Friday, 20 January 2012

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.