Friday, 27 January 2012

This ... ISS rubbish. Take it away, Ryan.

Texas. Houston. Cue man in the International Space Station. I should have guessed, although the poor folk in Aspen must have wondered why they didn't get some cool link-up. "Take It Away, Ryan" says the ISS man which Ryan duly does. However, he might have been better taking the whole show away as this was, with just a couple of exceptions, a terrible bunch of audition screenings.

The start was nonsense from Phong Vu. A load of production going on for no purpose whatsoever. If viewing numbers have dropped for this Season 11 then this would explain why and many will have switched channels in the first 4 minutes.

This was followed by four more complete horrors.

Then we have the I Kill Deer girl, doing an impressive bit of driving on a king-sized Quad. Skylar Laine isn't going to get much support for the deer comment. Oh, it's America. Maybe she will then. Hell On Heels was well sung and she gets through without kissing Steven. But she brings on an enormously tall friend who does.

Five years ago, a 16 year old Baylie Brown made Hollywood in season 6 and I remember being disappointed that she didn't make it through further. She returns now and, at last, someone good. Nice job of Bon Jovi's Bed Of Roses and we will definitely be seeing a lot more of her in weeks to come.

Kristine Osorio also gets through with Adele's One And Only but I don't see her going much further. She's OK but nothing memorable.

We then have an extraordinary batch of strange decisions, with Steven and Randy either rejecting or accepting people and Jennifer taking the opposite view in each case. And, in each case, she does seem to be right. You can only feel a bit sorry for the ones who have missed a chance to do well in Hollywood, especially when they see the recordings of who did get through in the previous show.

Ryan looks around for someone who might reunite the judges. He needs a complete prat and finds one called Alejandro. Cue Lady Gaga track. Prat talks about revolution. Total bollocks. Now, if he'd had a go at the Beatles' Revolution it might have been worth showing the clip but those who switched 4 minutes in really haven't missed anything other than Baylie who'll they see soon enough again anyway. Big Bouncer Guy comes and shoos him off the stage. 

Cortez Shaw comes to the rescue of this dire night with a decent version of Adele's Someone Like You. Although that was only thanks to Jennifer holding Randy's arm down when he was trying to stop the guy after a few bars.

Oh dear, back to rubbish with two idiot girls, Julie and Vanessa and Ramiro, who was probably a man but equally dreadful. This is painful stuff.

Ramiro Garcia is up last and you're praying that he's good. Amazing Grace. Not that good on the high notes but he gets put through. That's as far as he'll get and if that's the best they had from the rest to close this round with then they may be well advised to skip Houston next year. 

This is ... The Tyler More Show?

A 47 year old aircraft carrier was the venue for the San Diego round of auditions. Cue Top Gun tracks. I'm not too sure why this was chosen but, as rumour has it that the new Dear Leader of North Korea follows the programme, lots of aircraft zooming around and defence kit in evidence may have been intended to persuade him not to nuke the States just yet.

The new logo is slowly being introduced too, this week much more in evidence and the old one's transparency settings increased so that it looks like a ghost plate next to the new one.

Ryan Seacrest announces that 'the judges feel the need for speed' which meant either that thought they were in for a tough set of auditions or they thought the proximity of all that zooming stuff would boost their talent-spotting skills somehow.

In all honesty, the way this first day of Week 2 went, one only had to turn up looking cute and be female and willing to flirt with Steven Tyler and you got the yellow Hollywood ticket. There were few exceptions tonight so, just to start off safely, they started off by rejecting an extremely attractive bikini-clad girl called Jennifer. You had to smile at Steven's first question to her: "What are you wearing exactly?". It was the exactly that stayed in my mind, as no doubt it would have done Steven's had it not been for the next 30 pretty girls that came along, albeit not in bikinis.

Next came Ashley Robins. Yes. Sang I Will Always Love You and sang it well. A smart-looking girl but someone needs to advise her to avoid overdoing the rouge next time as the bright red mark on the cheek looked like a rash. Straight through and deserved that.

JayRay Gibson was a bloke, for a change. a cheerful chap. Not "mad mad good" as Randy said. OK. That's all. He and a pile more we only get glimpses of fly through to the next round. So too does Aubrey Deckmeyer who seemed to more interested in being American Top Model than Idol but at least she got the first few and last syllables right. She had a light singing tone and was, again, OK and probably wouldn't have made it on a normal day but this was no ordinary day. Planes were flying past and ships horns blowing so matbe the judges couldn't hear much anyway and that may explain it.

