We should consider ourselves lucky Nikki McKibbin, Corey Clark, Scott Savol, Sanjaya Malakar, Danny Gokey, Tim Urban, Jacob Lusk, and Elise Testone were contestants on American Idol. And that's coming from an Idol superfan who absolutely despised Nikki McKibbin, Corey Clark, Scott Savol, Sanjaya Malakar, Danny Gokey, Tim Urban, Jacob Lusk, and Elise Testone.
And five weeks into Season 12's finals, we should consider ourselves lucky that Lazaro Arbos has not only managed to outlast four more talented male contestants, but also attract an astonishing number of votes for a contestant so far out of his league, you might as well name him Kit. Because without Arbos, we'd be left with a crop of singers talented enough to sit alongside Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood on the Billboard charts. We'd be left with a crop of singers with interview packages charming enough to help us develop an unhealthy obsession with their Twitter feeds. But mostly, we'd be left with a crop of talented singers and no villian.
As much as the Idol viewing experience revolves around rooting for your favorite contestant, it also revolves around rooting against your least favorite contestant. What's the fun of loving a Tamyra Gray, Jordin Sparks, or an Adam Lambert if you can't hate a McKibbin, Malakar, or Gokey? (Heck, Season 6's ratings dropped a whopping nine percent after Malakar's elimination.) American Idol is a reality series without built-in twists, smack talk-inducing confessionals, and camera-ready weave-pulling. (That is, unless you count this.) If not for each season's anointed villain, it would be a reality series devoid of drama.
And, boy, is Arbos drama. Though his ability to sing through a speech disorder is certainly inspiring, the past few weeks have proven Arbos is as arrogant as he is ill-prepared. Just see his inability to remember lyrics in multiple performances and his dismissive response to negative feedback from Randy following his disastrous "For Once In My Life": "No problem, boo." And don't even get me started on his excuse that he had learned "In My Life" a mere 24 hours before his middling performance, a claim rebutted by Jimmy Iovine, who said he had been working on the song with Arbos for several days. I could go on — for paragraphs, and probably even days — about how much I dislike this Idol contestant... and that's exactly what Idol needs. Candice Glover, Angie Miller, Kree Harrison, Amber Holcomb, and Janelle Arthur are five extremely talented women with a real shot of making it in the music industry. I can only pray to the AT&T gods that they're rewarded the top five slots they so deserve. But I'm also ashamed to admit I'd be a bit disappointed to let go of Arbos, a contestant who is just so much fun to hate.
True, there have been a couple Idol seasons that were extremely enjoyable without the presence of villains. The dueling Davids was enough to carry Season 7, and Season 2 hit Idol's first televised sweet spot with the sweet friendship between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. But Season 12's fabulous five females don't quite boast the innovation of Season 7's contestants, or the advantage of being members of a fresh new reality series like Season 2's singers. Season 12, with all of its undeniable talent, runs the risk of being boring. And while some Idol fans would point to Arbos' mere presence as evidence of the existence of the Rule of Three (every third Idol season is a terrible one), a drama-free season could very well put it over the edge.
Do I hope Arbos sings his farewell tune soon? Of course. Will Idol's top five girls make it in the industry regardless of their placement? In the name of Jennifer Hudson, I do believe so. Do I hope Arbos makes it as far as the top three? Absolutely not — I have ears, don't I?
But as fun as it is to hear Glover belt a serious note or Holcomb nail an impossible run, our Internet-trolling generation is addicted to hating on the most obnoxious of Arbos quotes. No doubt we'll even find something to hate in this one — Arbos tells Hollywood.com the sympathy vote is not responsible for his existence on the show. "It's getting a bit old and people have to let go of that," he says. "They keep saying that that is the only reason why I'm on the show, and I would just like to say that I haven't talked about my speech since day one, and the people that love me love me for my songs, and they also love me for my speech, but they don't say, 'Oh, I love the way you talk so much.'"
Unfortunately for Arbos, until he's let go from the show, fans eager to cling onto their five favorite girls won't stop blaming his success on the sympathy card. Nor will they let go of their desire to send him packing. But these same fans will undoubtedly be disappointed when Arbos is gone, no matter how ardently they watch in the coming weeks, hoping that he finally sings his swan song. And that's why Idol, as its ratings continue to decline, desperately needs its villain: Fans are riled up, but they're still watching, aren't they?
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard
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We're willing to forgive American Idol for experimenting with its format. After all, we're twelve seasons deep and you've got to keep this thing interesting somehow. But the whole "reveal the finalists while they're sequestered in rooms backstage" was awkward on screen — and 10 times more awkward in person, Hollywood.com can officially report.
