American Idol went to bed and woke up the younger, poorer cousin of Star Search: America’s Most Talented Kid.
Everything about this show feels third-rate, from host Mario Lopez to the first panel of celebrity judges: Lance Bass (failed popstar cosmonaut), Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady from TV’s Brady Bunch) and Sisqo (flash-in-the-pan singer of the “Thong Song”). Scrapped space mission or no, though, I’ll still watch any schlock that Lance tries to sell me. Brad, sadly, got mired in my enthusiasm.
The show begins with Mario and his dimples enthusiastically intoning the show’s rules in some bizarre game-show voice that sounds nothing like the one he had on Saved by the Bell.
Brad: He’s sold his soul to the evil game-show demon.
Åmanda: He’s going to scare the children. The children are scared.
Brad: The schmo is… it’s overwhelming. It’s like he said, “I need 10,000 cc’s of schmo, STAT!”
Mario introduces the judges. Sisqo shows everyone that his hair in now red, and the crowd cheers for no reason at all. Maureen is introduced with the everlasting “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” and looks as annoyed as she should be. Lance says he still hopes to go to space in a couple of years. I notice that his shirt is far more buttoned than during any other appearance in the last three months. Way to give to the kids, Lance.
Brad: Wouldn’t it be great if Lance were the Simon? He would say, “This is terrible! Terrible! I’ve never heard anything so terrible!”
The first category is ages 3-7. My poor husband curls up into a ball and grimaces.
Brad: This is the worst thing ever. You can quote me on that.
Åmanda: Don’t worry, honey. It’s only an hour long.
Brad: An hour? It’s an hour? I can maybe stand 20 minutes. Maybe.
Brandy, age six, is the first contestant. Mario stoops down to greet her, and Lance watches his ass. Brandy is wearing one of those tuxedo leotards that the Rockettes sometimes wear. She’s also missing a lot of teeth. She smiles and performs, and Brad points out how creepy it is that she looks either six or 86, depending on how the camera catches her. When she joins her mother with Mario, we learn that Brandy was born on the living room floor. Well, that explains it. Each judge gives Brandy a score for talent and showmanship. Because she’s the first performer, she’s automatically in first place.
Contestant number two already has a stage name: Lil Max$o. I didn’t make that up, and the dollar sign isn’t a typo. Lil Max$o and his dad wrote a rap together, which Lil M performs. He’s five years old and, admittedly, cute. He grabs his crotch like a real pro, and makes the audience do a little call and repeat. They love him. So do the judges. He demolishes Brandy’s score, and Brandy’s mother looks displeased. Brad points out that Brandy is too young to realize just how much she got creamed. Poor Brandy. Buh-bye.
Remember that Whitney Houston song, “The Greatest Love of All”? Seven-year-old Tommi sings that. Her dad sits behind her on the stage proudly and cries. Tommi has listened to a lot of Christina Aguilera, and tries to make her voice growly on the really emotional parts. I think that it will probably ruin her voice before she even has a chance to develop it. When asked by Mario, Tommi lists off all the things she wants to be when she grows up: Writer, singer, producer, director, actress, yadda. It is clear that she has been properly groomed in Girl Power, but her score can’t hold a candle to Lil Max$o. He advances to the finals.
Then there’s a part where the judges get to talk about what they liked/didn’t about the competitors. Sisqo liked Lil Max$o’s moves, and his super-fly sneakers. Maureen just wants to give them all big hugs. I forget what Lance said, because he was using his “I’m paying a lot of attention” face, and it gets me every time. I think he talked about how he didn’t even remember being five. Aww!
Åmanda: I think Marcia Brady is the Paula Abdul. She just thinks they’re all so CUTE!
Brad: This show is terrible.
Åmanda: And Lance really is the Simon! He low-balled that little Tommi.
Brad: Terrible. And you can quote me on that, too.
Åmanda: So that leaves Sisqo to be Randy. But that just seems so obvious.
