This new Idol concept - a lushly appointed "judges' mansion" where contestants on thin ice are forced to sing for their survival - was squandered, somewhat, by the producers. I mean, this was a two-hour show, and really, there was time to make it a bit wacky, with mock bits wherein Simon, Kara, Paula and Randy pretend to live the high life: pedicures, pampering, sending butlers on petty errands, flipping out on chambermaids, snacking on caviar, etc.
Instead, the whole affair was deadly serious, and the regal nature of the setting overshadowed everything else happening: the deep, dark wood paneling, the gold-rimmed paintings, the expensive-looking carpets, the plush red chairs the judges sat on, the carved fireplace behind them, the elevated, ornamental ceilings.
I was reminded of Donald Trump holding court in his Apprentice board room, and kept wondering how many other reality shows this mansion had appeared in and whether, if a hopeful took a wrong turn, they'd wander into a scene from Rock Of Love: Charm School.
* Adam Lambert: is he Criss Angel's illegitimate son?
* It's official: I no longer care about bitter, "stormy" judges' quarrels that look like they might erupt into fisticuffs.
* Forcing pairs of homies into head-to-head sing-offs where one of 'em has to get the heave-ho? Totally, totally cruel.
* At the rate he's going in terms of stress-induced stylistic decisions, Nathaniel Marshall will be dressed up like a cross between Meshach Taylor in Mannequin and an extra from Gleaming The Cube or Blade Runner by the time Top 12 week rolls around - assuming he's still in the hunt.
But let's cut him a break: he grew up with his grandma because his mom was in jail for unspecified crimes, and the dude grows on you overtime, despite all the drama.
* Simon: "What are you wearing?" Nathaniel: "I'm the new David Bowie." Riiiight.
* Frankie Jordan is super ugly in a really interesting way; she's like the lovechild of Alanis Morrisette and Amy Winehouse.
* Simon to Frankie, following her elimination: "Frankie, if it's any consolation, you wouldn't have won anyway." Simon! Just when you're sure he's out of cutting things to say, he surprises you.
* Danny Gokey and Jamar = pals. Do you think they borrow each others' hoodies, hats anf sport coats? I think they do.
DOWNER OF THE SEASON
Paula's coherency level this season is almost shockingly high; her doctors and therapists must have arrived at the perfect balance of prescription meds. This is good for Paula's well-being and mental health, but not so good for those of us for whom her downward-spiral nuttiness is key to Idol's continuing appeal.
* That smashing sound you heard when gibbering basket case Tatiana Del Toro was deemed safe and in the final 36? That was one million disillusioned Idol fanatics bricking their HDTVs and opting to sit the rest of this season out. On the plus side, every Idol needs an antihero, and she's looking like the only one we've got.
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* Fuck "When I Grow Up" by the Pussycat Dolls generally - pop doesn't get more vapid right now, Lady Gaga aside - but especially in this end-of-show lame dance-off context.
OUT: Reggi Beasley, Derek Lavers, Frankie Jordan, T.K. Hash, Jamar, etc.
SAFE: Lil Rounds, Jackie Tohn, Jesse Langseth, Nathanial Marshall, Matt Breitzke, Kendall Beard, Jazmine Murphy, Tatiana Del Toro, Mishavonna Henson, Nick Mitchell, Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, Rickey Braddy, Jeremy Michael Sarver, Jorge Nunez, Jeanine Vailes, etc.
And now, a reading from the Book of Sanjaya: "We were then taken to Venice Beach, where we were treated to the sight of its iconic thong-wearing musclemen. We went to an outdoor gym and had our fellow contestants snap photos of us pretending to work out."