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Cowboys, crooners and crazy shtick take over 'Idol'

The show kicked off with a cheap trick in the form of a faux-pology to get folks to tune in, but the talent mix that came out of Texas was worth watching without the fake Tyler drama.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

As warned — or rather, tweeted and teased — by host Ryan Seacrest, “American Idol” started the show with an apology Wednesday night.

“ ‘American Idol’ would like to apologize for last week’s outrageous behavior by Steven Tyler,” a black card boasted at the top of the show while cheesy, we’re-not-at-all-serious music played on. “Mr. Tyler has been warned and assures us it will never happen again.”

Yes, the much-hyped “sorry” was really an attention-seeking faux-pology. It should come as no surprise to learn “Idol” has no regrets about Tyler’s entertaining ways. It was all just a silly tune-in ploy.

Cheap trick, “Idol.”

And an unnecessary one, because the talent mix that came out for the Austin, Texas, auditions was worth watching without the manufactured Tyler drama. Of course, that’s not to say talent was the only draw.

What the cluck?
In fact, some hopefuls eschewed the traditional approach of, you know, getting noticed for singing a song. Instead, they chose to spend at least as much of their “Idol” face time promoting their goofy characters.

For instance, there was the alleged Seacrest-superfan who made sure Tyler and the gang got a good look at her best chicken impersonation. With a cluck-cluck here and a bawk-bawk there and just enough of Sugarland’s “Stay” in between, Courtney Penry somehow earned a golden ticket.

Hey, there’s no accounting for taste. It was a point reinforced by two other can’t-look-away-for-all-the-wrong-reasons performers, the annoyingly smoochie couple Jacqueline Dunford and Nick Fink.

After enduring the twosome’s campy and mostly unbelievable lovey-dovey routine — which went on for way too long — viewers were treated to their varied vocal talents. Dunford’s approach to song seemed to be “louder is better,” while Fink proved a respectable crooner without his partner. Despite the difference, both of them made it through to the next round.

Bad to the bone
But not all of the cringe-worthy entrants charmed the judges. A 7-foot tall felt armadillo, presumably containing a human “Idol” wannabe, didn’t make the cut. Neither did any of the other costumed crusaders featured in this week’s loser montage.

Also unworthy was the loud, bad and unaware Rodolfo Ochoa, one self-proclaimed “completely heterosexual” cowboy and several “Idol” wannabes who didn’t even stick around long enough to establish their own hook. Sorry, just-can’t-sing guy.

For good measure, the show also featured a rapid-fire round of the requisite irate rejects, bleepers and camera grabbers, but none them got much of the all-important air time they craved.

Much better
Eventually the Texas tide turned, and talent worthy of the state that gave “Idol” its first winner, Kelly Clarkson, made an appearance.

First there was John Wayne Schulz, the conveniently named cowboy who could carry a tune with the same skill he normally reserved for cattle rustling and “aw, shucks” storytelling.

After belting out a super twangy take on Brooks & Dunn’s “I Believe,” the tall cowpoke received a unanimous round of “you’re going to Hollywoods” while his proud folks looked on.

Given the fact that Schulz is undeniably easy on the eyes, he’ll go far if he makes it to the public voting rounds. Unfortunately for him, he’ll get some stiff competition from the less foxy, but far more talented Casey Abrams.

“Idol” saved the best for last again Wednesday night when the affable Abrams took the stage and closed the show with a truly jaw-dropping performance of Ray Charles’ “I Don’t Need No Doctor.”

OK, “Idol” bigwigs, just feel free to skip the rest of the season and give that man his record deal right now.

For the record, Ree Hines isn’t sorry about Steven Tyler, either. She’s just sorry “Idol” didn’t hire him two seasons sooner than they did. Follow and tell her your “Idol” regrets.