The second set of kids is the tweens. The first contestant is 10-year-old Devin, and he tap dances to Michael Jackson. There is nothing snarky to say about him, because he’s really good. Sisqo makes a “Holy wow!” face and Lance leads the clapping/chair dancing. Devin’s scores are really high. Twelve-year-old Joanna has her job cut out for her. She sings a song, but I didn’t write down what it was. The only interesting thing about her is her mother, who looks like she should probably be at an anti-war rally somewhere. Very salt of the earth, if you know what I’m saying. Joanna tells Mario that if she can’t be a singer she wants to grow up to be a civil rights lawyer for Native Americans. This confirms my instinct about her mom. Joanna doesn’t score high enough to beat Devin, to the surprise of no one.
The final tween contestant is Jack. Jack is 12, and he loves both Jimi Hendrix and Albert Einstein. In fact, he plays “Purple Haze” on the guitar as his talent. His balding father is so obviously living vicariously through him that I have a flash of Lynn Harless, Justin Timberlake’s vicariously-living mother. Throughout the performance, the judges struggle to look impressed. When Jack pulls off one particularly difficult-sounding riff, poor Lance can’t decide whether he’s amused or confused. The camera catches both. Before the judges enter their scores, the camera shows Lance talking to Maureen and Sisqo. I pretend that he’s already done the math in his head, and he’s telling them what scores to give so that Jack won’t cry, but won’t win, either. In the end, Jack doesn’t beat Devin, but unlike Brandy he’s old enough to realize that he’s a big loser.
Each time the shows goes to commercial, Mario introduces a not-entertaining clip of the audition process. This time, it’s the gayest. kid. ever. Singing “The Twist.”
Åmanda: That kid is so gay. He’s. Look at him!
Brad: That’s just mean.
Åmanda: It’s too bad there’s no Mickey Mouse Club anymore, because he was born for it. He could be the next Justin Timberlake!
Brad: Yeah. No. He’s no Justin Timberlake.
(Off topic: There was also a commercial for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which touted 19 new scenes. Maybe it’ll have more Ron Weasley! I love Ron Weasely! “And maybe his voice will crack in every single new scene,” Brad said.)
Last up are the teenagers. I pretty much expect they’ll all be really good, because at this point in someone’s life, they’ve had plenty of time to develop their talent. The first contestant, 14-year-old Kasey, is wearing a spangly blue evening gown that is way too old for her. She chose to sing “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera, and let me tell you, she’s no Christina. She does have nice skin, and a bunch of crying aunts in the audience. Sisqo gives her high scores, while Lance gives her pity scores of 9.3 or something.
Brad: Sisqo is really the Paula Abdul. He’s giving even the crappy kids good scores.
Next up is Jared, 13. He’s a skinny white kid with gelled spiky hair from Washington (but with a soul from the South, Mario tells us), and he’s singing… Wait for it… “We Shall Overcome.” This sends Brad into peals of laughter. Tears start leaking from his eyes and he clutches his sides.
Brad: This is awful. God, it’s so awful. It’s… it’s wrong.
Everyone on the judging panel looks just as appalled.
Brad: You know Lance is sitting there thinking, “Okay. I’m FROM the South, and I know that white boys with spiky blond hair should not be singing this song.”
Poor Jared continues. Everyone in the audience is looking on with horror except for his family. Brad hopes that Sisqo can at least see some irony in the performance. He then makes another Justin Timberlake comment, as Justin has apparently become the litmus test for child performers. Jared’s song has the back-up track from hell.
Brad: Now, THIS kid is gay. Maybe he thought the gay people would overcome. Maybe that’s what he’s singing about. Because, you know…
And then he laughs some more, until the song is over and Jared is safely escorted off the stage.
The final performer of the evening is 15-year-old Diana. Diana has hot-rolled her hair, and she’s wearing a black sequined outfit like the ones the performers wear in Branson, Missouri. She sings an Aretha Franklin song, and she is amazing. Before she’s even half done, it is obvious that she’s going to win. In fact, she has the highest score of the night. She deserves it.
As closing comments, all the judges talk about how TALENTED the kids are and how DEDICATED they are and how AMAZING it is that they are so DRIVEN. It’s nauseating until Lance does a little shimmy with his shoulders – then all is right with the world until the credits roll, and an announcer with a booming voice scarier than Mario’s says, “Mario Lopez can also be seen hosting Pet Star on Animal Planet!”
Next week: Lance is back as the only returning celebrity judge! Will he still sneak glances at Mario’s ass? Stay tuned.