Film and TV

Idol Beat: Big Easy Come, Easy Go

Few American cities can rival New Orleans for musical influence. The birthplace of Dixieland jazz, second line and the Meters, the Big Easy has left an indelible mark on the soul our country. Even those of us who never stray far from the relatively friendly confines of the French Quarter can count on hearing some great music performed by some of the finest musicians around.

On the other hand, those of you watching American Idol last night got this guy:

He didn't make the final cut of those moving on to Hollywood. And he wasn't alone.

Hopefuls assembled in the Superdome, where the horrors of Hurricane Katrina appear to be a distant memory. And then I realized something: They didn't mention the storm at all. Given the parallels between the visuals: thousands of residents stranded with no hope of food or water juxtaposed with thousands of aspiring Idols with no hope of getting the ticket to the next round.

It's even more curious because Seacrest talked about the last time the show was in town, which was Season 4. The auditions took place eight months before Katrina, for crying out loud, and yet no before/after comparison or perfunctory black-and-white stock-footage flashback. But I guess expecting introspection from a show that introduced Taylor Hicks to the world is probably a bit much to ask.

The drill is already depressingly familiar. The first half of the show introduces us to a handful of talented contestants who seem like genuinely nice people. Jordan Dorsey, for example, is a musician who teaches piano and voice to neighborhood kids. Sarah Sellers from Richardson (TX) sings Dylan and has a set of lips that made even Steven Tyler take note.

I was disappointed no one made the obvious joke about him being her real father (didn't the Pump tour swing through New Orleans?). There was also Jovany Barreto, who followed up his performance by pulling a "Situation" and flashing his abs.

Then you had Brett Loewenstern. Nice kid. Even did a half-decent job with "Bohemian Rhapsody." It was his parents who really sold it, though: "Growing up is hard for anybody," Mama Loewenstern says. And that's doubly so for gingers.

The capper had to be Paris Tassin, mother of the five-year old hydrocephalic daughter. Hers was a powerful story, but at the end I couldn't help wondering how the show's producers rank the vignettes. Does Paris now trump the Kosovo refugees' daughter from the night before? What happens when some refugee from the Congo auditions? And of the 37 contestants from New Orleans who made it, how many are screwed because they didn't have a Very Special Vignette accompanying their performance?

After all the uplift, the trainwreck footage was disappointingly sparse. I'm sure Gabriel Marks isn't the only guy who's going to butcher "Bad Romance" this season, but all in all N'Awlins was a disappointment for those tuning in strictly for the laughs.

Hopefully Milwaukee will deliver in that regard. Hell, how can it not?