Have I mentioned that I lurve the new kinder and gentler Idol auditions? Well I do. Tonight could have easily gone the way of the freak showcase that the Minneapolis auditions turned into last year. But instead, the producers were able to showcase the bad and the weird without leaving a bad taste in the audience’s mouths. At least I felt good afterward.
Back in August, Senior Idol Producer, Patrick Lynn, confessed to the Omaha World Herald that he’d been pushing for Omaha as an audition city because of the movie his friend, Dan Mirvish directed, called Omaha (The Movie) Said Lynn, “That’s a great little movie…It really captures the quirky and off-beat aspects that make Omaha Omaha.”
I got what I expected–Omaha as a town full of quirky, yet likeable oddballs–living in the heartland of America.
The show begins with an aerial view of the show logo cut into a farm field. American Idol has landed. Yay?
Ten-thousand hopeful auditioners turn out to audition in Omaha.
Paula’s plane has been delayed. Which gives the writers a chance to throw in a bunch of fun (as in not) gay jokes between Simon and Randy. I guess Ryan needed a rest.
Chris Bernheisel 24, Fremont, NE – “Since You Been Gone” By Kelly Clarkson – The night starts off with Chris, who is the perfect embodiment of the quirk-fest the show seems to be going for. He’s preternaturally sunny, and optimistic, and completely undaunted by little details. You know, like the fact that he can’t sing. He’s so excited to audition, that he claims he’s going to “explode in happiness, and it’s going to to go everywhere!” That could be messy. Chris enters the audition room bearing a bag of gifts. Simon jokes, “That’s not Pauler in there?” and “Can’t we just have money?” Chris gushes that he loves Idol because, it gives people a second chance at their dream. Then he starts crying, because he’s so HAPPY that the auditions are in Omaha, because he couldn’t afford to fly anywhere else. His audition is off-key and frenetic. Inexplicably, he throws in a handstand. Simon appears charmed, but says the singing wasn’t good enough. Chris, undaunted, moves right along. He asks if he can audition to do “Red carpet stuff” and launches into a Ryan Seacrest spiel. I LOVE this guy. He’s adorable! Simon laughs and says, “You tell FOX 42 that we want to see you at the finale, reporting…tell them to call us.” Chris leaves the audition BEYOND happy. Hey–Ryan Seacrest already has a million jobs. He can give up one of them.
Jason Rich 21, Stout, IA – Keith Whitley “When You Say Nothing at All” – Jason works part-time on his girlfriend’s family farm. He’s a gentle soul who looks right at home in shots amongst the rolling corn. At first, he chokes, and can’t get past the first line of the song. Simon says, “There’s nothing I can say, Jason, you just blown that.” Finally on the third try, he gets it together and finishes big. It turns out he’s got a great voice for country. Randy isn’t sure he has star quality, but says yes. Simon says, “I will give you another shot…but I will never give you that shot again.” Paula’s still a no-show, but I have a feeling she would have said yes. Jason, full of potential, moves on to Hollywood.
Paula finally shows up.
More cross-promotion! The next bit plays off the FOX! Hit! Show! Don’t Forget the Lyrics. It’s a parody called “You Forgot the Lyrics”. And it features that Idol staple: (as in yawn) Dumb-ass contestants forgetting their lyrics…
Rachael Wicker 23, Richmond, MO – “Don’t Tell Me to Stop Loving You” by Lee Ann Womack – Rachel is a champion arm wrestler. We see her out in the waiting room demonstrating her mad skillz against men and women alike. Simon declines her challenge to wrestle, claiming she’d probably beat him. She probably would. Her vocals display a decent country old-school quality, but Simon thinks she sounds too old. Randy kinda mocks what he calls her “half yodel.” Nevertheless, he says yes, Paula says yes. Simon says no. At which point, it would have been fun to watch Rachael totally take him down.
Sarah Whitaker 24, Council Bluffs, IA – She used to be a professional wrestler called “Lady Morg” who’s main feature is a Britney-worthy English accent and a cartoonish, maniacal laugh that seems to frighten the people sitting around her. She demonstrates one of her fake wrestling moves on tiny Ryan, who she could probably knock cold for real. I have no idea what she’s singing–it resembles a demented show tune. Simon says, “This is like the soundtrack to this town.” Sarah responds with that maniacal laugh. “You’re just really strange, Sarah.” She takes it as a compliment. No doubt she’s psyched to be able to let her freak-flag fly in front of millions. Randy and Simon say no. Paula mumbles a hardly audible “yes” (!!??!).
