Well folks, the first night of the new American Idol has come and gone and now we get to discuss just how "new" this revamped Idol really is. There's good news and bad news. The bad news is: they lied. Every promo and interview has promised us a revolutionary Idol; one filled with hope, one where dreams begin, one where the days of sending the crazies through to the judges just because it's fun comes to an end. This was not that Idol, and believe it or not, that's also the good news. It's basically the same as it ever was but with a slightly different dynamic. Idol now delivers the same standbys we all know and (begrudgingly) love, but now with new flavors in the form of two novice judges and a newly empowered Randy Jackson.
"Oh my goodness gracious!…I wanna go home!" - Jennifer Lopez
The biggest shift is obviously the new blood at the judges' table, and for Lopez, the new post was a little troubling. She has no issue threatening to kill the host of the Golden Globes, but when it comes to telling some poor soul their dream is over, she couldn't take the heat. Of course, as the auditions wore on, her exhaustion afforded her enough gumption to start telling it like it is (kinda) but not before we were treated to a montage of her whining about how hard her job is. Jennifer, Ellen DeGeneres is pretty much the nicest celeb I can think of and even she didn't complain about this as much as you do. You're getting millions of dollars, you should be able to learn to say the word "no." Say it with me, N-O.
"Where is your pitchfork you little devil?" - Steven Tyler
Of course, for Steven Tyler the transition was a little easier (maybe because he's a little crazier than JLo), but this is no surprise. He's an aging rockstar who's trying desperately to prove he's still got it (and by "it" I mean insanity). He took to his post, bringing his signature raspy squeal and rock star sensibility to the room.
They may not be adding a 5 second delay to make sure his colorful vocabulary stays off the air, but that wouldn't help what seems to be the real problem (or delight depending on who you ask) which is the fact that S.Ty. can't seem to keep it his pants. Obviously the producers at Idol caught onto this fact and treated us to a cheesy little montage of all his over-the-top praises for the young girls reaching for their dreams, including one sixteen year old who he noted was "showing just the right amount of skin" like that creepy, and perhaps slightly unstable uncle who makes inappropriate comments at a family reunion. If you're like me, you thought when Jennifer couldn't be mean that we may be looking at another Paula Abdul on the panel, but I think that's a premature judgement. Besides, my money is on Tyler. He's a little loopy, he loves EVERYONE, can't seem to say anything productive about anyone's voice or singing ability and he screams at the end of all of their auditions. I got your new Paula RIGHT HERE.
"I think people would tell me if I sucked." -Contestant
"Really?" -Randy Jackson
As the old hand of the group, Randy is able to take the seat he's never been quite able to reach - Simon's seat. Okay, yes this is figurative and literal because he actually did take a seat in the chair that for the past 9 seasons has belonged to the Frost-miser himself, but he's also realized that now that he's the only Idol vet left, it's up to him to reign in the crazies. There's a little less "yo dawg" and a little more of that "you've got to be kidding me" sentiment and it's clear that Randy's got a little bit of the big man on campus complex that dudes get when they make the varsity football team or finally reach senior year of high school. We get it, you've been around the whole time, but guess what, JLo and Tyler are way more fun than you are. Still, we need him to lead the pack, otherwise we'd be left with an hour of Steven screaming and squealing at every contestant and JLo switching between trying to hide under the table or hug every contestant because they make her want to cry, and that will not stand. Sorry Randy, I guess no one warned you that you'd be babysitting.
"Did you eat paint chips as a child?" -Steven
Okay, now for the reason we're all here for an audition episode: the contestants. Of course the episode treated us to the usual barrage of faces some talented, some delusional, and some were actually entertaining. For those that weren't brought on just to make audiences cringe, youth and inexperience was the theme. Though we saw a few vets who've been trying to make it for years - we're talking to you singing waitress - it was hard to miss the sheer number of minors making it through to that glorious golden ticket moment. Perhaps showing us slews of 16 year olds with serious pipes is the show's way of proving that Idol is newer and more hopeful, but here's the thing, youth doesn't necessarily equate to hope. What we saw last night was a group of teens who definitely packed the goods but haven't yet learned how to use them - other than a feeble attempts to sound like Mariah Carey or Michael Jackson. They're all products of pop music, and hopefully when they finally step foot in Hollywood, they'll start learning how to use those voices or it's going to be a long, flat (or sometimes sharp) season.
Alright, now that we've got all those smiling faces out of the way, what about the crazies? Well, we had our share of the usual set: the next William Hung and Michael Jackson impersonator who can't sing or dance really, but is likely to become a YouTube sensation; the kid who shared with us his homemade video about ending the "texting while driving" epidemic before massacring a classic Sinatra song; and a girl whose audition was so bad that the judges gave up trying and just joined her in singing and clapping before swiftly crushing her every dream. Aw. My favorite of this set was one Buster Bluth (from Arrested Development, may it rest in peace) reincarnation who not only sounded like he had play-doh covering his vocal chords and whose notes landed anywhere but where they should be as he audaciously rolled through "Proud Mary." (Unfortunately the internet gods didn't find him as interesting as I did so you'll have to settle for the glimpse of him in the montage clip higher up in this post.) I was with the judges when they finally told him that he just "shouldn't sing anywhere." Sorry, dude. The truth hurts, but it's supposed to set you free, right?
"What's with those joo-joo-bies on your ooh-ooh-bies?" -Randy
Of course there were a few contestants that played exceptions to the rule; one who gave Snooki a run for her money and the other who seemed to embody all the trashiest elements of Britney Spears if BritBrit was a Liza Minelli fan. First up, the next Miss Jersey Shore gave a shameful display of Jersey stereotypes ushered onto television by MTV's biggest reality show, leading us all to believe she'd be awful - and she was at first. She sang her own original song including lyrics that claimed Fox needs her - specifically, for ratings - but then, because this is the nice Idol, they gave her a chance to sing another song (no wonder it's pitch black outside by the time they finish these auditions) and the girl, as trashy as she was with a bikini top bedazzled with giant silver stars to go with her grey business slacks, can actually sing. Boom, ticket to Hollywood (even though she's so obnoxious that her continued success in the competition may require that I start turning the show into a drinking game).
Then there was the trashy Broadway "star," who despite having a fantastic stage voice sang "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie like she had the devil inside her and he was trying to break out through song. Her face was that red. Of course, in their insanity most likely induced by the crazy girl breaking down crying and screaming touting that "Pop music needs to get with Liza Minelli," the crazies of the judging bunch let her through to Hollywood as Randy joined the rest of us shaking his head in disappointment (and let's be honest, total disbelief). This is where Simon would have said with a blanket of judgment wrapped around that prim British accent, "You have GOT to be kidding me." His eyes would then follow that up by rolling completely out of his head.
So there you have it folks. The first of many episodes that promise to make you yell at your TV, smack yourself in the face, gasp so loud your windows rattle, and make your hair stand on edge. Idol is back and it's just as ridiculous as ever, but that's really all we ask for, right?