Welcome, dear friends, to another season of “American Idol.” It’s time, once again, to search for the best young singer in our great nation, or at least the best young singer in our great nation who doesn’t have a current recording contract and wasn’t discovered in 10 previous seasons of “American Idol,” didn’t audition of “The Voice,” didn’t audition for “X Factor” and doesn’t prefer to sing in the sort of ensemble that might be better suited for “The Sing-Off.”
8:00 p.m. ET We still love Kelly Clarkson. But because “American Idol” is bound and determined to make all of us feel ancient, we’re being introduced to a slew of “Idol”-eligible teens who discovered the show in its first season. I’m old. You’re old. We’re all old. Oh God. SO OLD. “Forever Young”? Hardly. Forever old.
8:02 p.m. While I’m feeling old, I should mention that due to the Sundance Film Festival, I’m going to be passing recap duties to HitFix’s awesome Liane Bonin Starr for the next three episodes. Then I’ll return for the last six months of auditions, the two years of Hollywood week and the century of Finals performances.
8:04 p.m. Forget singing. We all know “American Idol” is actually a crying competition and it seems like we have some impressive candidates. “We’ll never stop believing in you,” promises Ryan Seacrest.
8:05 p.m. This “Contestant Cam” thing is going to get annoying fast. “Idol” has already given contestants a bottomless platform for self-aggrandizement. This is excessive. Anyway… We’re off to Savannah.
8:06 p.m. The judges are happy and ready and Steven Tyler’s feathered hat is already a leading candidate to take the prize. We start with 17-year-old David Leathers Jr. , who calls himself Mr. Steal Your Girl. He boasts that the girls, the girls they love him and he doesn’t have an exclusive girlfriend. David’s claim to fame is that a couple years ago, he beat Scotty McCreery in a competition of some sort. Are we leading off with a disaster? He’s singing “Remember the Rain.” He does have a nicely pure high voice. Surely we’re going to compare him to a young Michael Jackson? YAY! Randy is the first to make the comparison and he asks David to do a little Michael Jackson. I’m guessing that this kid will flame out before we ever get to vote, first sign of adversity, but for the moment, he’s a perfectly fine way to kick off the season. David’s kinda the anti-Scotty with that high voice, isn’t he?
8:15 p.m. The local FOX affiliate is very excited about “Idol” auditions.
8:15 p.m. We’re going down in age with 16-year-old Gabi Carrubba, who has been waiting to audition for her entire life. She’s a singer, but she’s also a championship tap dancer and she wants to see Steven Tyler make his “I’m enjoying myself” face. HA. She walks in and she wants to hug Nigel Lythgoe. She begins to sing “Sunday Morning” and Tyler does, indeed, make his “happy” face. I’d argue that his actual thoughts are something we can’t see on TV, rather than a squirrel on water skis. She has a pure and pleasant voice and when she tosses in a random run, it sounds sweet, rather than hideously affected. She’s sent to Hollywood. I’d still rather watch her tap-dance, though J-Lo compares her to Luther Vandross.
8:19 p.m. Brianna Faulk does some OK Whitney Huston. Neco Starr is cheesy. Molly Hunt over-sings “You’re No Good.” Elise Testone has a brassy voice and a silly hat. They’re all going to Hollywood, though I can’t say any of them were instantly impressive. The judges are impressed and everybody’s getting Golden Ticket.
8:21 p.m. Will the beat continue with 19-year-old Jessica Whitely? She looks a tiny bit like Pia Toscano, but she doesn’t sing like Pia. She sings like somebody who has been coddled by theater teachers and by-the-hour vocal coaches for her whole life. She has a big, awful voice. “Awful,” Randy says, calling it “shouting” and neither her vibe, nor her groove. Steven Tyler says that she’s not able to shoot it through the net and when she asks if she can sing again, Tyler rolls his eyes and says “No.” As she leaves, Jessica threatens that the judges will see her in Texas. And she threatens us as well.
8:28 p.m. People want Ryan Seacrest’s job. And not just Brian Dunkleman. Lots of children like to impersonate Mr. Seacrest. But some smug douche named Shaun Kraisman actually shows up trying to be Ryan, complete with a Seacrest suit and Seacrest hair. But he’s also going to sing? I don’t get it. He goes into the judges’ room and Seacrest follows him into the room for weird doppleganger hijinks. The truly funny thing here is that Ryan Seacrest’s contract is up after this season. “Will you work for half of Ryan’s pay?” Randy asks. That would still be $7.5 million, if you’re keeping score at home. He’s not going to make it to Hollywood based on his voice, but he could definitely get brought back next year if Ryan plays hardball.
