Friday, February 15, 2008

The Most Talented "Cast" Ever (American Idol 7- Hollywood)

While most people are talking about the “talent” part of the Idol producers’ tagline for Season 7, I’m still mulling over the “cast” bit. Movies and plays have casts as do operas and musicals. People with broken arms have casts. Don’t national music competitions have contestants? Isn’t whatever talent that comes through the various rounds of said competition “discovered” not “cast”? Ryan’s repeated description may have been inadvertent but it’s a pretty significant admission. Idol is only nominally a competition. At heart, it’s really a show with script, cast, and a purpose other than just the shared pleasure of watching new talent appear, develop, etc.

That said, I suspect it’s not an accident that the various “ringers” placed into this year’s competition all just happened to make the Final 24. Carly Smithson, Michael Johns, Brooke White, David Archuelata, “Yes” Marcado, Kristie Lee Cook (you know if they have an Amazing Grace theme night, I bet she’s going to do really really well) each got more than his/her share of camera time all somehow without any direct mention that each is at least twelve minutes into the allotted fifteen minutes of Warhol standard time. It wouldn’t be that hard to just say, “Hey you had a major label release several years ago that bombed and now you’re here. What’s that like?”

They could at least come clean with Carly Smithson about her claim that a dog allergy had affected her voice. If you were watching closely on Tuesday night, it was clear that the problem is that her husband had tattooed her tongue blue. I’m sure it was swollen for weeks before it finally healed. And wouldn’t it be a great gimmick if she added a tattoo for every week that she survives the competition? BTW First law of tv, if they do a clip of her at home they now have to show the dog wearing its own pollen mask and with a sleeve of tattoos up its foreleg.

To be honest, Brooke White scared me. She sounded fine in the Tuesday clip of her playing Carole King. On Wednesday, they revealed Brooke White, emotional wreck. If she really were just a nanny I’d understand, but this is someone who opened for and toured with a major artist as a solo act not as someone’s backup singer. They also revealed her flubbing in the same performance on a song that’s not all that difficult though it’s harmonically not completely straightforward. If this is casting, her story line is the shy but talented one who needs to be confident enough to relax on stage. Maybe Simon and Ryan will take her to an R-rated movie and loosen her up.

Michael Johns is currently cast as the cocky teacher’s pet. I figure the script calls for some crisis to develop with the guy as the show unfolds. Maybe he can’t sing country music or Josiah Leming will accuse that Australian guy of stealing one of his songs and trying to sing it with an American accent.

David Archuelata is the ingénue. In fact, he looks sort of like Ferris Bueller if he happened to be one of the Brady Bunch. He's the guy who they think has the talent, but may be in the thing too early. I figure they bring Barry Manilow in to give him a long talk about stardom, talent, etc. and David emerges ready to compete “now”. He then develops some new node on his vocal cords and is forced to have radical and life-endangering surgery performed by members of the cast from House just before the final four.

Kristie Lee Cook I figure is the one who will make the really dumb move that threatens to sink her. Maybe she’ll sing “Dixie” on Motown night or some part of her outfit falls off mid-performance. Randy starts chanting “The South Will Rise Again” then gives some sort of gang sign. Then we get to see the other competitors rally around Kristie and help her out of free fall. She gets the axe anyway, but America winds up loving her after she helps Ramiele Malubay come forward and confess that she used HGH on her vocal cords.

Random non-sequitur: speaking of HGH, does anyone find it a little weird that Roger Clemens admitted that his wife Debbie got a shot of HGH (for an SI swimwear shot that included him) from Brian Mcnamee yet Roger himself never did the stuff? If you’re going to lie, at least protect your wife too. In the meantime, I think someone should tell congress that Dick Cheney used steroids in the leadup to the War in Iraq. Maybe then they’d actually investigate it and blame the whole thing on Barry Bonds.

I don’t know where Kady Malloy, who was barely seen in the two Hollywood days, fits in. Is she one of the ringers? Is she going to show up say in week 9 and amaze American by doing a spot on Ethel Merman impression? Simon then says, “You’re not as enormous and brassy as you think you are.” Paula insists on hugging her. Three weeks later she does Eddie Vedder then finally gets voted off the show when she does Fantasia Barrino and Taylor Hicks singing a duet perfectly and none of the judges remember who they were. In between, guest Idol Britney Spears has the most talented “cast” ever spend two days with her in rehab so they can get a real taste of stardom. On their visit, there are surprise appearances by Constantine Maroullis, Justin Guarini, and Chris Sligh who keeps a blog about his experience there.

