Saturday, 11 February 2012

The One With A Cowboy and Heejun's Reservations

If you missed this hour of American Idol then don't worry. If you recorded it and are worried about hearing who does or doesn't get through here then don't worry. This edition had nothing but videotape of contestants wandering around, practising dance steps or harmonies and several being ill. Highlights were Richie Law as one of the Cowboys and Heejun's hoody having reservations about daddy dancing and Alicia Bernhardt thinking it was a good idea to yell "I'm a cop!" followed by "I wanna do Joy To The World" and looking surprised when people ran away.

You really do have to wonder why on earth they insist on this crazy 'group round'. Some of the smarter people who thought they knew what was coming had already formed into groups with friends from one or other of the auditions. Unfortunately for them, they didn't pay attention in earlier years as the producers' rules insist that the groups comprised some from one week of auditions and some from another. So everyone was back on a level basis to a greater or lesser degree but it was clear that the pleasant, amenable and those willing to consider any of a range of the songs available would find colleagues to get to work with. That left those who, for better or worse, either only wanted to perform a particular track or in a particular style and we get shots of one or two contestants doing the pleading and hoping and lots looking dejected and rejected.

I can understand that this device should reward the skills of those who can fit in, adapt and organise themselves well but are they really the qualities that a future artist has to possess? There must surely be someone there who may not have the nicest personality in the world, who is determined to present a song in their own style, who may not want to dance in some pre-ordained way and yet is absolutely brilliant and could sell, on their own, with no help from other contestants, millions of albums and have voters streaming to enter the right numbers on their touchpads in a few weeks' time when their own, individual performance and brilliance and unique style win hearts and minds. That's the Idol quality I expect, not someone who is nice and amenable. It's about the way they can interpret emotions in what song writers have written and, yes, for me, it helps if they look good but I couldn't care less whether they get on with other people or not.

What tends to happen in these so-called groups is that one person will dominate the thing, telling the others what to do and when. Amongst the others will be those who might also have done the dominating act but decide to play the subservient and keep the peace as well as those who need that management and go along with what they perceive as the general good for all. The dominatrix, or domaniatrice, sets themselves up for the fall and the stakes can be high as they'll claim the credit for success and be held in disdain for failure. It's still, either way, not an Idol quality but that's the way it has to go again this year.

Heejun Han, who we're seeing a lot of, had real trouble with his 'Western Cowboy', Richie Law. Richie wanted to do certain dance steps. I tell you, my 15 year-old daughter is pretty critical of my attempts at dancing but she would have accompanied me rather than young Richie any day of the week. Richie was instructing Heejun, or rather, Heejun's hoody, which was all that was actually visible on the Hollywood Plain, to wave his arms around in a particular manner. Richie clearly hadn't seen Heejun shaking it out in Part 1 or he'd had realised that there was no way East would meet West and accepted the fact that an odd looking chap from Korea with glasses and a hoody was more likely to be promoted as an American Idol than a tall good-looking guy from somewhere like Texas in a Stetson.

We watch Alicia Bernhadt tell everyone she's a cop and that she has to sing a particular track. She seems a pretty well-organised and effective girl but fails to find anyone until way late in the day. Another girl, Jennifer Walsh is ill, as is Amy Brumfield, the tent girl, and both struggle to get anyone to take them on too. How on earth it can be fair that people with a genuine illness, and many looked ghostly pale, get forced to carry on at this stage when it could easily be filmed over a few days and edited later for us to view as if nothing had happened?

What do judges, or we for that matter, learn about contestants' talents from this crazy exercise? All we ever see in this part of the round (and not even this much in tonight's show) is a brief group performance or two but we get very little insight into the capabilities of those we're interested in getting through. I would be amazed if there were not some very good contenders who suffer at this juncture through no fault of their own.

After an hour of watching nothing in particular Ryan announces that next week we'll see who does what. Next week?! Why did I bother watching this week - the week when nothing really happens?