8:32 p.m. Up next is 15-year-old Shannon Magrane, a 6’0″ volleyball player. OMG! She’s Joe Magrane’s daughter. I remember Joe Magrane vividly, because he won one of the weirdest ERA crowns in baseball history. Randy Jackson doesn’t have a clue who Joe Magrane is. He may not know what the St. Louis Cardinals are. Joe — along with the entire Magrane family — comes in to meet the judges. Then, in a very weird moment, Steven Tyler calls a 15-year-old girl “Hot, humid and happening.” After all of this, we’re not sending Shannon home without a ticket, though I’m not sure she’s all that great. She’s wicked unformed, exactly what you’d expect from a 15-year-old girl. I’d personally tell her to go and develop her skills for a couple years and return. The judges disagree. She gets three “Yes” votes.
8:40 p.m. Time for a montage of pretty people who can’t sing. Or that’s what the use of “Devil in Disguise” is meant to suggest. None of these people are actually all that pretty. So none of them are really in disguise.
8:41 p.m. For a bit more substance, we’re going to 24-year-old Amy Brumfield, who lives in a tent in the woods with her gigantic boyfriend. They’re playing Elliott Smith in the background, so you know this is emotional stuff. “I would rather be outdoors and happy than indoors and miserable,” Amy says. Yeah, I’m really not comfortable with this Elliott Smith appropriation. There’s some actual texture and tone to Amy’s voice. She may not have the technical skills that some of the little girls possess, but you can absolutely listen to her and tell that she didn’t just skip in out of 10th grade homeroom. They all agree that Amy’s a “hipsy,” whatever that means. “Out of a tent and into Hollywood,” Steven says. “Can I pitch a tent behind the mansion,” Amy asks. Remarkable, Steven Tyler resists the urge to make a “pitch a tent” reference. Amy’s too old for him.
8:49 p.m. Good Old Country Boys! Joshua Chavis dreams of singing at a NASCAR race. He also has a boyfriend he’s leaving out in the hall and he can’t wait to meet Jenny From The Block. He vows to blow this audition out of the water. [Weird sound effects of Josh kicking cats, yelling and knocking things over.] He says his voice is country-pop-rock and he won’t leave the stage without a ticket. Guess what? He’s dreadful. “You’re sweet and you’re cute,” J-Lo says, before she says that the voice isn’t up to par with what they’re doing “this year.” “The bar’s so high this year,” Randy agrees. They send him out without his ticket. And he leaves. And cries. Jennifer Lopez is catching on that when people mention the stars they sound like, it means they don’t sound like those stars. You can’t put one over on J-Lop!
8:54 p.m. Uh-oh. Nerves. Those nerves are eating at 15-year-old Stephanie Rene. This is a life-long dream for Stephanie, who idolizes Carrie.I’m really not sure. Are we supposed to think that this nasally girl can sing? The judges are hard to read. She’s bad, right? Wait. Steven Tyler calls it “nice” and “beautiful.” WHEW. “You sing a little bit nasally,” J-Lo says in the understatement of the night. This girl sings entirely nasally. The judges give Stephanie some good advice. Steven votes “Yes.” Randy votes “No.” And easy touch J-Lo says… YES. For reasons I can’t identify, Stephanie is going to Hollywood.
9:02 p.m. We’ve passed the end of our first hour. YAY!
9:02 p.m. It’s nice to have supportive siblings. However, Schyler Dixon. auditioned with her brother last year, but this year, he’s letting her shine. The judges are incredulous that Colton isn’t coming in as well. So much for escaping his shadow. This is really obnoxious. This is Schyler’s audition and the judges are doing nothing but cooing over Colton. Poor Schyler. I hope I’ve spelled her name properly, because that would add insult to injury. After her very strong audition, the judges barely say anything before taunting Colton into auditioning. Colton’s mumbly, but he’s very, very good. He’s probably better than his sister. Again. This is so cruel. They’re both going to Hollywood, but Schyler seems grumbly and Colton feigns amazement.
9:11 p.m. Obligatory “crying” montage set to “I Fall To Pieces.” Surely they do this montage every season?
9:11 p.m. Lauren Mink, our next contestant, catches Steven Tyler’s eyes. He’s got a look that says, “I wonder if she has a MUCH younger sister.” Lauren works with people with disabilities. Good for her. I have no objections to Lauren. She’s got a good, powerful country voice and she’s singing “Country Strong,” which kinda makes me laugh a little. “GOOSIES,” J-Lo adorably says, referring to her goosebumps. She’s going to Hollywood, duh.
