Excruciatingly bad television makes for fun blogging. And there was some excruciatingly bad television on Tuesday evening.
We start with American Idol’s Andrew Lloyd Webber night, which fell far short of my expectations. To call it “Broadway Night” is a little overstating it, because most of Webber’s stuff is solidly pop. (When they do a Sondheim night, then I’ll be impressed.) There were plenty of good options for these singers, but almost to a person, they chose exactly the wrong crap to sing.
The exception was Syesha, who nailed “One Rock and Roll Too Many” to the wall. She was flawless in every respect, and I hope this proves to be a breakout for her. She’s certainly one of the prettiest contestants, but she’s never been particularly impressive before last night. To downplay her success by saying it’s “Broadway” instead of pop is just plain wrong. What part of that song – which I had never heard before, by the way – would not be at home on a Fantasia or Jordin Sparks album? It may have given her more confidence to think she was singing musical theatre and not “real” pop, but if she can bring that same confidence to the rest of this competition, she could pull a huge upset. She was head and shoulders above everyone else last night, and, as Simon put it, she was sexy besides.
And, digressing for a moment, how much would it suck to be Randy Jackson? Everyone’s really only interested in what Simon has to say, because he’s the only one who actually says anything. Paula’s clearly the worst judge on every level, but she gives all the contestants a freebie, and her bloviated, scattered nonsense provides a certain level of camp value. Idol should hold a contest for viewers to guess how many shots of vodka she’s had before going on the air. But Randy? He’s a nonentity who has a repertoire of about five phrases that he uses interchangeably. How many times can you hear “It was just all right for me, dawg,” and “It was a little pitchy in spots,” or even “That was the bomb,” before you pretty much ignore everything he has to say? For me, I reached my limit about a season and a half ago.
And since I’ve deviated from discussing the contestants, can somebody explain what happened to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s face? Is that plastic surgery, and, if so, what self-respecting plastic surgeon would have done that to a fellow human being? He and Michael Jackson must frequent the same clinic.
Anyway, Syesha’s triumph was followed by the horror that was Jason Barbarino Castro, who, admittedly, has a voice too slight for most of this stuff. (He should have sung “Benjamin Calypso” from Joseph, strummed his ukelele a few times, and called it good.) So what does he do? He picks Webber’s biggest, showiest, bombastic-est song and butchers the living snot out of it. Randy provided his first insightful comment by labeling it a “train wreck,” and, like a train wreck, it was impossible to turn away. I have never seen a more pathetic performance on this show – outside of auditions – and I doubt anyone else has, either. I still think he’ll squeak through, because Brooke was just as bad, if not worse.
Actually, that’s not true. Brooke wasn’t nearly as hideous; she was just deadly dull. And on Idol, that’s the greater sin. Simon called Jason’s performance the “longest two minutes of his life,” but that’s not true. Jason was actually fun to watch BECAUSE he sucked so badly. Brooke was just – there. Flat. Tedious. Nothing. And she picked such a boring song! How about “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from Superstar? Or if she had to stick with Evita, what about “Another Suitcase in Another Hall?” There are plenty of Webber ballads that would have suited her perfectly, and she picks the most forgettable one she can find. Paula was stirred out of her stupor long enough to moan about her stopping and starting, which made little difference. The material couldn’t sustain what she was trying to accomplish.
Then there was David Archuleta, who’s “Think of Me” was just fine on its own, but such a missed opportunity! Dude! Don’t you realize that you’ve got a career ahead of you singing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the next twenty years? Where was “Close Every Door?” It would have killed! Heck, even “Any Dream Will Do” would have brought the house down. I also thought Webber’s advice about keeping the eyes open was decidedly unhelpful. It’s fine if you’re on a Broadway stage, but he’s a pop singer doing a pop version of a song, and all the advice did was make him self-conscious. He was still better than most of the competition, though.
Especially Carly. Sorry, judges, but you were wrong on this one. She sucked out loud. She didn’t have the range to hit the high notes in the chorus, so she did these pretentious little riffs while the backup singers hit them for her. “Memory” would have been a better choice for her, except she doesn’t have the instrument for it. At least singing “Superstar” gave her a chance to hide behind flash to make up for lack of raw vocal power. I’d like to see her gone, but Brooke and Jason outsucked her. Maybe next week.
Then there was David Cook, who, I think, took the biggest risk he’s ever taken by singing “The Music of the Night” and singing it straight. I don’t think he succeeded, really, but he gets props for trying. I would have liked to have seen him do “Superstar” or anything Judas sings from that show – maybe “Heaven on their Minds” or “Blood Money.” The Phantom piece struck me as an odd choice, but it won’t hurt him in the end.
Let’s move on, shall we?
Before going to sleep, we started flipping channels in bed and landed on Boston Legal, which is David Kelley’s latest self-indulgent exercise in creating conservative straw men and knocking the stuffing out of them. He had James Spader – who seems to be following the William Shatner diet – arguing before the Supreme Court, complete with grotesque pseudo-lookalikes of all nine justices who were identified by name. Spader’s character wanders far afield from the case at hand and spends a solid ten minutes excoriating the judges for their sins agains liberalism, and, at one point, even tells Thomas to “put down the magazine,” which we are left to assume was pornographic.
Mrs. Cornell was disgusted. “Turn it! This is awful!” Yes, it was, but like an all-Jason-Castro production of Cats, I couldn’t look away. It was so deliciously, enticingly stupid. Does Kelley really think the court would sit there and take it as some bloated punk lectured them about their confirmation hearings? Does he think that these conservatives on the court are really demons spawned from hell who cling to power solely to screw over the little guy? And does he really think that if only someone like Spader were brave enough to say “Up yours!” to these scoundrels, they’d collapse, dumbstruck, under the weight of the liberal brilliance shining on them for the very first time?
The answer is yes. Kelley really is that stupid. He’s incapable of attributing any positive attributes to his ideological opponents, so he wildly misreads how they would respond to his flimsy agitprop if someone were foolish enough to drag it into the courtroom.
You’d think he’d at least have taken a moment to actually review a real-life Supreme Court session, which involves far more speaking by the justices than the lawyers. Antonin Scalia would eviscerate Spader in thirty seconds if he started to ramble on about abortion and campaign finance reform in a death penalty case. There wouldn’t be much left of Spader at the end of it, and that’s no small feat, considering how much of him there was at the beginning.
Sorry for all the fat references. Today was my third day of personal training, and I think I nearly died. But at least I’m getting skinnier – in theory.
Political post-script: Yes, Hillary won the Pennsylvania primary, and, no I’m not happy about it. The only satisfaction I can derive from this wretched political season is the tantalizing prospect of the end of the Clintons. The Rush Limbaughs of the world think prolonging the agony in the Democratic primary is somehow helpful, but McCain still loses to the Democrats in head-to-head poll matchups, and it’s unlikely that his positives will ever be higher than they are today with the Dems in disarray. Letting the Clintons linger gives them more time to steal this thing, and if it’s at all possible to do that, they will do it.
The next president will be a Democrat, and if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather it not be Hillary.