Like casual sports fans who can't wait for the Winter Olympics to revel in the schadenfreude of watching world-class ice-skaters bite it, "American Idol" watchers have been conditioned to expect early audition episodes packed with a healthy mix of decent, great and truly awful singers.
In fact, some eagle-eyed "Idol" observers will tell you that there is a whole legion of viewers out there who only tune in to the first few weeks to see the next William Hung, General Larry "Pants on the Ground" Platt or Keith "Like a Virgin" Beukelaer.
But in keeping with the shiny-happy-people vibe "Idol" initiated last year in its first post-Simon Cowell season, through the four audition episodes so far, season 11 "Idol" has noticeably eased up on the so-bad-it's-good factor. Instead, it has focused on mediocre or not laughably terrible singers, with a handful of decent ringers thrown in for good measure.
Yes, we saw a man with a fake accent named Magic Cyclops crash and burn on Wednesday night not long after seemingly joke-worthy Angie Zeiderman performed "When You've Got It, Flaunt It" from "The Producers." But she quickly turned it around and won over the judges with a good-enough take on Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou."
The bait-and-switch appears to be the new look for "Idol," as evidenced by Ali Shields' cringe-inducing rap/ghetto dance on Chris Brown's "Look at Me Now," followed by a more passable cover of Corinne Bailey Rae's "Like a Star."
That kind of rope-a-dope may actually be worse than the plain-old "montage of mediocrity" of the past, because, at best, it's dishonest, and at worst, it makes you wonder how low the talent bar is this season.
The season so far seems to have traded chuckle-inducing singing for outright meanness, as evidenced by the mockery of African immigrant Mawuena Kodjo in the first episode, the sexist baiting of Bikini Girl 2.0 Jennifer Diley, the overly long, indulgent segment on not-that-interesting Ryan Seacrest look-alike Shaun Kraisman and the sniggering at twin Tealana Hedgespeth on Wednesday's show.
The latter seemed the most cruel. For a singer whose segment focused on her ego-denting struggle to emerge from the shadow of her multitalented sister, the snide asides from the judges at Hedgespeth's expense just seemed heartless. At least in the past when Cowell called someone a "bush baby" or the judges fell off their chairs laughing, they mostly did their worst out in the open instead of stringing the singers along just to crush them after the audition.
I know we're barely two weeks into the cycle, but I won't lie: I love the crash-and-burners. Watching a mind-blowingly horrendous singer (or three) in an audition episode with an equal amount of ear-catching talent is one of the thrills of "Idol." It puts the variety in an audition cycle that is often a dull parade of same-y R&B takes on Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin.
For the past couple of years, "Idol" producers have crowed about focusing on the talent rather than the freaks in the auditions episodes. But isn't that what the rest of the season is for?
What do you think about the lack of outrageously bad singers this year? Let us know in the comments!
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