland.
Click through for the full recap…
8:01 p.m. ET Yep. This is gonna be emotional. Maybe. And Ryan Seacrest tells me there’s no telling who or what we may find.
8:02 p.m. Portland is pretty. “Idol” has never been there before. But “Grimm” has. And is Portland *really* known for its cloudy skies? Seriously?
8:02 p.m. Let’s start with Brittany Zika, an endearing hipster who dreams of singing with Sara Bareilles. Does anybody have the heart to tell Brittany that Sara’s actually a judge on another reality series on another network? Brittany enters tripping and she calls herself “Tripster the Hipster.” So at least she’s self-aware about her hipster-dom, because otherwise the hat and the suspenders and the black glasses might look just a bit affected. She has a very nice warm tone to her voice. At Randy’s urging Brittany takes off the hat and the glasses and suddenly Brittany’s a cute girl with suspenders and boots. She gets three “Yes” votes. She resists saying it would have been cooler to get an “Idol” ticket back when the show was a bit more indie-rock.
8:10 p.m. Last time “Idol” was in the Pacific Northwest, bad things apparently happened. But this year is going to be better, right? Well, not if we’re dedicating precious minutes to some guy with a head-cold. Yeah. He’s totally going to be able to sing. I have faith that this coughing, sneezing man who sells cable in the street is going to be able to sing. He’s here because one of his co-workers told he had to be audition. Yup. He’s gonna be awesome, right? Ben Purdom is not, in fact, great. But guess what? He’s not that awful at all. If he were a baritone in a mediocre college a cappella group, you wouldn’t honor him or make fun of him. But instead, “American Idol” has spent three minutes making fun of a guy with an average voice and a cold. What was the point of that?!?
8:16 p.m. Next segment, I hope we mock an auditioner who comes in with a sprained ankle. And perhaps a singer with a headache can be subjected to a little mockery? The weird thing about Ben is that presumably he originally auditioned and he stunk and the producers put him in as a freak to perform for the judges weeks later and they just got LUCKY with his cold. That was the creative masterstroke that got Ben on TV.
8:18 p.m. Energy is up after a healthy lunch. We have good feelings about Jermaine Jones, who comes from a musical family and a church background. Jermaine’s mother says that God has given Jermaine a gift and the world needs to know about it. Adding intrigue: Jermain is 6’8″ [and a half-inch!]. That’s a big kid. He does a version of “Superstar” which is either impressively unexpected from a man who looks like an NFL linebacker, or a slightly disappointing performance from a man whose voice was given to him by God. He’s good, but there are pointless runs and key changes that accomplish nothing. The judges call him unique, but they may be responding to the amount of sweat pouring down his face and leaking through his shirt. He gets three “Yes” votes.
8:25 p.m. So far, we’ve only been able to fit two auditions into this episode.
8:25 p.m. Can we please make something happen? Because THAT was Day One in Portland. It yielded two TV-worthy auditions. That’s money down the tube, FOX.
8:26 p.m. Hey look! It’s the girl in the picture with the story! It’s Britnee Kellogg, who I was going to call American Teen Mom Idol, except that she’s actually 27. She’s here to get revenge on her ex, a former basketball player who stepped out on her. She’s fine. She’s got a better story than she’s got a great voice. But she’s got a good story, some cute kids and a very appealing spirit. She’s going to Hollywood. But before she’s going to Hollywood, she asks J-Lo about being a mother and a singer, prompting a totally spontaneous [Read: Not very spontaneous at all] decision to bring Britnee’s entire family into the audition round. “Mommy’s going to Hollywood,” her son says.
8:30 p.m. On to sassy, busty dancer Sam Gershman, who has possibly the fakest personality in the history of reality television. She’s shrill, loud and really, really, really annoying. Somewhere in there is a voice that could be perfectly adequate for local dinner theater, but it’s been lost in a sea of squeaks and squeals. “Could you have been any more perky,” says Steven Tyler. Then Steven tells her she’s “too Broadway,” as if she’d be allowed anywhere near a Broadway stage for singing purposes. Needless to say, she’s not sent to Hollywood.
8:35 p.m. HA. There’s a contestant named “David Weed.” And those genius “Idol” producers introduce him with a little Cypress Hill. I GET IT! He works in fast food, but he dreams of being the next American Idol. So naturally he’s singing Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” If singing doesn’t work out, though, David is willing to go into stand-up comedy. He can’t sing and he’s not funny. But at least he gives us a reason to listen to a little actual Rush. Also, his last name is “Weed.”
8:38 p.m. The Portland auditions are so awful that Ryan Seacrest is walking in the background hidden by a tree. Just to amuse himself. How very Birnam Wood, Ryan.
8:39 p.m. Yikes. Our next contestant is a Liberian war refugee. His name is Romeo Diahn and he does a good enough Bob Marley impression that we can’t make fun of him. Also? He’s an African war refugee. So, you know, making fun of him would suck. He’s also not that great, but in respect for his broad smile and his status as a war orphan, he gets a golden ticket. Fugee, la la…
8:46 p.m. Voodoo Donuts!
8:45 p.m. Naomi Gillies is very pretty and she does an acceptable version of “Cryin’.” As she opens up, she sounds much worse to me and the judges all look much more impressed. J-Lo raves at her “nice round tone.” “That’s how you do it,” Randy agrees. Naomi’s going to Hollywood.
8:48 p.m. Roundup of bad people. As if this whole episode weren’t already an extended roundup of bad people. “There’s gonna be somebody who can make us smile,” Ryan suggests in a moment of desperation.
8:49 p.m. That puts a lot of responsibility on Ben Harrison, who describes himself as “adorable” and looks like a six-foot-tall fetus. Ben walks into the room and talks about how he keeps getting kicked out of bands because he usually sings with older people who are jealous of him. He sings Queen. That’s a bad idea when you can sing. That’s a worse idea when you can’t sing. Ben can’t sing. He ends up blowing a kiss at J-Lo. He’s quickly sent away. “I’m so glad my family was here to support me,” Ben says. “I didn’t puke or pee my pants,” Ben adds, summarizing the highest available compliment for his audition.
8:54 p.m. Quick! Six minutes to salvage the last hour of my life. Make it happen, “Idol”!
8:55 p.m. It’s up to you, Jessica Phillips. You see, Jessica is more than just a singer. She’s a Story. Her boyfriend of five years had a massive stroke a year earlier. He was in the hospital for over a month-and-a-half and when he woke up, he didn’t know who she was. Uh-oh. Is this cross-promotion for “The Vow”? No. It’s not. At all. Because it’s actually rather beautiful and sad. Sniffle. “You’re gonna be good, I feel,” Randy declares. By tonight’s standards, Jessica is terrific. By general standards, I suspect we’ll never see her again. But I wish Jessica and her boyfriend only the best.
9:00 p.m. “The talent in the City of Roses definitely delivered,” says Ryan Seacrest who obviously didn’t watch tonight’s episode of “American Idol.” Randy adds, “Portland redeemed itself.” He also didn’t watch tonight’s episode. There were 45 Golden Tickets, almost all given to people we didn’t see for a single second.
That was awful.