Robbie Carrico, the former boy bander, somehow doesn’t make it out of the semi-finals. Depressed by the fact that his “last chance” didn’t work out and still desperate for fame, he makes a movie with Jessica Sierra called “Boys and Girls United The Sequel”. The same week, People Magazine breaks a story about the hundreds of homeless single singing parents left living under the Hollywood sign. Word has it that the males will be signed for a new boy band called the “Backstory Boys”. Every couple months, Brian Dunkleman comes by to interview one of them for his podcast“I used to be on American Idol.”

Does this final 24 sing better than past groups of semifinalists? Maybe….At least because they don’t have this one strewn with Brenna Gathers, Mykalah Gordons, and Bobbie Bennetts. As usual there are half a dozen semifinalists about whom I know nothing at this point, but I feel very confident that I won’t be thinking “Oh Geez, this guy’s not quite as good as Paul Kim.” Here’s the harder question. Do any of them make you feel like here’s a totally original talent with actual star quality say at the level of Marvin Gaye or Linda Ronstadt? I didn’t see that. I’m not even sure that I’ve seen anyone with the star quality of Susannah Hoffs.

Equally weird, Simon Cowell’s tag line for this year’s Hollywood round (fwiw I do miss the social train wreck of the group sings) was “We’re only going to take singers we think have a serious chance of making the top ten.”

We then spend half an hour following the “journeys” of Kyle Ensley and Josiah Leming. First off, Kyle Ensley, the bespectacled Oklahoma State student, was clearly an attempt to morph Clay Aiken with Kevin Covais. First he takes a page out of the Covais playbook and does some absurd bubble gum pop song (Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes was not nearly as good a choice as say Paul Anka's Having My Baby) then he auditions with the same Josh Groban song that Kevin Covais sang pre- Chicken Little. Tell me with a straight face that this was the last guy cut when you’re only taking singers with a real chance to win. Simon Cowell himself then endorses the “charm” of Kyle Ensley, “People Like you”. What happened to the bit about “real singers who have a serious shot at this”?

I figure they’re setting up Josiah Leming for some sort of spinoff show. Yes, he was sort of interesting. No, I couldn’t see him actually surviving country music and Latin night or singing in a Ford commercial with Tony Bennett. Also, his a cappella version of Stand By Me was in Sundance Head territory. It’s the perfect premise for a dramedy series. 19 year old lives out of his car while he goes from town to town trying to get his music career to take off, sort of Route 66 with music.

Am I the only one who noticed that they didn’t have any crooners this year? Clearly, Idol’s musical fascination has shifted out of the fifties all the way to the sixties. Nothing else would explain all the auditioners doing Janis Joplin impressions. Honestly, Amanda Overmeyer looks and acts less like Janis than she does Wednesday Addams. I swear the producers told her to have that car crash to give her even more of a sixties swagger. If she makes the round of six watch for her to be caught in Van Nuys motel room with a bottle of Wild Turkey and David Archuelata. As they hose her down, she tells the producers that she's having his baby.

Is this the most talented cast yet? I guess we’ll find out, but aren’t you wondering how they did the casting for this show in previous seasons?

Other Chancelucky Idol Reviews

Sir Linksalot American Idol articles



At 2/15/2008 05:21:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

I picked up on the use of the word cast too while watching and thought, now that's interesting.

You made me laugh pretty hard when I got to your assessment of the rock n roll nurse:

I swear the producers told her to have that car crash to give her even more of a sixties swagger.

I think Carly's husband was tongue tattooing several of the contestants that night.

Another excellent analysis. You're better TV thank Idol is.

At 2/15/2008 10:16:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Thanks Dale.

I do think Rock and Roll nurse is a fun character for this cast. I'm really not sure why they had so many Janis Joplin auditions this year, though it was good to have a break from the Sinatra wannabes.

Perhaps Paula will faint or something during one of Rock and Roll nurse's performances and she'll jump out of character and have to do CPR. That would be great tv.

At 2/17/2008 06:00:00 PM, Blogger Tanya Espanya said...

A couple of them had the blue tongue so we figured they're offering them mints or something...minty blue!

At 2/19/2008 08:37:00 AM, Blogger Gifted Typist said...

I'm an Idol first timer this season (is there a name for us?) but I did have to wonder if car crashes, family deaths and homelessness were not criteria, you know, to tug the heart strings a little.

At 2/19/2008 08:51:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

You might be right. I'll have to keep an eye out in future weeks to see if they also have green or orange tongues. Personally, I like the tatoo theory better. It's a good reason to keep watching, don't you think?

Gifted Typist,
thanks for coming by. The show is big on the "backstory". They try to give each performer a hook so the audience can remember them. I think all the dead parents and similar struggels is really a sign that reality tv's roots are actually in soap opera rather than the kind with Aida and Die Meistersinger.


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