Next, begins a bit that looks supah-set up and supah-edited-in after the fact. Ryan peeks his head into the audition room and asks why they didn’t “put her through, what was wrong with her?” A big fake discussion ensues between Ryan and the judges resulting in Ryan being invited to trade places with Paula. Simon says to Paula, “You go out there and pretend to like the contestants, and let Ryan judge.” Then Ryan says, “How do I pretend to be overpaid for doing no work?”
Samantha Sidley 22, Los Angeles, CA – “I Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones – This is a total knock-off of Norah Jones. It’s like she’s performing an impression. Simon asks her if she thinks she can win the competition and she says sheepishly, “I don’t know.” Wrong answer! Samantha seems to lack confidence. Ryan says (yes, the bit continues into the next audition) that she needs to “Stop spinning around on the mark.” Simon laughs and says he likes the performance parts. Right on cue, Paula bursts into the room to chastise Ryan, “It’s about singing Ryan.” Oops, Paula, then where does that leave you? I’ll bet Samantha’s thrilled that her audition has been hijacked by a fake bit. Ryan opens the left door and Randy yells, “Wrong door! Wrong door!” The fact that it’s not locked kinda ruins the joke. As a sidenote: Samantha gets four yeses.
A very quick run-through of some of the Hollywood-bound contestants follows:
Elizabeth Eckert 19, Springfield, IL – “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” – Decent, but generic.
Denise Jackson 17, Madison Wisconsin – Big powerful voice in a young, tiny package. Observant commenters noticed that Denise is last year’s crack baby contestant from last year. She also got into a little bit of trouble after her audition was broadcast.
Michael Sanfilippo 19, South Barrington, IL – “If You Really Love Me” by Stevie Wonder – Very soulful.
That was fast…
Angelica Puente 17, Kenosha, WI – “Power of Love” by Celine Dion – It’s time for a backtory. Angelica lives with her grandparents, because she moved out of her Dad’s house. She says he’s strict, and they don’t always get along. Then she starts crying and stuff. She explains that after she left a mini cell-cert message from a Martina McBride concert on her Dad’s phone, he offered to pay for her American Idol trip. So, he’s not all bad. Angelica sings with a powerful voice, but she’s obviously inexperienced. Simon and Randy both think her performance is unoriginal. Simon thinks she needs some work. Really, she’s the kind of auditioner that the show is supposed to be about in the first place–a “diamond in the rough” right? With reservations, they send her to Hollywood. Afterward, Ryan calls her Dad. When he hears the news, he calls it “Badass.”
It’s time for some cross promotion, as the next segment opens with a snippet from Daughtry’s new video for their latest single “Feels Like Tonight”! Ryan gushes about Daughtry representing the Idol success story, blah, blah blah, and how Chris Daughtry has encouraged “rawkers” across America to audition for Idol! Then we see a montage of the biggest Rawk posers ever. Yippee.
“And thanks to Chris, ” Ryan says, “We met this guy…”
David Cook, 24 – “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi – David admits that he watched Chris’s audition to figure out “some sort of competitive edge.” Would that edge include Simon saying no like he did to Chris when he initially auditioned? Gee, that’s time well spent. Maybe David has been listening to a lot of Daughtry, ’cause he sounds like a clone. However, nobody seems to notice. David’s faux-hawk coupled with an argyle sweater is…interesting. Hey, where’s the guyliner?
Johnny Escamilla 18, Scottsbluff, NE – “Shout” by Otis Day and the Nights – Johnny announces his weirdness right up front. He can’t think of who to compare himself to, except for maybe James Brown. Oh this should be good. While Johnny introduces himself, Paula hiccups loudly. I’ll refrain from making the obvious joke. Johnny, in his glittery gold jacket, is a sparkly, spastic nightmare. The old Simon makes an appearance, “That must’ve cleared your hiccups.” And, “In every single way, that was just everything I hated…from the jacket, the singing, the dancing, everything.”
Tonight’s montage of crappy singers is to the tune of “Stuck in the Middle with You.” Stuck in the middle of Middle America?
Leo Marlowe 23, Charlotte, IA – “A Song For You” by Donny Hathaway – Leo’s got a good sense of humor. He says, “My mama always said she raised a perfect homecoming queen. Too bad it wasn’t one of her daughters.” Self-deprecating and honest. I like it! Bonus: He’s got a really good voice–warm and raspy. I like that too. And Simon likes, he says yes. Paula screams, “Touchdown!” like a crazy lady. Could it be the return of wacked-out Paula? I hope so! Randy says yes. Leo gets choked up and asks for a hug.
Aww, what a sweet way to end the show.
In all, there are 19 golden tickets.
Tomorrow, the auditions move to Miami, FL.