Deciding that the nine hours devoted to the seven audition cities just wasn’t enough, Fox presented a special best-of edition of “American Idol” on Wednesday night. “Idol” is guaranteed to put up huge numbers every time it airs, while the other networks have nothing but whatever they can come up with that doesn’t require the striking Writers Guild. It was an easy call for Fox to make.
While some time was devoted to singers who were good enough to make the cut but not quite telegenic enough to get on the air with the rest of the people from their audition city, for the most part it was the Simon Cowell show. Apparently the editors saved his best barbs for the bonus footage.
It began with the first performer, Luke Reeder. All Simon could say after his performance was “Everything was slightly mad.” That’s a cliché for the British judge, but his put-downs got more creative as the show wore on.
Poor Tiffany McCampbell sincerely believed that her voice was a gift from God and “Idol” would allow her to share that gift with the world. The latter did prove to be true, thanks to this extra-special bonus hour, but if God was involved in her singing of “Hallelujah” it was only because she shouted so loud that her vocals were probably audible in Heaven.
“Does he have a return department? If I was given that, I’d give it back,” Simon said.
Bizarre love triangleFocus then turned to a trio of auditioners who took the stage in Charleston, S.C. It had all the potential of one of those sordid stories that wind up being made into a major motion picture starring Lindsey Lohan and the CW hottie of the week, but everyone was too bland and boring to make that work.
Identical twins Chris and Cory Lane came to sing along with Ashley Lawing. Lawing said she had originally dated Chris, and then Cory called her behind his brother’s back and things went downhill from there. Except that it doesn’t appear as though Lawing has driven a wedge between the two men, since they both auditioned together.
The Lane twins chose to use their audition time to challenge the Brittenum twins from last season. Freestyling with lyrics like, “We look the same. Kind of like the Brittenum twins, but not as lame,” it would have taken an extraordinarily glorious mood from the judges to allow them to advance. That did not happen and they were sent outside.
Lawing then entered for her chance, carrying a puppy small enough to fit in a pocket. Simon was instantly captivated.
“I’m going to steal your dog,” he said.
“As long as you put me through to Hollywood, you can have whatever you want,” she parried.
It looked promising, but sadly she did not sing well enough for Simon to even consider what he might ask in exchange for a golden ticket. “Can I be honest with you? It was excruciating,” he said, to her disbelief, although they all said they would put the puppy through.
Adding insult to injury, as she was getting the bad news, the Lane brothers were outside talking to Ryan Seacrest, saying that Lawing wasn’t a very good singer and would probably get cut. That’s the problem with having two boyfriends … when they’re mean, they’re twice as mean.
Extra success storiesTrue to its season-long theme, the show also gave significant time to those who made it through to Hollywood. In most cases, however, it was apparent that there was a reason they were left on the cutting-room floor and salvaged only for this clip show.
The most impressive performances came from two men taking advantage of second chances.
Chikezie Eze tried out last year and was sent packing, because as he reminded the judges, “you wasn’t feelin’ me.”
“You ready to change that?” Randy Jackson asked.
“What do you think I’m here for?” Eze responded.
And he did. Simon didn’t think his voice was very interesting, but Eze made it through anyway, giving Simon a few weeks between that audition and the Hollywood round to learn how to pronounce Eze’s name.
Nerves were to blame for Danny Noriega’s flameout a year ago, but the 17-year-old swore that this season things would be different. And they were, as he did a powerful rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” and easily advanced.
Several women also got some face time. Amy Davis, for one, gave a strong performance of Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou.” It was no surprise she advanced; she said she was properly motivated to succeed. “Growing up with a family lower than lower middle class has given me an extreme drive and ambition to change that,” she said.
That’s nice, but it wasn’t enough of a weepy tearjerker to get her life story on camera. No footage of her ramshackle childhood home or any other illustration of her rough life. But all three judges liked her possibilities.
Cardin Lee McKinney was less of a sure thing. She chose to sing “One Night Only” from “Dreamgirls,” which predictably caused Simon to call her more of a theatrical singer than contemporary recording artist. But the other two judges disagreed.
Taking on Celine Dion at their perilAlso advancing despite Simon’s lack of approval was JoAnne Borgella, a plus-size model from Hoboken. She was the rare performer this season who took on a Celine Dion song — in her case “I Love You” — and lived to tell the tale.
Alesha Stelzl was one of those unlucky ones … at least at first. She couldn’t handle Dion’s “Surrender,” but the 18-year-old reminded Randy and Paula Abdul of Dolly Parton, so they let her go outside and learn “Islands in the Stream” and try again. In the third most shocking moment of the night, she succeeded.
The second most shocking moment came after Stelzl left the room; Simon turned to his fellow judges and said, “I hate to admit it … you’re right.” The temperature of Hell immediately dropped below freezing.
But the winner for the most shocking moment came after Joshua Moreland, or “Jay Smoove,” threw glitter on the stage as part of his unsuccessful attempt to impress. After calling it “a horribly over-the-top, corny, revolting audition,” Simon noticed the mess and called Ryan in to clean it up. When an assistant took on the chore instead, Simon went over to her, grabbed the broom, and took care of the job.
Of course, he made sure the cameras were still on first. Not to worry. The “Idol” cameras, as always, were focused on Simon every time he had something to say. That’s what helps make the show popular enough to support filler episodes like this one in the first place.