Alexis Shields comes in and looks like a cheerleader with a pink cardigan. She tried rapping something which was terrible. As she's very pretty she gets another chance and tries singing. "She clearly can't sing either", I think to myself. "You can sing!" announces Randy. "Amazing!" He continues. Hollywood?? Good grief, what has come over them? She was a nice girl but... And even her family seem surprised afterwards.

Kyle Crews - now there's a name - was a clean, well-scrubbed well-fed-looking student. The type that often turns out bad in movies but gets all the girls at the start. He is boring. But gets through. Good grief.

As we watch a few of the failures come and go one clip stands out. Steven announcing: "I didn't spend four hours in make-up to listen to this bullshit!" This really is turning into the Tyler More Show.

Now we get the long back story, old photos of a little girl and you kinda guess that someone good is coming up. So, ah... it's Jim Carrey's daughter, Jane Carrey. That's why we get the intro and build up. However, she's not that good after all but better than a lot that they've alreday put through so off she goes too. I expect Hollywood will be pretty familiar to her anyway and I doubt whether it'll cost the producers much at all and she'll add some interest to the next round.

More girls are shown getting through. All pretty.

Jason Hamlin appears. Seems he's also called Wolf. He kicks off with a decent version of Creedence's Midnight Special but as he's not a good-looking girl he needs to do another track. He comes out with a nice version of Fulsom Prison Blues which doesn't give him bundles of modern appeal but they are looking pretty shoprt of blokes so it's his lucky day.

Good old Wolf closed the weird military-based part of the show and we fly up to Aspen. Aspen didn't appear to have a handy aircraft carrier or girls in bikinis. They did find a pretty girl for Steven to start with though in the shape of Jenny Schick. "I'll take this one" announces Steven as the first contender bounces on excitedly. She sings Pat Benatar's Heartbreaker in an average way but she has lots of energy and did I mention that she was pretty? So, er, yes, she gets through. After kissing Steven and going off jumping up and down with even more excitement. Ryan says "Things are getting wet here in Aspen."

Curtis Gray's was a very boring audition. He could certainly sing well but whether we see much more of him after Hollywood depends on what choices he comes up with next. We seem to be rushing through the boys - I guess Steven doesn't make as good TV when they're on and we get Richie Law, a little guy with a big voice and Devan Jones, possibly one of the best so far. Both through.

Someone called Matthew gets them all joining in with Hey Jude for a minute and gets through. Finally someone doesn't get a yellow ticket. Talena Hedgespen wasn't too bothered and was awful. Haley Smith, on the other hand, nearly lost her job by telling the world what goes into the sausages she helps make in her day job up the road. However, she may not need to worry too much as she has a good, natural approach and deserved to get through to the next round. Not amazing, and her choice of track was poor but not at all bad.

Alanna Snare attempted Jolene and may as well not have bothered. Steven liked her name, though, and the fact that she served various animal's testicles in a bar but that wasn't quite enough to get her through.

Shelby Tweren is a bi-polar girl. We get told that for some reason I'm not sure of, as they'll make sure she takes her medicine in future shows. Excuse for a back story, I suppose. She's actually a good singer and interesting too - without all that. She seemed one of the few who could match the emotions to the words and performed well. We'll see more of her, I'm sure. Something tells me, though, that we're not actually seeing the real Shelby here. maybe a sanitised version for TV. As I said, could be interesting.

Jayron Jackson gives us a great original song. Nice voice and another worthy initial contender. Well, up to a point. I'm almost getting carried away too now.

Angie Zeidermann gave us a combination of rubbish and a good show tune. She's an odd girl but, again, interesting. her Blue Bayou was excellent. She's good, and different, but I don't think she's Idol TV material long-term. I think the rolling around on the floor didn't help.

Magic Cyclops was funny although Randy didn't seem to get the joke and Steven just sat there. Crazy guy had a decent voice but probably didn't do himself any favours with his act and not sure I saw any point of an exploding butt. Oddly, and rather obviously showing some production planning for something to end the show with, Randy gets up without giving any verdict and says he needs to go to the loo. They all wander off and no-one actually judges the guy at all.

That was a strange show. Unless there was someone in the fly-through bits that was stand-out, I suspect that we won't be seeing any of these people in the Live Shows. But perhaps some will amuse us in the meantime for a while.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Up Town Planking In Pittsburgh

Auditions Part Two. Pittsburgh. We get told it's AI's first visit to this town where Ryan tells us they have their own language. Cue some folk going yousall. Obviously they've never been to Scotland. Or maybe they have. I'm sure the good folk of Pittsburgh must have been delighted that their next entry in the AI Charts was a complete prat called Heejan Han (name nowcorrected, sorry) who doesn't come from Pittsburgh or Scotland for that matter but Korea. With some strange arm wobbling that seemed to induce the same effect in the judges (was that North Korea?) the guy with the big face then takes us all by surprise by not being as bad as we thought he would be. Having said that Hee bo was no Subo but, inexplicably, he gets through to the Hollywood round. Why???