There was already an inherent sense of excitement built into the show, considering that after two months, we would finally find out our top 10. Corey, the longtime Idol warm up guy, got the audience excited — the only notable difference in his routine is that the Harlem Shake has replaced "Sexy and I Know It" as his song of choice to get the crowd up and dancing — only to have the air and energy sucked out of the room as the camera at home cut to Ryan Seacrest announcing the first finalist...and the feed in the studio went silent like some ultra horrible technical difficulty.
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We'd been sort-of warned ahead of time that the finalist would be a surprise to the judges (and thus the studio audience), but for the first 10 seconds before we realized what was actually happening it seemed like something had gone terribly wrong. It was a little less jarring the subsequent nine times, but something tells us that's not something they'll try again.
Usually it's easy to tell who the fan favorites are by the loudest screams, and during the first 15 minutes of the show, which consisted of a ton of pre-cut packages detailing our semifinalists' journeys, the only one to get an audible reaction from the audience was Lazaro. (Basically a bunch of "awww"s.) So it wasn't all that surprising when he was the last boy called.
The girl who garnered the most reaction? Candice. Not only did the audience go nuts, but plenty of her fellow finalists lost their minds too. They even got yelled at for getting carried away hugging each other during the commercial break.
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For the first live show in American Idol's regular home (Stage 36 at CBS Television City in Los Angeles), this one was a real downer. It could've been so exciting, but those awkward pauses in the studio really sucked the energy out of the room.
The judges were on their best behavior, waving to the crowd, talking to their bosses (Nigel Lythgoe and Mike Darnell) during the commercial breaks, and definitely not fighting with each other. No diva behavior really showed through, but here's a telling story about Mariah Carey:
Although game to wave at her fans, she isn't a toucher. Corey brought down a little boy to say hi to his favorite singer during one break, and she gave the probably 7-year-old kid a great big...handshake. Nigel popped over to snap a picture for the kid on his cell phone, and Mariah didn't even put her arm around the boy. Come on, you've got to try a little harder than that, M.
How did the backstage experiment work out on screen? Was Seacrest running back and forth as funny as we imagine it to be? What did you think of the way the finalists were announced?
Follow Jean on Twitter @hijean
[PHOTO CREDIT: Frank Micelotta/FOX]
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Corey Brian Will and Matt jump in their Jayota (a reconstructed Jeep with a Toyota engine) and head to the Baja Peninsula to begin their adventure. Corey finds out that his grandfather has died and the gang plots a new course to Yakima Wash. to visit grandpa G's grave and possibly collect an inheritance. Along the way they meet Jesse Matt's cute teen-age cousin who is headed in the same direction to study law. Predictably Brian falls for her. They take part in every extreme sport imaginable along the way and bond by night in cheap motels or by campfires lighting farts and pulling pranks. The group documents their trip with a video camera; Brian provides the voiceover. The plot is pretty lame and childish but luckily the movie does not take itself too seriously. In a scene in which Will is immersed in a heart-to-heart with Brian he yells out to Matt to do the voiceover.
Dante Brasco (But I'm a Cheerleader) plays Corey the group leader and sarcastic prankster. Like the rest of the cast he's natural enough but limited by a corny script filled with lines like "For the love of donuts let's go!" Ryan Browning plays Brian (The Intern) the good-looking 90210-type heartthrob who captures Jesse's heart. A.J. Buckley (Disturbing Behavior) plays Brian's levelheaded advice-dispensing brother Will. Oddball Matt is played by Derek Hamilton (Disturbing Behavior Fire Man) who seems to have taken a few cues from actor Crispen Glover. The only female lead in the film is Cassidy Rae (Favorite Deadly Sins) as Jessie the blonde tomboy with a killer personality. The young actors did a reasonable job and were well cast though it's doubtful any of them could really do any of the sports they were portrayed doing.
The concept of the film is based on two extreme sports videos (The Moment of Truth and The Moment of Truth 2) by Eric Hannah that achieved underground success. ExtremeDays is an extension of those with double the music and emotional story lines. The end product is a lot of snowboarding motocross skateboarding and surfing footage interspersed with teen-themed story lines. The action sequences however almost look like footage from other films spliced together with obvious stunt doubles standing in for the cast. Though set to the music of such Christian bands as Newsboys the film's religious theme is not blatantly thrown at you apart from a few lines here and there (e.g. "When God throws a curveball don't duck you might miss something.") There are also a few funny moments including a camp site showdown with kung fu fighting sequences complete with bad dubbing and dialogue.