9:19 p.m. Savannah is hot. Thanks, “Idol.”
9:19 p.m. “This is the earliest I’ve ever been late,” Tyler says, arriving for a new day of auditions. I like that.
9:20 p.m. We’re starting with Mawuena Kodjo, a young man from West Africa. He describes himself as “country voice.” Oh God. We’re just gonna mock this poor kid. He doesn’t speak English well enough for the “Idol” producers. He can’t say “simple” things like “Scotty McCreery.” I’d love to hear the produces pronounce his name. He vows to blow the judges away. He’s very bad and the judges laugh at him. This segment is just straight-up xenophobic. They keep laughing at him and telling him he’s terrible. “I can prove you wrong,” Mawuena says and Randy challenges him to find people who think Randy’s wrong.
9:23 p.m. Mawuena Kodjo returns to the room with a random assortment of cute white children and one crotchety old white man who smile and vouch for Mawuena. Despite proving Randy wrong, there’s no ticket to Hollywood for Mawuena. “I’m gonna prove them wrong next year,” he vows.
9:25 p.m. And from xenophobia… Meet 28-year-old joy-hop inventor Ashlee Altise, who vows to give J-Lo a run for her money. So we’re going to mock and shame her. At least she’s somewhat in on the joke. Her version of “Come Together” is spirited. It’s not good. But it’s also not bad. The judges say that Ashlee is crazy, but the right kind of crazy. She gets a ticket to Hollywood and joy-hops out the door.
9:32 p.m. Day Two in Savannah has stunk.
9:33 p.m. IN MEDIA RES! We see W.T. Thompson come out of the room after hearing from the judges that he’s going to get eaten alive. His wife is pregnant, but will this small-town boy get a ticket? DID I MENTION THAT HIS WIFE IS PREGNANT? Of course he’s getting a ticket, yo. Flash back to his audition, which is so-so. Steven isn’t sure that W.T. is ready. J-Lo swoons over the baby coming and says W.T. has potential. It’s up to Randy. W.T. comes out looking sad. But he’s through! And I’m shocked.
9:40 p.m. The “Idol” women are out to get Steven Tyler. Daddy issues. Daddy issues. Daddy issues. He kisses young ladies. He kisses old ladies. And then there’s Erica Nowak, who refers to Steven Tyler as “my future ex-husband.” The “Idol” editors are treating her like a lunatic, so she’s bound to be a good singer. “I might go out in security cuffs, so who cares? Tyler gives her a passionate hug. She grabs his butt. She’s at least a little bit better than I would have guessed. That’s all the credit I’m giving her. “The best note you hit was when you grabbed my crotch,” Tyler says.
9:44 p.m. If a male contestant came in and just grabbed J-Lo’s butt, how would that be received?
9:45 p.m. Why hello, NBA Dancer Brittany Kerr, who gets a “Yes” vote from Steven before she opens her mouth. She’s stunning and vocally acceptable. Tyler asks her to “push it out a little more,” recommending that she listen to some old blues. “I think there’s something there,” Randy says, as Brittany provocatively tugs at her shirt. J-Lo votes, “No,” but it doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, who’s Brittany’s best friend?
9:49 p.m. Last singer of the night!
9:51 p.m. This hasn’t been a terrible episode, incidentally. It’s just been a looooong episode. And I haven’t eaten a real meal today.
9:52 p.m. Ha. Our last performer tonight is a Pawn Star named… Phillip Phillips. American LOVES TV shows about pawn shops. And America loves white boys with guitars. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we’re seeing our next “American Idol.”
9:53 p.m. “I’ve got a funny feeling about this,” Tyler says. He’s catching on, too! Mr. Phillips is doing his own raspy version of “Superstitious.” It’s way, way too self-consciously self-conscious for me. The grunting and wailing are sometimes impressive, but he’s doing a goofy Joe Cocker impression physically. The second he picks up a guitar though… He’s much more impressive. His guitar rock version of “Thriller” pretty fun. Is this an established arrangement? Because it’s entertaining. “It’s like you have electricity flowing through your body,” J-Lo says. Three “Yes” votes for Phillip Phillips.
9:59 p.m. Like I said, I’ll be Sundancing for Thursday’s episode, Sunday’s episode and next Wednesday’s show. But HitFix’ll have recaps from Liane and they’ll be awesome… And then I’ll be back…
So what’d you think of the “Idol” premiere? Any early favorites?