Wednesday, January 25

Ahhh, Wednesdays. My favorite reality television night of the week. I think a lot of students would agree that the promise of being able to watch three full hours of people making total fools of themselves keeps you going through 8 a.m. classes. That sounded more pathetic than it is because I really don't just watch TV all the time but I have an 8 a.m. on Thursday too so it's excusable.

Project Runway is one of my favorites but I'll have to keep you in suspense until later this week because it is an island unto itself and I can't eat, sleep and breathe at my computer just to accommodate your insatiable hunger for Tim Gunn. "Carry on."

Well we're still in the opening stages of American Idol, one of the first reality shows to directly involve the audience. Last week's season
five premiere brought in 35.5 million viewers, Fox's largest nightly audience EVER. It seems to me that the network is dragging on the audition process more than usual. You can't turn on Fox without seeing at least one Idol commercial. I'll be interested to see if Fox's ratings placement indicates an even bigger following or maybe it will be attributed to fair-weather fans who tune in for the embarrassment and get bored before the real competition kicks off. Any thoughts?

So last night's episode found Simon, Randy and Paula in San Francisco. It was the shows third consecutive year visiting San Fran, the only West coast stop of the auditions. The location is also the try-out home of third-year phenomenon William Hung. While I didn't see anyone with quite as much promise to make money off of sheer laughability, there were definitely some characters. A personal favorite would have to be Matthew "Wolfie" Paulson who compared himself to Clay. Why Wolfie? Well obviously, he just likes wolves. What kind of question is that?

His singing voice kind of sounded like a wolf howling too though, so maybe that had something to do with it. On his way out the door without the golden ticket, Randy yelled after Matt, saying, "I like wolves too." How did Paulson explain the obvious error on behalf of the judges? "They didn't understand my similarities to Clay Aiken," he said.

Then there was "all terrain entertainer" Marcus Phillips, who sang, rapped, danced and beat boxed...all of which were equally horrifying. Regardless of the joke Phillips was making of himself for approximately a minute and a half of fame, Randy and Paula had a good time watching him. Simon on the other hand seemed to be unamused. Randy went as far as to call him out on his mood several times throughout the show.

THEN in the absolute highlight of the evening, there was Shalicia Carlisle. Donning a turquoise shirt with matching hair flower, alligator heels and verrrry turquoise eye shadow, Carlisle did a mix of two or three songs and then busted out with some original slam poetry? It was worse than Tasha on Miss Seventeen. It was really that bad. So bad in fact that Carlisle was convinced it was good? The 25-year-old had quit her job so she could come out to the auditions and insisted that singing was her life. After having a good laugh at the thought, Simon offered to call Carlisle's boss to get her job back because there was no way he wanted to see her next year. The camera cuts to Simon in the hallway on Carlisle's cell phone saying in his famous Simon way, "She was absolutely appalling, but in my opinion one of the best salespeople I've ever met."

Stuffed between the bad, the worse and the ugly, Fox even managed to squeeze in a few auditions that were decent. Jose "Sway" Penala was the first to Hollywood and Randy thought Katharine McPhee had the best voice he had heard so far this auditioning season. Then there was Shawna White. Now, I'm not going to lie, when White walked into the room with her straw-colored pigtails and very unfortunate outfit, I was sure this would be another Beverly Hillbilly, Ashlee-Simpson-dancing joke. To my surprise, she wasn't bad for 16 despite her poor choice to sing a little Olivia Newton John number from Grease. I wasn't blown away but considering some of the other people that Paula let slide by because she couldn't bring herself to say no (making a mental count of boy to girl ratio as to avoid any sexual harassment charges, maybe?), I thought the 16-year-old small town girl poster child should go on to Hollywood. Simon disagreed and proceeded to leave the auditions. In the words of Kristin, "DRAMA! I love it!"

Don't look so shocked. The fit seemed a little staged to me and they spent more time foreshadowing the fight than it took for Simon to get into his limo. There are no surprises when watching Idol because you can't just wait and see all the juicy judge battles or embarrassing missed notes, you have to watch them over and over again during the commercial break. From now on I recommend getting your snack as soon as Ryan Seacrest comes on to signal a commercial, before they can ruin everything. Besides, Ryan Seacrest will never be as good as Brian Dunkleman. He has one fan and that's one more fan than Ryan.
Tune in next week as the crew visits Las Vegas, Nev. Based on the previews, I really do hope that who auditions in Vegas--stays in Vegas.

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