Idol Musings #1: The City of Brotherly Love/Hate
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
To borrow a phrase from Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, the American Idol auditions are the story of right hand, left hand, love and hate. Somehow, American Idol manages to represent the best and worst of reality television at the same time, balancing on the high wire of taste and common decency. Making fun of William Hung? Funny. Making fun of a developmentally disabled kid as they did last year? Not so much.

For the first auditions of American Idol season 7 in Philadelphia, we’re off to a typical start. There’s a little to love, a lot to hate, and sometimes, the two go hand-in-hand. There were crazies of every shape and size, emotional manipulation by the producers, and a handful of great auditions, so long as you didn’t blink.

First, the things I love, namely Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell. Together, their comedic chemistry is on par with some sitcoms, and apart, somehow they’re still great. From the very first audition, where Ryan pretended to take Joey Catalano two grannies out for a night on the town, he was hilarious. Seacrest is charming, funny, and overall, so much better than anyone truly gives him credit for being.

As for Simon, the man is a consummate professional. During the terrible audition of deep-voiced tour guide James Lewis, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul couldn’t help but laugh and cover their faces with paper, but not Simon. He sat there and took it like a man. While Randy and Paula treat the show like summer camp, Simon is as serious as a straight A student in prep school. Cheerio, Simon!

The hatred I feel, however, goes to the American Idol producers for their shameless manipulation. Yes, Temptress Brown’s story is sad, especially when they wheeled out her Gilbert Grape-like mother, but I object to being forced to feel empathy for people. The show crammed her sob story down our throats for so long, and it ended with nothing. Proving the producers are equal opportunity manipulators, Angela Martin is a great singer, yes, but again, do we need all the backstory about her illness-riddled child? Perhaps I’m a cold-hearted snake, but I don’t approve of shameless tugging at my heartstrings.

Also, the producers need to clamp down on the crazies. We all know that it’s not as simple as showing up and getting face time with the trio of judges, you need to pass some preliminary panels. I don’t care how entertaining he is, don’t let the over-age dude with an abstinence song through. Lest I be called a hypocrite, I should point out that this is only an isolated case. Paul Marturano, Paula’s stalker, was also over the eligible age, but the difference was that his song was truly hysterical.

Finally, there’s the rare instance of having a love/hate relationship with a single person, but that came at the end with Christina Tolisano, the Star Wars dork. Before she sang, I fell in love with her. She was smart, sassy, funny but always self-aware of who she was. She’s the kind of chick I’d absolutely love to be best friends with. Then she sang, horribly, and did the thing I hate the most: blame the judges. She went off on a tirade about how she didn’t fit the mold of the blonde, gorgeous girls the show wants. And while I think there is a viable argument to be made for her case, hers was not it. She wasn’t cut because of her look, she was cut because she wasn’t a good singer. For someone so self-aware about their own dorkiness, it was a crushing blow to my love for her when she was revealed to be totally deluded about her singing ability, or lack thereof.

With eight more hours of auditions before we even get to Hollywood, I suspect we’ll see a lot more of the same. More crazies, mostly awful. More emotional manipulation. And more of Ryan Seacrest being awesome.

Who Will Make the Top 24?

After each audition show, I’ll pick two singers I think will make the top 24. It’s slim pickings, because though Seacrest said 29 people from Philadelphia advanced, we only saw performances and names of 10 of them.

My first pick is Chris Watson, the dreadlocked dude from Delaware who sang Uncle Kracker’s “Follow Me.” He has a great look, a great voice, and I think he’s destined for a lot more screentime. The second is a wildcard, one of the “blink and you’ll miss him” winners, Jonathan Baines, interestingly enough, another Delawarian. He was the young, white, floppy-haired kid seen early on. I think he has the boyish, Zac Efron-esque appeal that will hit all the tween demographics the show is eager to hook back in after Sanjaya set pre-teen girls’ hearts aflutter last season. Am I right or wrong? Only time (a lot of time) will tell.

For more on American Idol, please read:
Philadelphia Audition Live Thoughts
Philadelphia Audition: The Good, the Bad and the Baffling

-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of FOX)