What a difference a day makes.
After Tuesday night's stellar offering of belting and belly laughs, Wednesday's "American Idol" fell flatter than Bo Bice's career. Granted, the judges handed out an embarrassingly low number of Golden Tickets during their visit to Charleston, South Carolina, but a small talent pool is no excuse for bad television. Au contraire, it should result in great television! (See: "The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll.")
So instead of doling out awards like I've been doing thus far this season, this recap is all about the demerits.
The Keyser Söze "You Mean This Whole Thing Doesn't Even Matter?" Demerit: Oliver Highman
Producers wasted no time setting up Oliver as the anti-Phil Stacey. Aside from having a full head of hair (kind of), Oliver got off the "Idol" line when he heard that his wife was going into labor and went to witness the birth of his baby girl. Vignettes of Oliver's wild trip to the hospital were weaved in and out of the episode, which finally built up to his triumphant return to the audition cattle herd. The TV producer in me kept thinking, "Oooh, look at all the time they're putting into this guy's story. His audition is gonna be awesomely bad or amazing." But when push (push!!) came to shove, Oliver was, as the judges idiotically said, "one hundred million percent" mediocre. Not William Hung bad, not Mario Vasquez good. Just frustratingly average, like an episode of "Two and a Half Men." Did "Idol" really just make us wait 60 minutes merely to get a glimpse of a one-day-old infant? Humbug!
The Katharine McPhee "Flaunt 'Em If You Got 'Em" Demerit(s): Aretha Codner
Codner's "I Have Nothing" wasn't nearly as terrible as Simon made it out to be, but the cranky judge was obviously thrown off by her massive ... belt. If only she had truly committed to the McPhee School of Seduction and delivered the performance while writhing around on the floor, we might have seen her advance to Hollywood.
The Alexis Taylor "Unfair Judging" Demerit: Joshua Boson
Don't worry. I'm not insinuating that Josh's downright frightening rendition of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" was any good, but the judges have no right to complain about histrionics, so long as Jennifer Holliday is still running around singing the song like a possessed hyena. Was Josh's version any more absurd than the dueling Effies at last year's BET Awards?
The "Wait, How Did I Not Know That R. Kelly and Celine Dion Recorded a Song Together?" Demerit: Michelle and Jeffery Lamkin
I know Gnarls Barkley haven't released any new music in over a year, but I can't believe Cee-Lo is so hard-pressed for money that he'd try out for "American Idol." If he's committed to going all the way, he needs to find a better partner as soon as possible, because his sister wasn't up to snuff in the singing department.
The Lisa Tucker "Broadway or Bust" Demerit: Raysharde Henderson and Lindsey Goodman
Raysharde Henderson sounded remarkably like Clay Aiken and looked remarkably like a cryogenically frozen long-lost member of the Jackson Five. If Twyla Tharp ever has the insipid idea to turn the music of the Jacksons into a piece of modern dance, they should have Raysharde on speed-dial. (Imagine what Julie Taymor would do with "The Man in the Mirror." Shudder.) Meanwhile, Air Force pilot Lindsey Goodman had a similar Broadway appeal, which Simon and the Gang viewed as a negative. But I find the judges' anti-theater stance ironic, considering the only thing "Idol" castoffs are able to book these days are gigs in Times Square.
The Simon Cowell "Get a New Catchphrase" Demerit: Simon Cowell
On Wednesday, Cowell sniffed to Amy "Savin' All My Love for Marriage" Flynn, "I don't think you are as good as you think you are." Just a night before, he had those same stinging words for Tetiana Ostapowych. And last week he said the exact same thing to Alaina Whitaker. Who is more at fault here: the millionaire judge who recycled a catchphrase or the millionaire TV producers who included the same line in three different episodes?
What did you think of Wednesday's "Idol"? Did the "AI" message-board lovers make you want to cancel your Internet immediately? Are you as tired of the lame "bad singers sing the same song" montages as I am? And did anyone else think London Weidberg looked exactly like Chris Crocker?