The next guy is Reed Grimm. He doesn't come from Pittsburgh either, but Wisconsin, and sounds like what an illustration to one of his great uncle's tales might sound like, should illustrations have audio. Oh dear, he gets through too. We might have guessed - as there was the video of him as a two year old playing.

Then two more zoom through before I get a chance to figure out who they are.

Photo from You Tube
As if the show hadn't already got slightly silly - there had also been two mentions of gazillions for a pretty average-sounding guy - we get some girl doing planking. Luckily she wasn't the one doing the singing but it was still a bizarre sight of her laying flat out in front of Samantha Novacek. Now this girl can sing well. She desperately needs some advice on what to wear but then that seems to be the case for many of the hopefuls in this town. Surely Pittsburgh isn't that far from the shops that they only shop once a decade?

Reinforcing, possibly forever, the image Pittsburgh is getting for bad clothes and strange names is Creighton Fraker (shown on TV as Fwaker, the w possibly being a subconcious thing what with all that planking and getting Samantha's dress off). Crikey looks and sounds a bit bonkers but then so have quite a few so far and it hasn't done them any harm. Eventually, after being persuaded to sing something we might vaguely recognise instead of a self-penned ditty a duck would be embarrassed to have written, he puts in a decent track and we see someone worth paying attention to. "Let's big this thing down." suggests Randy, whatever that meant. And we get another gazillion which is definitely well OTT but he's through anyway.

And now, for something completely different. Eben Frankowicz. Yes, OK, not that different as he does have a strange name and it's difficult to imagine his school chums yelling "Hey Eben!!" across the school yard but what is different is that he looks normal. A cute kid with helicopter parents. Sings Ain't No Sunshine brilliantly. If AI11 goes down the neat choirboy route then he'll be in the live shows. My first potential winner.

Next up is Travis Orlando, back from last year. "Who remembers Travis?" asks Jennifer. Silence. "I do." she continues. That says it all. Obviously a Hollywood rounder. He didn't need the big and quite sad story to get through but it might have the useful effect of the whole of Pittsburgh now out hunting down his mum. He sang OK but isn't a sure-fire guy to get that much further, for all the emotional stuff.

Another 8 or 9 fly by. No idea who they are.

Shane Bruce. A good ol' coal miner and coal miner's son. He says the sort of things that you can imagine his parents saying at the dinner table. He wants "a stable life". You might be tempted to wonder why he's auditioning for something that would give him almost precisely the opposite but there's probably a cliché his mum would come out with to explain. We see, unusually, a video of the guy performing underground - it's not the underground bit that's unusual; I don't recall seeing many videos of contestants singing recently before their audition being shown. We get plenty later but not on the auditions show. Anyway, he sounds pretty good in that so when he struggles a bit with some notes on the ill-advised choice of Hallelujah you hope they'll give him another track like they did for many others. He had started off with the odd question about whether they knew the song from a film which may not have helped his cause. And when, obviously annoyed with himself for not performing at his best, he appears to have more or less given up and comes out with another of dad's abbreviated comments along the lines of 'gave it my best shot only got one chance' which might also have been followed by 'shall I go now or wait for you to judge that?', you shout at the TV "Shut up! You were OK. Sing something else." Too late. He looks like he's given up and the judges almost don't have any choice, despite his being far better than many others they had let through. So we watch him drift off with his clichés, expecting Randy or Steve to come chasing after him like Simon would have asked someone to do had SYCO been producing the show. Sad.

Hallie Day was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar. Until she met Idol. We get a lot of this girl's back story so it looks like we're going to get something special. She's also the last on tonight so that's another hint as they like to leave us with something good to remember till next week. It seems she joined a band and went to New York a while back but didn't make a great deal. Somewhere along the line she got really low and this girl sure shouldn't need to pretend the emotions when the time comes to perform. I was pretty underwhelmed by I Will Survive but that's mainly because I hate the song after it's been done to karaoke death ever since someone brought karaoke over here and even before that, especially by annoying, usually fat and unattractive women that you might prefer that they didn't. I was totally agreeing with Steven Tyler who wanted another song. "Why?" ask the other two. "I like watching you when you sing." he announces. Classic. I would like her to have blown us away with something else but then that may have reduced her odds with the bookmakers. She is another potential winner - but still a long shot. I'm just guessing but the Debbie Harry looks and obvious talent and passion ought to mean good things for her.

