Gosh, I love live television. Especially on those rare occasions that you get to see a celebrity derail right there in front of millions of people.
Everyone else in the blogosphere is talking about Paulagate, so I feel I should hop on that crazy train, too. But even before that happened last night (and if you weren't watching and have no idea what I mean by "that", click here) I had decided to blog about Neil Diamond night. It exemplifies to me a lot of what is going wrong with AI.
So, some observations about the show in general:
1. What happened to you, dreadlocks man? I did so love your take on "Hallelujah", and "Travellin' Through", and could even forgive "Memory" because it at least sounded heartfelt. But last night it didn't even look like you cared. Or were trying. Dude, you made the final 5 in American Idol despite having one of the most technically weak voices. Put forth some effort, will ya? Or are you smarter than we give you credit for and actually want to be voted off to go make a little indie Jack-Johnson-esque album? If so, carry on, my good man.
2. Ah, Brooke. Every time you sing, I want to give you an Ativan. You make me nervous for you. Props, though, for singing the lines, "...but no one heard at all/Not even the chair" without laughing.
3. Speaking of the chair, I have a little more respect for Neil Diamond now after hearing some of his songs that didn't make it into Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs.
4. David A. sang the two songs I so badly wanted to hear Carly sing. Picture if you will the Irish lass with the big ol' voice singing "America", a song about immigrants coming to our country to follow their dreams. Little David's interpretations, though pleasant, did not thrill me half so much as merely picturing Carly belting them. But as he stood under the American flag graphic with his puppy eyes, he just ensured himself a place in the finals. Damn.
5. Screw the mint juleps at my derby party. I'm gonna get the recipe for whatever was in Paula's cup.
6. David Cook...could you be the one to bring back the power ballads I blogged about earlier in the week? 'Cause I could totally see your second song being the prom makeout song of 2009. And by the way, David...I really hope you like having confetti dumped on your head.
Now a few thoughts on the Paula gaffe.
There have been a few moments in my life where I have been extraordinarily glad that I had the TV on at the right time and the right channel. It's rare these days, what with our DVR box, that we watch something in real time. You can go back and You Tube all you want, but nothing beats the electric thrill of watching something totally unexpected go down on live TV. My number one jaw-dropping live TV moment came just a few years ago when Kanye West riffed about the president during the Katrina telethon. Not so much for his comments but for Mike Myers's reaction and the quick impromptu cut to an improvising-while-getting-a-snack-from-the-green-room Chris Tucker. You could watch Mike Myers's brain ctrl-alt-delete as he struggled with what to say and finally decided to say nothing. I watched that moment live; Ains was in bed, and Jason was working on something downstairs in our family room. I gleefully called down to him, "Honey, you gotta come up here and watch something." And then we replayed it on the TiVo like, a dozen times. Only Janet Jackson's exposed breast got more replay on our DVR machine.
I had thought Brooke's restarting last week and Paula's subsequent commentary of dead air were the best live-TV-shockers I was going to see this TV season. But then Paula made a mistake that, as other bloggers have pointed out this morning, seems to confirm one of two things about the most popular TV show in America:
1. The judges, whose comments do have some influence over who gets speed-dialed for, don't really pay attention to the live performances and instead base their often biting comments on a dress-rehearsal performance that they view on monitors in their dressing rooms,
2. The judges aren't really making their own comments, and at least one of them is taking written cues before the performances from the man behind the curtain.
Number 1 is bad enough, but it's been suspected for some time. It would explain why some contestants (cough davidarchuleta cough) don't get called out for botching lyrics and getting lower notes drowned out by the band; the judges aren't really paying attention and are referring to a pratice run we haven't seen. It would explain why performances that blow the roof off ("Jesus Christ Superstar") get middling reviews. Some people screw up in dress rehearsal and pull it together when it counts. That's the whole point of the dress rehearsal. Look, I've been in a lot of amateur theater productions, and every dress rehearsal has been a train wreck. If we had been judged by someone on those, we wouldn't have earned passing grades. But a lot of artistic types are turned on by a screaming audience, and by video cameras, and by the knowledge that This is it, baby. This counts. By and large, people hold back a little until it really counts and when they get that little buzz from the real thing (which is different than the buzz Paula gets in her Real Thing brand cup.) It's unfair that these kids aren't judged by that performance.
Dare I even get into the implications of Number 2? It would also explain some of the judging inconsistencies, but in a more sinister way. Have at it, conspiracy theorists.
And even if there is a non-show-killing explanation for what Paula said and the mistake she made, what in the world happened when she talked about Brooke's performance in relation to the "Idol Gives Back" show, which was weeks ago? And when she called Syesha "Brooke"? Is it possible that what we saw last night was a minor celebrity becoming completely delusional and unhinged? Will the men in the white coats be waiting for her after tonight's results show? Will her last great live TV moment be when she channels Blanche DuBois and leaves us with, "I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers"?
Have at it. Is Idol as we know it over?