Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Elimination? Make that a double

Last week's "Idol Gives Back" blowout may have been American Idol's go-for-the-gusto attempt at heartfelt, charitable sentiment. But for my money, Wednesday's double elimination show was just as possessed with the warm fuzzies, if not more - albeit on a less grandiose scale.

Even if the episode did contain 100% more elimination than usual "Idol" nights, it also offered two group hugs, heartfelt proclamations of best-friendship, highly visible displays of contestant camaraderie, Seacrest actually expressing regret at the way he treated a contestant on a previous elimination night and generous farewells to Phil and Chris, two kind Top Sixers who, to be fair, most warranted a trip home. As edgy as a trip to church, as dangerous as milk and cookies at grandma's house, Wednesday's show may have been the follow-up to Rock Night, but it might as well have come on the heels of "A Celebration of Doris Day, Puppies and Kittens." Which, I mean, was fine, except for...

The horrible, horrible filler. OK, yes, on one level, complaining about filler on "American Idol" results shows is like whining about fat in a Big Mac; we expect it. But even given the already-low bar the show has set for itself, Wednesday's installment was pretty dismal. "Once again, we'll be stretching this show into a full hour, and I promise no filler," Seacrest said at the beginning of the show, making a "yeah, right" face that conveyed just the opposite. "Sure."

I can tolerate the falsettoed, attempted blue-eyed soul of Robin Thicke (son of Alan), who with his v-neck sweater, looked like he'd escaped from boarding school, and Bon Jovi's consummately professional version of their new single, the ballad "(You Want To) Make A Memory." (By the way, wasn't Jon Bon an awesome guest? I loved him!) But are the "Idol" producers really so desperate for content to occupy one of the most valuable pieces of prime-time real estate going that, while continuing to deprive us of those dear group singing numbers AND any information about the contestants' backgrounds, they can:

1) Repeatedly send Seacrest out for inane man on the street segments. If there's a reason for this beyond filling space, I'd be interested in knowing; this week, we were treated to Seacrest shoving a microphone in the face of a skinny, scared-looking little girl, in an attempt to get her to sing the chorus of "Livin' On A Prayer," and the likes of two ladies who call themselves "Blaker Girls." And really, if the Idol powers that be are going to make Seacrest head out to talk to folks, couldn't they at least send him to a street with people on it, not the World's Emptiest Farmers' Market?

2) Broadcast an extended recap of "Idol Gives Back," a program that aired week earlier and was in and of itself a bit of a results show.

3) Ask people to send in "answers" for the least challenging "American Idol Challenge" trivia question in the history of mankind, which is definitely saying something, given the ineffable lameness of previous weeks' questions. (Even Seacrest mocked it. Riiiiight.)

Anyway, as far as results were concerned, Phil was the first to get the boot, receiving his dismissal about halfway through the show. In delivering the bad news, Seacrest praised Phil's character twice, calling him "a very, very good man." Then, true to the self-fulfilling form of the song he'd chosen for the week, Phil then proceeded to go out in, yes, a "Blaze of Glory," or at least as much of one as a genuinely nice, friendly-seeming sort of married father of two could. He made the most of his last chance, too, working it on the runway, walking through the crowd as he sang, hugging the judges, kissing his wife and then heading back to the stage, where Group Hug No. 1 enveloped him.

In the next round of eliminations, Seacrest actually took pity on Jordin for psyching her out the week before and acting as if she'd been eliminated, and ordered her to sit back down immediately. (Yay, sigh of relief!) Left standing were Blake and Chris, and from the looks of Chris's smile, he immediately concluded he was the one headed for the exits. Later, with Blake and Chris center stage, the two embraced and spoke of their friendship, noting that they're "best friends." (Hey, they're this season's Ace and Chris!) "Why you gotta do this, man?" Blake jokingly asked Seacrest, before he and Chris concluded that the outcome didn't really matter, because "we're going on tour together."

The congeniality continued even after Seacrest informed Chris he'd been cut, leaving the show with the top four it both needs and deserves: Blake, Melinda, Jordin and LaKisha. "This is not easy, is it?" Seacrest asked. "It was worth it," Chris said. "Thanks for keeping me in this long." Then, he launched into another pleasant-enough rendition of "Wanted Dead or Alive," leading to ... well, on this night, you guessed it: Yet another group hug.