38 get through from Pittsburgh. That's 80 so far. another 220 to go. One of whom is Hollie Cavenagh. This was her in April 2011. Wow.

Blink and you'll miss some finalists. But not Ryan's double or Brittany Kerr.

As Stargazing ends on BBC we get to gaze at people who want to be stars on ITV2. Ryan Seacrest walks around, waves an arm and announces This... is American Idol and all is well with the world. The theme tune has been tweaked a little but it's still attention-grabbing and provides that sense of excitement - Series 11 is here.

Although no money has been spared on the set or production, it is still less glitzy than X Factor and there's a nice early emphasis on Randy, Jennifer, Steven and Ryan as the team working together on this show, not against each other as in Simon's show. Ryan is good, damn good, and if anyone still had doubts about how bad the host on X Factor USA was then they should be well and truly dispelled now.

No messing around, we get more or less straight in to the auditions which is also a nice change. David Leathers, 17 going on 12, gets to kick things off. I'm not sure why they chose him other than that he seemed pretty harmless. Sang in a sort of Michael Jackson tone without the star quality. You tend to get the feeling that the first one gets to stick around for a while so expect to see him again.

Next comes Gabrielle Corrubba and, with videos of her seemingly from the age of two to whatever she is now flowing freely, including a Flashdance-like shot, then you can see they spend quite a while shuffling these audition videos around and what we see is rather different to what the judges got. For all that, she's great and, of course, another we'll see more of as the weeks progress.

There then follows a series of OK people who all seem to get through to the next round and I'm beginning to wonder where all the dodgy people have gone, or maybe they've turned politically correct and won't be making us laugh at anyone this year. Luckily, Jessica Whiteley comes along and shows us that there are some duff people out there that we'll get to see. With her intro announcing how many baseball games she'd sung the National Anthem at, you got the impression that here was Pia Toscano without make-up, another bound for Hollywood. No, how the crowd must have welcomed the game actually starting at those events. OK, she wasn't disastrously bad and not funny either but I guess her take got included as she announced that she'd be back in Texas, where auditions were presumably running next. The scary idea of someone travelling from place to place obviously worried the judges who looked as if they'd like to consult a rule book on that!

I don't think it'll be giving much away to say that she doesn't reappear.

A remarkable Ryan Seacrest double called Shaun comes along and that's fun for a while. I'm sure we'll see him again in some light-hearted moments further along the line but he wasn't Idol material in the singing department.

There's usually some confident girl with a good-looking dad and a healthy-looking family around in the early stages and this year we get Shannon. Only 15 but her dad was some baseball pitcher that Randy was impressed with so that meant the whole family got dragged in to stand there while Shannon sang an Etta James number. In the circumstances she did really well, one of the best of the evening so far so I didn't feel quite so bad about the bizarre family thing.

There's also going to be some person with a weird back story and they found a great one with Amy Brumfield. Not only did she appear to be living in a tent but she also had the tallest boyfriend I've ever seen. Both factors would have been enough for her to qualify in normal circumstances, never mind how she sang, just so that they could do more shots of Ryan being shown the portable lavatories and we could hear more about how the forest bathroom works. She was rough and ready and I thought she sang well enough. Nothing brilliant but you kind of felt good that she'd get a decent bit of accommodation at the Hollywood round before going back to the tent, as she probably will, shortly afterwards.

Stephanie Renae had a limited range but was interesting and gets through, as does a mad Ashlee Altise, who auditions well, except for some stupid dance thing. Erika Novak appeared next and declared that she was destined to be Steven Tyler's Ex (I think I heard that correctly). She wasn't that bad a singer but got far more screen time grabbing not only Steven's bum but Randy's too, presumably being told she had to feel Randy's as well to meet some Equality & Diversity regulations. You do have to wonder just how the viewers would have reacted had we had some guy grabbing the famous JLo accessory instead. Maybe that's still to come but I doubt it. And no, Erica still didn't get through.

The beautiful Brittany Kerr did.  She deserved to move on to Hollywood but I was a bit disappointed that she didn't seem to make much effort to stand out, singing-wise. Nice but that isn't going to get her much further than Hollywood so I'll put the picture in now.

We then get a frustratingly very brief glimpse of several acts - I counted at least 4 - that were really good but no names or enough time to figure out who they were. No doubt they're all through maybe several rounds and we'll have plenty of time to see more of them another time. You might want to replay that bit sometime and check.

