It’s clear that “American Idol” feels threatened by its ratings dip and the increased competition, because the show added a new wrinkle to group day in Hollywood. In addition to contending with the stress of finding other people to sing with, learning the lyrics and coming up with some choreography, the 185 hopefuls who made it out of the opening round had to battle the plague as well.
If you think that nothing says good TV like sick people, Thursday’s “Idol” was for you. From the moment Symone Black was taken to the hospital to the final scene where the first sleep-deprived group took the stage, health issues joined group dynamics as the focus of the episode. All Fox was missing was a Hugh Laurie cameo, and they could have done a great cross-promotion with the final season of “House.”
(By the way, Black is fine. She fainted because of dehydration, went to the hospital and was back in time to find a group later that evening. “Does that mean I get a yes?” she asked on her way to get checked out. It did, so look for a bunch of auditioners to try the faint-and-scare-the-judges tactic next year.)
Amy Brumfield, better known as the Savannah auditioner who lives in a tent, was dubbed “patient zero” by the Ryan Seacrest voice-over. Maybe she caught something in the woods, or maybe the stale air in Hollywood was too much for her lungs to handle, but she sure looked miserable as she spent most of the night slumped over and feeling sorry for herself.
But soon, everyone was vomiting. Gabrielle Greene threw up in a plastic bag and was back singing shortly thereafter. Christian Lopez spent a couple of hours being sick in his hotel room, then wandered back down and said throwing up made him feel better. One of his groupmates greeted him with a big and extended hug, so odds are good she’ll be soon discovering whether vomiting will make her feel better as well.
But by this point, Brumfield was optimistic. “I’m not letting the devil play with me like that. Guess who’s on my team? Jesus!” she said. Also three other "Idol" hopefuls staying as far away from her as possible to avoid catching whatever it was she had.
In other news, Alicia Bernhardt looks like a top contender for this year’s Editing Victim. Then again, while I’m sure the police officer isn’t as tough to take as her clips Thursday showed, yelling at people in an attempt to get them to join you in a group does not work as well as it does trying to move a group of drunk college students off the street.
There’s also Jennifer Malsch, who had a meltdown when the rest of her group left at around 2:30 a.m. instead of continuing to work with her. In fairness to them, if people are yelling at me after midnight, I usually try to tune them out and get some sleep as well. Soon Brianna-Marie Bell came back to join her, however, which sets up the surefire scenario where one or both of them go home next episode while their slacker teammates stay.
Finally, it would be a travesty not to mention Heejun Han, the unquestioned star of the night -- not because of any vocals but because he was funny.
Han was in a group with, among others, cowboy Richie Lawson. Lawson had an ambitious agenda for the team, including things like harmonies and choreography and not standing around like a statue. It’s safe to say that Han’s quips made for good television.
“The Cowboy kid is crazy,” Han pointed out. Among his other observations? “Phillip had a kidney stone. ... Cowboy had a brain stone or something,” and “Now I have a very, very bad perspective towards cowboys. Even the Dallas Cowboys.”
If you were to tell me that he’s a plant from the folks at Fox and he already has a deal for a fall sitcom, I would not be surprised. If doesn't, maybe he’ll be the guy who replaces Ryan if the host walks after the season. The kid's definitely got the soundbite thing nailed down.
Do you think the virus will take down any hopefuls when the groups start performing? Did Heejun make you laugh? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page!
Want more "Idol" during "Idol"? Follow @CraigBerman as he live tweets each episode!