How to describe the Feb. 26, 2014, episode of “American Idol” broadcast on the Fox network really depends on what part of the country you live in. The “Top 13” were revealed last week and their first round of semifinals competition was broadcast this evening. Those of us in Houston and most of the South, have the perfect phrase to describe this season of AI-XIII: “It’s a big ol’ hot mess.” If you’re from the Northern United States, it’s a “walking disaster,” and in California you might even say it’s “fubar-ed.”
It is too early for April Fool’s and too late for scary pranks on Halloween; nevertheless, Fox continues to broadcast this joke of a show. Hey Barnum and Bailey, are you missing a clown? Seacrest is on Fox. Please, invite him back home to the big top.
Never in the 12 years of watching an updated version of “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour” has there ever been a reason to call 911 for someone to come in and fix this show. Scrap it. Scrap it all. It’s code blue.
Where to start? Apparently Randy Jackson wanted to leave the panel of judges, lest he be grouped into the ship of fools smiling and pontificating behind what Hollywood thinks is the young royalty of rock ‘n roll and ersatz country music. So he’s featured sitting by the contestants and you see him sitting. Then they broadcast Randy’s reviews over the song intros and the screams and yells of the teen-keen panel of young ladies screaming for just anyone who walks on stage. The upshot is that you can’t hear a word that our favorite record producer and bass man is saying. That happened only all night long.
The judges’ “panel du jour” features Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr. Keith Urban seems to have his countenance set and he wants to do good things, but whatever he says to the artists is a bit mysterious. Now, his opinions were not right very often tonight, but he's entitled to his opinions and he understands what he is saying. Good thing, because no one else can.
Keith Urban offered this to one contestant who had done a fine job on a Pink song: “You have to have yin and yang in your music; Pink had a good mix of yin and yang in her music. You had a lot of yin, but where’s the yang?” I hope the young lady’s parents who were there had a clipboard and a pen because they needed to write down the megatalented multimillionaire’s advice: “Look for the yang.” What? Sing, Keith, sing. There's your talent. Sing.
Jennifer Lopez is either watching AI reruns of Kara DioGuardi or Paula Abdul, or maybe both, as she tries to portray the upbeat multiplatinum artist on a panel, whose career is secure. She babbles enthusiastically about the performers, even when they are missing the mark, and missing it bigtime. She’s a lovely person and she just can’t say mean words. Well, “bless her heart,” as we say in the South. Up north that would be “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Hats off to Lopez for sitting next to “Conjunction, junction, what’s your function? Connick."
Memo to Harry Connick, Jr.: time to shave your scruffy look and dress like a grownup. You can, you know. You have. We are tired of seeing you looking angst-filled and burdened as you wrinkle your brow, trying to be a judge. Now "looky here" (that is how we occasionally say-and-spell it in Houston). Harry can sing New Orleans up, out, and into the stratosphere, and his performances are worth whatever the cost of the tickets. But as a judge, he’s about as insightful as Mr. Magoo. Enough about the judges, or lack thereof.
Product placement and marketing blind your eyes and burden your ears. First, we’ve bent the rules tonight, and you can vote whenever and however you want. See the iTunes logo and GooglePlay app advertisement so you can have the power of voting the show at your fingertips. Now there’s no fun in making America wait to vote. Remember how, before, you couldn’t dial in until the show was finished? Gone, baby, gone.
Then there’s the big social media pitch. AI: XIII is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Candygram, or at least three of those. Ryan Seacrest takes a selfie with contestant, Ben. Ben has an uncomfortable look on his face as Ryan smiles with all of his “brainpower,” because that’s all that the irksome host can muster as his talent—his smile. Ryan truly believes he is Dick Clark’s heir to the manor born as king of entertainment multimedia. Well friend, “American Idol” isn’t “American Bandstand,” and so far all you’ve brought America is too, too much of all things Kardashian and the soon to air revolting sitcom “Mixology.” Egad. His IQ tops off at the number of ounces on your Taylor Swift signature Diet Coke can. Really.
Oh and speaking of Coke, let’s talk about the "Coca-Cola Hour," featuring some contestants and a little band that plays for them as we revolve the hour around the big red Coca-Cola plastic cups sitting atop the judges desks, featured in every single camera shot on the judges. Then you have the 20-second “five things you don’t know about a contestant” setups and really, less is more, there. The less you know about the 13 final contestants this season, the better. Not much to know here.
And then Ryan says “blahblahblah....brought to you by Coca Cola.” I’d like to ask the good people in Atlanta to back up their Coca-Cola truck and pack up Seacrest for an emergency delivery to the Boardwalk in Jersey because surely they are one clown short of a circus.
To one contestant, J-Lo said to a female singer that she had “Dynamics and nuances in your voice that you used so well.” As we say in the South, “Bless her heart.” What Lopez really meant, but did not know how to say, was that the singer could not find the right note about as easily as you can find change under couch cushions. You just have to dig and dig and dig and hope there’s something there.
Fancy in-ear monitors are new this season, so that every amateur can feel like a pro, but Ryan said, “Some of our contestants are not used to these monitors,” when what he really meant was that the contestants were shown on camera with the monitor wire hanging from the left side of their heads like they were from Mars and one of their antennas was bent and showing.
In no prior season have we seen dancing, silhouetted string players, and we could have probably survived the next millenium without it. If you have orchestral players in your song, please give them a keylight and a chair in which to sit to add professional talent to your hoe-down and hootenanny. They deserve as much.
Meanwhile, it’s time to head over to watch the DVR of “The Voice,” because at least NBC knows how to not ruin a program when you have personnel changing in the judges’ chairs. Oh and this year they have finalists as strong as their excellent caliber of last season: Tessanne Chin, Will Champlin, Cole Vosbury, Shelbie Z, Austin Jenckes and others, who will still be on stage making music in 10 years because they’ll have careers. Plus Carson Daly is not annoying and they have four judges who focus on constructive input for the contestants, no matter who the judges are. Carson Daly is as smart as he is personable. And at the risk of redundancy, he’s not annoying. He’s not. Annoying.
Bless the heart of in-demand bass man and producer talent Randy Jackson. He should have listened to the wisdom of Dandy Don Meredith and “turn out the lights because the party is over.” After tonight’s broadcast of “American Idol,” quoting NBC’s new late-night host, Seth Meyers, “that’s the news and I am outta here.” Bye, bye American “I.” Thirteen is indeed your unlucky number and this show, is just one big ol’ hot mess.