Thursday, April 12, 2007

Haley clocks out

For a girl who in the semifinals inflicted the schlocky "If My Heart Had Wings" on unsuspecting viewers, later described her performance philosophy as "clock in, clock out" and proved incredibly consistent at donning the shortest shorts available, Haley Scarnato sure did end up sticking around "American Idol" a lot longer - and doing a lot better - than most would have predicted. (Me included.)

That said, was it time for her to go last night? Oh, yes, and she didn't look shocked about her exit, either. As Seacrest delivered the news, she shot him a knowing, "yeah, I kind of expected this" look.

Will she be missed? Like so much else this season, probably not tremendously, but her departure nonetheless made me wonder if she squandered her opportunity. I thought she was lucky to get to the finals, but once there, she stepped up - and yet managed to simultaneously oversell herself by wearing scant outfits and undersell herself by not emphasizing a voice that, while not terribly unique, was better than she usually got credit for. She did go out with class and style, though - wearing pants, even! (Joining her in the Bottom Three, incidentally: Phil, who narrowly escaped elimination again, and Chris Richardson, who after an impressive night undeservedly earned the third-lowest number of votes.)

But as the show began, my thoughts weren't on who would get the boot - kind of strange, considering it was results night, after all. Instead, I wondered "Why - how? - is this going to be an hour long?" Because "Bones" wasn't on tonight? Because it was Just That Important to run an extended version of "'Til Death" in the 8 o'clock timeslot? Sigh. No hint of the results arrived until about 9:30, leaving all of America to endure a master class in Seacrest's skill at dragging things out.

The "Idol" faithful received a random performance by Akon - the second in two weeks, actually. (Aw, come on, and they didn't even ask him to perform his oh-so-tasteful recent hit "I Wanna Love You"?) But at least that gave Seacrest a chance to play Dick Clark, albeit randomly, a task that suits him far better than attempting to play Jay Leno. His lame man-on-the-street interviews were proof enough of that, playing as if he arrived at the Los Angeles Farmers' Market and realized, "Crap, it's 11 in the morning on a Wednesday! There's no one here! I've got to scrounge something from this!" Then, we saw that one of the children set to be helped by "Idol Gives Back" had drawn a chalk picture of Simon, complete with man boobs. Oh, I get it - we're supposed to laugh. Later came Longest Recap Ever, followed by Seacrest toying with the contestants (He makes Sanjaya stand up! And sit down. And stand up! And sit down. And stand up! And finally he tells him he's safe). Yes, viewers, welcome to "A Test of Patience," hosted by - who else? - Ryan Seacrest!

Jennifer Lopez' performance, at least, was a rare bright spot. With its tight choreography, smoke, flames and J.Lo herself providing plenty of stage presence, it was not only, well, actually good and befitting a major star, it also helped me better understand how Lopez can sustain a music career, even with just an average voice. Funny, too, was how quickly she switched out of mysterious semi-diva mode and into enthusiastic Jenny From The Block mode, all without seeming artificial. In a night that contained more filler than a low-priced lunch meat, her presence was refreshing. And, I've got to say, the more I saw of her coaching session, the more I appreciated her.

Bring on the designer jeans! Forget - for a moment, if you can - the blindingly gold, fit-for-a-drag queen shirt Paula was sporting last night and instead consider what's been transpiring this season on the Ryan Seacrest fashion front. Once proudly, scruffily metrosexual - the kind of guy who not only didn't fear fashion silliness, but winked at it - Seacrest now favors gray suits Every. Single. Week. I'm confused! I mean, I don't mind suits, but is he going for Simon-like wardrobe consistency? Or is the show's stylist just using all of his hip male ideas on Blake, leaving nothing for the host?

We are (not) family: An "Idol"-watching friend asked me about this last night, and I think I agree: Why aren't we seeing more of the contestants' families and backgrounds this season? By this time last year, we'd already become acquainted with at least one member of pretty much every finalist's family, an approach that helps viewers understand and connect with them more. This season, I think I can recall seeing Sanjaya's parents and Melinda's family in the audience. So where's everyone else? The other finalists can't all be on hostile terms with their folks, can they?

Lost in translation: For a song whose title means "Let's Dance," the contestants' take on Enrique Iglesias' "Bailamos" sure didn't include much patented Idol choreography, nor a lot of other motion or verve, for that matter. But at least it was a fairly accurate reflection of how the show as a whole has been going this year: As usual, Jordin provided the most interesting part.

For those who've been living under a boulder recently: "Coming up in two weeks, our charity special - have you heard about it? - 'Idol Gives Back'," Seacrest said partway through the hour. What? "AI" is doing a big charity blowout? How'd word leak about that?!

Because no one else really provided it? "Last night, our top eight turned up the heat, with Jennifer Lopez providing all the Latin flavor!" Seacrest said, introducing the recap of Tuesday's show.

Ah, but how to justify the other weeks' apparel? After saying she wasn't really offended, but was still hurt, by Simon's snide remarks about her clothing and talent - or lack thereof - Haley attempted to explain her oft-skimpy wardrobe: "I'm not gonna feel like I'm gonna wear anything that's gonna be completely inappropriate," she said, later concluding her remarks with "it was Latin Week!"

"Surprisingly?" What?: "After the nationwide vote, LaKisha, surprisingly ... you are safe," Seacrest said in announcing the results. Um, what exactly was he trying to say about the kind of Tuesday LaKisha had?

Honesty, still the best policy: After learning that they were the week's bottom two, Phil and Haley reacted in drastically different fashion. Haley, with great frankness, confessed to being incredibly nervous. Phil, smiling as usual, was like, "We're just blessed to be here, man, seriously." OK, yes, in absolute terms, he's right - he and the rest of 'em are lucky to be on the No. 1 TV show in the nation, singing in front of 30 million viewers. But blessed to be standing in the middle of the stage, on the brink of elimination? Not so much; 100 percent diplomacy, 100 percent of the time can ring pretty false.

Yet another compelling argument for keeping the Sanjaya train rolling: "I definitely hope Jennifer Lopez felt our passion," Sanjaya cracked in the outtakes from the coaching session, making a sly face at the camera. "And maybe I'll get her number later, and we won't have to tell Marc Anthony about any of that." Whatever your thoughts about his singing, dude sure does know how to amuse.

Next week: "Idol" goes down-home for country night, with guest coach Martina McBride. Last year, the theme was tailormade for Kellie Pickler and Bucky Covington, among others; the year before, Carrie Underwood staked her claim. This year, it doesn't seem to fit any of the contestants - which could make things interesting. All I can say is, I can't wait to see how large a cowboy hat Sanjaya's gonna wear.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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