Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bye-bye-a, Sanjaya

Tra la la! It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, "Idol" nation. Heck, just go ahead and cue up "Happy Trails," for Sanjaya - and his ever-changing coif - have hit the road, leaving in their wake memories of wacky performances and hairstylists run amok. (Fare thee well, ponyhawk!)

In plenty of ways, Wednesday's Sanjaya ouster was the event Season Six viewers had been anticipating: Based on singing ability, the sweet-natured 17-year-old from Washington state was out of his depth, and it was clearly his time to go. That'd been the case for weeks - indeed, that he even made the finals was both hilarious and astounding - but perhaps the cumulative effect reached critical mass after Tuesday's performance, causing viewers to finally realize they'd about had their fill of whispery vocals as thin as Sanjaya himself and should halt the joyride before it went any further. Simon, for one, made no attempt to conceal his glee at Sanjaya's predicament Wednesday, grinning ear to ear and holding his hands skyward, almost exultantly, once he saw Sanjaya in the bottom three. "I'm beginning to sense something here," he allowed, looking every bit the cat that swallowed the canary.

Yet even if Sanjaya did overstay his welcome, I was never really able to muster much outrage about his continued presence. After all, he was nothing if not entertaining - ok, well, occasionally just painful, but entertaining, too - a commodity that's been hard to come by in this lackluster season. Because it was readily apparent he'd be gone well before the finals rolled around, I figured there was no problem with a little comic relief. Sanjaya took to that role with aplomb, capitalizing on his big smile and gentle wit. And let's give credit where credit is due, because he was totally in on the joke. Now, with the likes of Phil and Chris left, I suspect the show will be considerably blander, not to mention less buzzed about because its water-cooler phenomenon has departed.

Otherwise, the attempts to fill space Wednesday began early and often - come on, did anyone really think Simon was rolling his eyes at Chris' Virginia-related comment Tuesday? And even if so, did we really need a video-clip filled rehash proving that he was in fact rolling his eyes at something Paula said (a much more logical outcome anyway)? Hello, manufactured "controversy"! Besides, Simon had already clarified the situation verbally, which on a half-hour show surely would have been enough. Despite that, though, for reasons I can't really understand, the whole package proved a whole lot more amusing - and passed far more quickly - this week than last, for reasons I can't really understand.

Seacrest again attempted man-on-the-street commentary, and if his attempts at banter weren't exactly a cut above last week's - seriously, we do not need two straight weeks of you making bald jokes when talking to bald men about Phil - at least he picked a busier street that actually appeared to have, oh, I don't know, people on it, including at least one bearded, neo-hippie-looking guy who advised Chris to "keep smoldering." And the contestants' group sing-along, to Jo Dee Messina's "I'm Alright," was harmonious and full of life, which is far more than could be said for last week's attempt.

Then we were privy to a zero percent surprising peek into the contestants' CD collections - what, Melinda and LaKisha listen to gospel? Blake is digging the new Incubus album? Jordin is likin' Fergie's "Glamorous" (or should I spell it out G-L-A-M-O-R-OUS, as she does in the song, haha!)? Well, Jordin, did Seacrest have a treat for you - a totally not live, pre-taped performance of Fergie singing some song (wait, I've looked it up, it's called "Big Girls Don't Cry") that for the most part lacked a melody. Still, not bad.

But that and much that came afterward was no match for the dizzyingly funny elimination theatrics. (If I may mention a still-notable omission: if we can have a show filled with 50 minutes of filler, is it too unreasonable to expect we'll learn something more about the contestants and their backgrounds along the way, as in past seasons?)

After Seacrest divided the contestants into two baffling groups - Phil, Jordin and Chris in one, and LaKisha, Sanjaya and Blake in the other - Melinda remained standing at center stage.

Being learned in things Seacrest, I figured I knew what was coming next: He'd ask her to walk over to the group she thought was safe, thus forcing a cruel, no-win decision. "Oh, Seacrest, don't make Melinda choose!" I thought. "Jordin cannot be in the bottom three!" But then, Seacrest informed Melinda she was safe, so she didn't have to go to either group ... right? Au contraire. "Now, I'm gonna ask you to do one more thing," Seacrest said, proceeding to ask her the very question I'd feared. "No! No! Don't do it, Melinda! Don't choose!" I urged. And she didn't! For once a contestant stands up to Seacrest! Or, rather, sat down, because Melinda plopped herself cross-legged right in the middle of the stage, causing me to feel definitely more than a little vicarious pride. Seacrest, to his credit, perhaps expecting this, reasoned "That's fair," and proceeded to ask Melinda to slide to the left - toward safety, and Jordin, Phil and Chris, leaving a bottom three of Sanjaya, LaKisha and Blake.

Of that trio, only Blake's presence was surprising, but not for a minute did I or anyone else, I suspect, believe he'd be the one to head home. Sure enough, following Martina McBride's gorgeous performance of her new single, "Anyway" - replete with beautiful, beautiful vocals and inspiring, prescient lyrics she directed at the contestants ("You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in that tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang/Sing it anyway, sing it anyway") - the show's resident beatboxer returned to safety. Left onstage the odd couple to end all odd couples, a combination that would make no sense in any context but "Idol": Sanjaya and LaKisha, dissimilar in stature, vocal talent and pretty much everything else in life, save for their status as "Idol" finalists. And, well, we all know how that turned out. (Let's hope it serves as a wake-up call for LaKisha, too, eh?)

