The SECOND episode, wherein every contest ends in a tie, and host Mario Lopez wears an un-tucked bright blue shirt straight from Lance Bass’ closet. Ha! I said “straight.”
There’s a different vibe in the Amanda household this time around. Having resigned himself to the viewing, Brad sits calmly on the couch and speculates on who will be the two non-Lance guest judges. They turn out to be Jermaine Jackson, who has managed to style his hair into a perfect square atop his head, and Daisy Fuentes. Mario tells “resident judge” Lance that they really have their work cut out for them based on all the talent they saw last episode. Lance lies and says, “Yes, we do,” giving America yet one more reason to laugh at him.
Jumping right into the competition, Mario introduces five-year-old Easton. Easton is a tiny child with blond hair, and he sings “Jailhouse Rock.” He tries in vain to swivel his hips, but those joints just haven’t developed yet. (Gratuitous Justin Timberlake comment of the evening: For anyone who’s seen the *NSYNC VH1 Driven, it is possible for small boys to have swively hips. Just not this kid.)
Brad: I don’t think he believes what he’s singing. He’s not selling me on the song.
Amanda: Well. He’s five. He doesn’t know what a jailhouse is.
Brad: And he’s only got one move. He’s no Lil Max$o.
Mario takes little Easton over to meet his mom. He pretends that the kid is totally the reincarnation of Elvis Presley, and then he impersonates the Verizon Wireless spokesman, “Can you hear me sing now?” It’s so unfunny that it’s painful, and of course Easton is too young to know what Mario is talking about. He performs first, so he is automatically in the lead.
Next up is six-year-old Kayla, who tap dances to Barry Manilow’s “Jump, Shout, Boogie.” I have to admit, I am obscenely pleased with her choice of music. I hope she holds on to her love of Barry forever. Plus, she’s really good. Her arms and feet are flailing around with every disco beat of the music.
Brad: She reminds me of The Simpsons episode where little Lisa learns to tap dance and her shoes go crazy.
Mario is less impressed with Kayla’s choice of Barry, and wants to know who her contemporary favorites are. She says, “The Jackson Five, *NSYNC…” Mario cuts her off and tells her it’s too late to bribe the judges, as they’ve already entered her scores. I wonder what she would have said for Daisy? House of Style?She takes the lead, and Brad and I are left a little disturbed that a six-year-old understood the concept of sucking up quite so well.
The last competitor in the 3-7 year-old category is named Arju. He is four. He plays the piano and tonight will play “Für Elise.”
Brad: Hey! No fair putting the prodigy on!
Arju’s fingers are barely able to span the keys of his piano. He is ultra-serious, and every so often looks at the audience with a very smug, I’m-a-prodigy look on his face. He looks exactly like his father, who sits sternly on the stage and looks sterner every time Arju misses one of the keys. The judges look confused.
Brad: Look at Jermaine! He’s thinking, “Don’t put a freak on the show, man!”
We muse that Arju will get poor marks for showmanship, but high marks for his freakish talent. We’re both stunned to see that he ties with Kayla. It’s the first tie of the series, and Mario explains that the usual scores are rounded to the nearest tenth of a point. To break the tie, they will round to the nearest 100th of a point. None of the competitors so far have even learned about fractions in school yet. Except, maybe, prodigy!Arju. All the points are rounded and so forth, and Kayla still wins. I believe it was the spirit of Barry Manilow who helped her through, and sing “Looks Like We Made It” to myself.
Now is the time in the show where Mario asks the judges how they are enjoying themselves, and what they like best. Jermaine says he likes “the zest.” Daisy loves how dedicated they all are, and calls the show “cute overload” just like Marcia Brady did last week. When Mario gets to Lance, he says something about how Lance must know what it’s like to screw up onstage and still keep going. In his best southern drawl, Lance says, “Why are you pickin’ on me?” (It’s almost as sexy as the “Don’t be that way,” from *Ntimate Holiday Special.) He then goes on to tell the exact same embarrassing story he’s told for the last six years, how they were on an awards show and he thought he was supposed to go out on stage, but he ran out in the middle of someone else’s performance. Get some new freaking material, Lance, I’m begging you. That story wasn’t interesting the first 200 times I heard it.
The first performer in the pre-teen category is 12-year-old Whitney. She sounds just like Patsy Cline, but Lance likes her because she’s from Alabama. You can tell. I’m surprised he didn’t say, “They grow ’em good down there,” like he did when he was on Star Search. She’s also working her show choir moves – eyebrows up, slight nod of the head in each direction, gentle sweeping motion with her hand. She’s so well put together that it’s hard to imagine who can beat her, until they introduce L.D. Miller, aged nine.