But feel free to spare us: In response to a Seacrest question, LaKisha pronounced kissing Simon Tuesday "good," adding "I'd do it again." The show then cut to the man himself, who I could have sworn mouthed, "I would, too."

That's "with us" as in "on that big screen there": "We also have R&B superstar Robin Thicke with us tonight," Seacrest said while introducing the show. As per the template set out by previous weeks' chart-topping random guests, he sure didn't appear to be there live.

He gets that all the time? During the man-on-the-street segment, Seacrest interviewed a girl who said she liked Chris Richardson in part because he "looks like Justin Timberlake." Judging by Chris's reaction to the whole Justin comment when Seacrest brought it up Tuesday, I'd say that Girl On The Street just officially struck out, thus ruining her (imaginary) shot with him.

Not exactly a classless society, eh? While the two most commercially successful "Idol" winners - Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood - performed on last week's "Idol Gives Back," the other three champions - Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino and Taylor Hicks (Side note: How awesome was it to see Taylor Hicks again?!) were consigned to soliciting "Idol Gives Back" donations in clips shown during Wednesday's show.

Sure about that past tense, Jon? "I dug up this old photograph/Look at all that hair we had," Bon Jovi sang while performing his band's new single, "(You Want To) Make A Memory." Granted, I know it's not the poodle-like 'do he sported back in the '80s, but it sure looks to me like Mr. Bon Jovi still has quite the fine head of hair, haha!

Leave the heavy lifting to Seacrest: "It's gonna be a tough choice," Jon Bon Jovi said as he surveyed the night's second bottom two, Chris and Blake, after performing. "You wanna call it?" Seacrest inquired. "Not on your life, buddy," Bon Jovi said with a laugh.

Next week: Blake and three ladies - Jordin, LaKisha and Melinda - take on the presumably disco-oriented theme of "boogie sounds," with the Bee Gees' Barry Gibb guest-coaching. Is it just me, or can you already hear Blake revving up his computer in anticipation, ready to cook up some beats? ;-)


Anonymous said...

No mention of Ryan and Simon's weird tension over the Simon girlfriend comments at the beginning of the show?

Anonymous said...

Actually, all 3 of the choices were NOT right for the Idol Challenge. Re-read the question.

ncguy said...

phil should have outlasted one o the 'divas'. the women have been pimped as better than the men since the season began and the steady drumbeat paid off last night. i hope blake stays in as long as possible lest we be subjected to endless belting, wailing and shrieking.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blog--I always look forward to your comments and almost inevitably agree with your views. The four who are left are all talented, and I'll hate to see any of them go!

Jen Aronoff said...

Hey, thanks for commenting, guys - it's awesome to hear from you. I'll try to respond in order...

First, I try to avoid getting into that weird Ryan-Simon stuff if at all possible, because it usually strikes me as just a huge, lame distraction from the matter at hand, not an integral part of the show. That's just my opinion, obviously, but it seems clear to me that Si 'n' Ry are actually friends, and their banter often strikes me as ridiculously forced. Plus, as you can see, I tend to write a lot as it is, so I figured if I had to leave something out, I'd leave out that.

Second, you're right - color me totally sheepish, but yeah, I absolutely misheard the "American Idol Challenge" and have corrected my blog accordinly. I was kind of tired last night and must have had what we here at the paper call a "brain blip." So, I guess it's safe to say you won't be seeing me in the audience, or as the winner of the $10,000 given for a correct answer, haha!

I'm not sure I can agree with the idea that Phil should stayed longer than one of the remaining three girls. He had a good voice, but seemed to have trouble connecting with the audience, and I felt like it was his time to go. Given that an even number of guys and girls remained before last night's elimination, it seems to me that the idea of the girls as better than the guys has not survived as strongly as one would have thought at the beginning of the finals. That said, I'm hoping Blake sticks around a while, too - it'd definitely add variety to the show, and I'd rather not be subjected to an unrelenting barrage of belting, too, truth be told.