After Seacrest lowered the boom, Sanjaya received a big, long hug from LaKisha. Then, we all got to relive "Sanjaya's journey," witnessing a clip reel packed with hilarity, including many guest coaches' musings on the Tao of Sanjaya. (If that wasn't enough of a commentary on his singing, I should also point out that his original audition was glaringly absent from the recap.) "Sanjaya, to me, is love," Diana Ross philosophized at the end of the farewell clip. Perhaps, but Sanjaya, to us, is gone - though definitely not soon forgotten, as Seacrest aptly noted. As his fellow contestants looked on, appearing surprisingly stunned and devastated by news of his ouster, he took another crack at Bonnie Raitt's "Something To Talk About," substituting the line, "Let's give 'em something to talk about, other than haaaaiiiiir" for much of the chorus. The look on Simon's face as that transpired? Priceless. Kind of like the whole Sanjaya experience, when you think about it.

That's a mighty long bend of which you speak: "Your results are right around the bend," Seacrest said at 9:05 ... a full 50 minutes before the results arrived.

Melinda's sense of humor, where have you been all this time?
"I gotta get my Jesus on during the day, you know what I'm sayin'?" she said while explaining that she'd been listening to Gospel recently. "Because when I come in here, it's a hot mess with these people."

One of these things is not like the other: That prankster Chris had a trick up his sleeve when he said that lately, he'd been enjoying Maroon 5, Jason Mraz and ... well ... "My favorite thing that's in my CD player right now - check this out," he said, leaning over to retrieve - wait, what's he holding up? Why yes, it's a copy of past "Idol" guest coach Peter Noone's album "Herman's Hermits, Greatest Hits Live." "Watch out for this one, he did, he saved my life," Chris said. Phil couldn't resist piling on: "I've got a couple of extra copies, if anybody wants to contact me."

Wow, that's totally weird, enjoying a musical legend of sorts: Correct me if I heard this wrong, but while explaining that he'd been listening to a lot of Willie Nelson lately, didn't Phil say something like "I know it might sound strange, but he's great." Well, actually, it doesn't sound that strange, precisely because a) he is great and b) Phil, you've said you like listening to country rock. :-P

Oooh, if we team up, we can't lose! "It's a chance for you and Corporate America to give back here and in Africa," Seacrest said, in another of his endless plugs for next week's "Idol Gives Back" extravaganza. Me and Corporate America? Wheee! What an irresistible pairing! But hey, Ry, what about that ever-so-effective middleman we call "American Idol"?

One major case of "American Idol totally topping itself," coming up: If you thought last year's finale - you know, the one with Meat Loaf, Prince, Toni Braxton, David Hasselhoff crying, etc. - was as bonkers and absolutely random as television got, the "Idol" team appears set to outdo itself with "Idol Gives Back." So far, according to the show, the guest list includes Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Annie Lennox, Oscar winner Helen Mirren, Daniel Radcliffe of "Harry Potter" fame - random thought, but have the show's Brits been, like, calling in a host of personal favors or something? Hmm! - Rascal Flatts, Earth, Wind & Fire, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Gwen Stefani, Il Divo, Josh Groban, Borat (what is he going to do?!), Teri Hatcher (even though she's long past that whole weird "making out with Seacrest" phase), Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, Celine Dion (now there's a guest who truly makes sense - no, really) and, according to Seacrest, "a duet you'll have to see to believe, when two of the biggest stars in musical history come together on our stage." Could this be the rumored collaboration with Michael Jackson? But would that really happen on a night devoted to helping underprivileged children? I mean, poor taste alert! And besides, even if so, who would the duet partner be? I mean, the world has already experienced him paired with Paul McCartney, years ago, on "The Girl Is Mine." So many questions, so many opportunities to say "What?", so many of which will, I suspect, be answered in off-the-wall fashion (no Jackson pun intended) on next week's shindig.

Mad for plaid: Even if he was all dressed up like Inspector Gadget in last night's commercial - to A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran" - Blake's penchant for plaid shone through ... sure enough, he was sporting checkered pants. Hurrah, Team Plaid!

Yes, that was ... Season Five finalist and Rockingham native Bucky Covington, who just released an album, sitting in the audience.

Unintentionally hilarious question of the night: "Paula, your thoughts?" Seacrest asked as the bottom three was revealed. As usual, Paula spilled platitudes until finally sputtering, "I understand why two of you are up there."

Seacrest, points for self-awareness: "I'm sitting here with your bottom three this week, and of course they want me to get on with things, but this is 'American Idol,' so I can't right now," Seacrest said roughly two-thirds of the way through Wednesday's show, making a hilarious gesture that seemed to indicate "stretching things out."

Seacrest, demerits for time management: Wait, how is it that a show that's pretty much all filler starts to run out of time, as Seacrest indicated right after his brief "Shrek The Third"-related interview with Antonio Banderas?

Precociousness in action: Martina McBride's 9-year-old daughter, Emma, who briefly shared the stage with her mom, sure didn't know the meaning of stage fright. "Martina, there is the bottom three over there," Seacrest said. "Yeah, I know," Emma replied. "I was talking to Mom," Seacrest said. "Oh, sorry, everybody's really really good!" the kid cracked back. "Thanks, Paula," Seacrest said dryly.

Seacrest, meet the competition: "Who do you think is headed home tonight?" Seacrest asked Martina McBride. "Well, I can't make that decision," she said uber-diplomatically. "America's already made that decision, and we'll find out after the break." Oh, she totally stole Ryan's line!


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you pointed this out:

As bland as the show has been this year, you'd think they would use that filler time to give us more back story on these contestants. It was about this time last year that we were meeting Kellie's Grandpa Clyde, Elliot's mom, Kat's dad, etc.

Don't these people have families that might help humanize and endear them to us as well?

Anonymous said...