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American Idol offers typical debut filled with freaks, geeks and Scary Spice



Victoria-beckham-boston-320  Let’s call it American Idol: the Freaks and Geeks edition.

Tuesday’s debut of American Idol offered a remarkably typical start for the blockbuster talent competition’s ninth season – especially given all the controversy surrounding the show this year.

Like peering into a time machine, last night’s two-hour show took viewers back to the Boston auditions in August – before comic Ellen DeGeneres was named as permanent replacement for judge Paula Abdul and way before star Simon Cowell told the world he was leaving the show which turned him into a multi-millionaire celebrity.

Curiously, the episode didn’t even bother addressing any of the changes, plowing into tryouts with guest judge and ex-Spice Girl Victoria Beckham like the only Idol news that broke over the past nine months was Adam Lambert’s eye-lines streaked album cover.

AI9-20090814_judging_0143 The predictable mix of freakizoids as comic relief and earnest, raw newcomers – spiced by bratty Brit Cowell’s acting out, of course – lent a familiar, if predictable feel.

The screaming crowds. The bickering judges. The contrived oddballs throwing karate kicks and ear-splitting flat notes while flipping Cowell the bird.

If only one of the judges could have copped Abdul’s boozy, barely-coherent patois, it would have felt like any other season.

As it was, Beckham’s anorexic frame was a bit off-putting, especially in a high definition picture. She may have been known as Posh in the Spice Girl’s heyday, but I was calling her Scary Spice by the episode’s end, thanks to her pencil-thin limbs and gaunt, overly cosmetized face.

Good thing Beckham was sitting next to Kara DioGuardi, who already looked relived to not be the newest judge in the room. As Posh seemed to parrot every observation made by DioGuardi -- right down to calling out Simon’s habit of rolling his eyes when either of them disagreed with him – the proximity probably helped.

DioGuardi veered between an Abdul-like comforting of the nicer 20090624_setup_AI20090622Chicago-177 weirdos and a willingness to bite back at any singer dumb enough to disrespect her. Still, her confrontation with an abrasive non-vocalist decked out in Clark Kent eyeglasses and a cluelessly resentful attitude seemed like a set-up from the first insult.

Even the singers who passed through the auditions to the next stage felt raw and unformed, like gregarious Amadeo Diricco, whose energetic take on an old blues standard was excited but not particularly tuneful.

Entertaining as the eccentrics were – I still think Fox should mass-market karate-kicking anime lover Mere Doyle’s midriff-baring shirt cape like a new-style Snuggie – it all felt a little rote.

This is not how I expected to feel, watching the first show after Abdul’s surprise ejection from the judge’s table, Ellen’s astonishing addition and Cowell’s disappointing departure.

For the first time, what happening offstage on Idol feels far more compelling that what we’re seeing on camera. Which better change, fast.

Because that’s hardly the formula for keeping TV’s highest rated show in the winner's circle.   

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:04pm]


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