Phillip Phillips gets more time than most, probably because someone thought his name was funny. He could be the one that we remember as the one who's a bit like Scotty but isn't. His version of Superstition was a bit odd but when he continued to sing and play his guitar he was excellent. One to watch, I'm sure.

I have doubtless missed a load of acts and the magic number of 42, we're told, got through from this first batch. With some 300 reaching the Hollywood round, there's still another 258 reasonable auditions coming up. Hopefully, the producers will retain the balance of mostly good to occasional entertainingly bad in future weeks too. Save the idiots for America's Got Talent, please. Or some programme we don't get over here.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Thursday 19 January ITV 9pm

Series 11 starts this week with what I hope will be the best bits and not too many of the worst bits (unless they are really funny) from auditions in New York and Jersey. You can also follow me on Google+ .

Here's the schedule, taken from their Press Release

Welcome Back, American Idol
The incredible journey is about to begin as American Idol, America’s No. 1 show, returns for its remarkable 11thseason. Featuring host Ryan Seacrest and returning judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler, American Idol is set to return with a two-night event showcasing the nation’s most extraordinary talent Wednesday, Jan. 18 8/7c and Thursday, Jan. 19 8/7c.Auditions will continue with a special, extended primetime broadcast of AMERICAN IDOL Sunday, Jan. 22 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC Championship Game on FOX.

The show’s judges – Jackson, Lopez and Tyler – traveled to Savannah,Aspen, Galveston, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Diego and St. Louis in search of contestants with the raw talent and potential to become the next American Idol. Auditions continue on Wednesday, Jan. 25 8/7c andThursday, Jan. 26 8/7c; Wednesday, Feb. 1 8/7c and Thursday, Feb. 28/7c; and Wednesday, Feb. 8 8/7c on FOX.

The contestants who impress the judges will head to Hollywood and be put to the ultimate test during the “Hollywood Rounds,” airing Thursday, Feb. 98/7c; Wednesday, Feb. 15 8/7c; and Thursday, Feb. 16 8/7c.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22 8/7c, those who make it through Hollywood must then take the “Performance Challenge,” where they face the judges one last time before the top male and top female semifinalists are revealed onThursday, Feb. 23 8/7c.

The judges have their say after every performance, but it’s the viewing public that determines who will advance to the next round of the competition and who will go home. In the milestone 400th episode, airing on a special night, Tuesday, Feb. 28 8/7c, the first group of semifinalists will take the stage to sing for America’s votes.

The following night, Wednesday, Feb. 29 8/7c, the remaining semifinalists will perform. The competition takes an intense turn on the two-hour LIVE results show Thursday, March 1 8/7c as America’s vote reveals the first set of finalists, then those that remain will have one last chance to perform for the judges who will round out the 2012 American Idol finalists with their wild card picks.

The following week, the competition heats up when the finalists take the stage on Wednesday, March 7 8/7c. One finalist’s journey will end asAmerica’s vote is revealed on Thursday, March 8 8/7c.

RECAP (All times ET/PT)

Wednesday, Jan. 18 (8:00-10:00 PM) Season Premiere, Part 1
Thursday, Jan. 19 (8:00-9:00 PM) Season Premiere, Part 2
Sunday, Jan. 22 (10-11PM ET/7-8 PM PT) Auditions Episode (Special Broadcast)
Wednesday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM) Auditions Episode
Thursday, Jan. 26 (8:00-9:00 PM) Auditions Episode
Wednesday, Feb. 1 (8:00-9:00 PM) Auditions Episode
Thursday, Feb. 2 (8:00-9:00 PM) Auditions Episode
Wednesday, Feb. 8 (8:00-9:00 PM) Auditions Episode
Thursday, Feb. 9 (8:00-9:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 1
Wednesday, Feb. 15 (8:00-10:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 2
Thursday, Feb. 16 (8:00-9:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 3
Wednesday, Feb. 22 (8:00-10:00 PM) Performance Challenge
Thursday, Feb. 23 (8:00-9:00 PM) Semifinalists Announced
Tuesday, Feb. 28 (8:00-10:00 PM) Semifinalists Perform/400thEpisode (Special Broadcast)
Wednesday, Feb. 29 (8:00-10:00 PM) Semifinalists Perform
Thursday, March 1 (8:00-10:00 PM) Results Show; Finalists Announced & Judges’ Wild Card Picks Revealed (ET live/PT tape-delayed)
Wednesday, March 7 (8:00-10:00 PM) Finalists Perform
Thursday, March 8 (8:00-9:00 PM) Results Show; First Elimination (ET live/PT tape-delayed)