L.D.’s talent is playing the harmonica and singing the blues. His hair is shoulder-length and golden, and he’s wearing a big cowboy hat and an enormous turquoise ring on his middle finger. I think he’s a girl when they show him waiting backstage. They pan to his family in the audience, and Brad points out that they are all bikers. Indeed, his dad, who has joined him onstage, has long gray-blond hair and a bushy mustache. I bet he owns leather chaps. Maybe even two pair. Or “two perre,” as my homeboy Nelly would say. He takes the lead.
Brad: He’d be even better if he knew something about heartache, or if his voice had changed. Maybe that’s how he’ll learn about heartache: When he can’t sing anymore because his voice is changing.
The next kid is nine, and her name is Chelsea. Her performance is so bland that I barely even pay attention to it. Her mother kind of looks like my stepmother, which makes me nervous. I’ll bet she uses Aquanet.
Brad: She’s coming in third and her mom knows it.
Except that she doesn’t, because it’s another tie! Brad makes a noise akin to a wild dog growl.
Brad: That’s total crap! She was nowhere near as good as L.D! This show frustrates me!
It is at this point that I realize my husband has gone from Hater of America’s Most Talented Kid to Big Fan in the span of a week. He clearly has more invested in this show than I do if it’s making him mad that some kids are scoring higher than others. Suddenly, my realization that Lance didn’t bother to button the cuffs on his shirt (which has rose-colored flowers on it) seems unimportant. I have to get him to stop shouting about how L.D. was robbed before the first teenager comes onstage.
When he does, Brad covers up his head and says, “I’m hiding. This kid makes me uncomfortable.” “This kid” is 12-year-old Chris. He looks like a cross between Brian and Nick from the Backstreet Boys, and he is singing a love song that he wrote (which sounds kind of like Erasure). He accompanies himself on the keyboards, and sings into the same skinny headset microphone the judges wear. He is painfully earnest, and young, and I will admit that his song is okay.
Brad: I’m so uncomfortable. *uncovers his head* His dad is crying and – oh god – his dad knows all the words to the song he wrote! I can’t watch! *covers his head*
Mario tells Chris that the song reminded him of a girlfriend he broke up with. As if, Mario. Chris says it was written about a friend who went away, and Chris still misses him. Heh. At least one of them was honest. Chris’s scores are not outstanding, and Lance looks guilty for not giving him higher marks. Insert your own “Lance is gay” joke here.
Unlike last week, the judges don’t seem to interact much between performances. I’m sure Lance is offended by Jermaine’s square hair, but I’m sad that Lance and Daisy haven’t seemed to bond. I briefly fantasize about them going shoe shopping together.
The next performer is 14-year-old Carolina. Brad whips out his handy American Idol judge chatter.
Brad: She’s a little pitchy! She should get high marks for showmanship, but she’s not delivering the goods.
I’m not even sure what song she sang, because I was trying to write down her last name, which is even harder to spell than my own. Mario asks Carolina why she picked that particular song, and she says she likes the high notes. Now, I don’t know what the song was called, but I’m pretty sure there weren’t any high notes in it. As the judges give their scores, the editors treat us to a shot of Chris and his mom backstage looking very nervous. It must be foreshadowing, because there is another tie.
Amanda: Lance must not be doing his math tonight.
Brad: No, no. He’s doing very intricate math. It’s just that the others aren’t listening to him.
They don’t do the rounding to see who wins, because there’s one more kid left to perform: 14-year-old Aaron. He’s from Kansas City, where we used to live, and I automatically hope he wins. Then Mario announces that he’ll be dancing to music by the A&T drumline (from the movie Drumline) and I’m sure he’s got the competition all sewn up. Via JC Chasez, Lance is only one degree of separation from that movie. There’s no way the kid can lose. Turns out, he doesn’t even need that kind of luck, because he’s an amazing dancer. The judges look animated for the first time the whole hour.
Amanda: Ooh! What a moonwalk!
Brad: I don’t know. He’s moonwalking in front of Jermaine Jackson.
Mario joins him in the middle of the stage and busts some very uninspired moves. It’s embarrassing. Carolina and Chris wait anxiously backstage while Aaron’s scores are announced. They could have hit the showers early, because he beats the pants off both of them and runs out to center stage to join winners Chelsea and Kayla. It’s a big party out there, high fives all around. Lance makes a beeline for Aaron, just like I knew he would. I make noises about how hot he is, and then he moves on to Kayla, who disses him by walking off when he tries to hug her. Poor Lance. The show ends as the booming voiceover announces tryouts for the next round of the show – which placed 21st in the Nielsen ratings the first week, thank you very much.
Next week: It’s the last week of regular competition, unless you believe Lance when he says they are planning to add another episode to the series. Brad wishes he could be a second-rate celebrity judge.