On Wednesday night's (January 20) episode of "American Idol," the audition tour stopped in Orlando, land of Mickey Mouse and Skiiboski's mugshots!
The proximity to Miami allowed for Simon, Randy and Ryan to party hard and show up to work blatantly hungover (professionalism!) while guest judge Kristin Chenoweth's proximity to Kara DioGuardi turned Kara into a hyperactive eight-year-old child with Sapphic tendencies. (No wonder Simon ditched "Idol" — Kara and Kristin's high-pitched squeals could be used by Jack Bauer to torture hostile suspects.)
None of the talent featured in Orlando inspired me to jump up and down and pack up my Kradison shrine just yet. But the lackluster auditions (and unfortunate positive reinforcement the judges doled out all night long) inspired my wife to coin a new term: The Golden Picket.
The Golden Picket refers to any Golden Ticket given to a contestant out of pity. Golden ticket + Pity = Golden Picket. And boy, the Golden Pickets were being handed out left and right in Orlando.
The first picket went to Seth Rollins, an instantly-likeable father of an autistic child whose buttery R&B tones were a nice addition to the old standard "Someone to Watch Over Me." But his voice wasn't on the level of the hosannas it received from the judges. Perhaps I'm just cynical because they used Coldplay's "Fix You" on the soundtrack, one of the quickest (and laziest) shortcuts to tears in the Cantiello home. (For my wife. Not me. I swear. There's just something stuck in my eye!)
Shelby Dressel was another Golden Picket recipient. She was the insecure waitress with the paralyzed mouth who adorably cursed when she forgot the words to Norah Jones' "Turn Me On." The judges themselves admitted that they weren't "blown away" by her voice, but applauded that she could sing in tune given that her paralyzed face was freaking them out. (That's essentially what Randy said. A way with words, that man.)
Later, Jay Stone walked into the "Idol" audition room looking like a weird mash-up of Robin Williams and Blake Lewis. Fitting, then, that the dude maniacally beatboxed his way through a Beatles tune. But unlike Blake Lewis, Jay boasted that he can beatbox and sing ... at the same time! (One could argue that humans can eat while sitting on the toilet, yet those are two activities shouldn't necessarily be combined.) While the judges didn't necessarily pity him, I certainly did for thinking he was more unique than Blake Lewis. Thus, Jay left Orlando with a Golden Picket.
If you doubt that the judges went soft for bad reasons, look no further than Cornelius Edwards. Simon, Randy and Kara were beside themselves when Corenlius leaped in the air, landed in a split and ripped his pants. (Rickey.org cleverly noted that the segment should have been called "Torn Pants on the Ground.") Even though Cornelius sounded like a dying goose while singing "Proud Mary," the guy with a crushed crotch was unanimously given a free ride to Hollywood. Thus, Cornelius Edwards is a Golden Picketer.
Speaking of splits, the judges went out of their way to keep Jersey sisters Bernadette and Amanda Disimone together, even though the older one was the superior singer. (Between the orange tans and the shellacked hair, I couldn't tell them apart.) You know what that means: They each got Golden Pickets. They'll never make it past day one of Hollywood Week, but cheer up ladies: You could always have careers playing villains in a telenovela. (You already have the outfits!) Or you could battle Charity Vance's family to an in-house salon hair-off!
Pity was but a tiny factor in Matthew Lawrence's success. (No relation to that Matthew Lawrence, younger brother of Joey.) He's an ex-con with a heart of gold but it was his husky voice that turned the judges to goo. Lawrence's take on Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble" was earnest, convincing and "authentic," according to Randy, who seems to have learned a new buzzword for this season.
"Idol" producers framed Matthew's incarcerated past as a badge of honor, as if to say, "Look! He just wants to make his family proud! This is his now!" It felt out of place and weird, if only because minutes earlier they showed security escorting Jarrod Norrell out of the audition area in handcuffs. (Jarrod refused to lave after his "Amazing Grace" was compared to a lawnmower.) Perhaps in five years, Jarrod can come back from jail and audition again. He'd probably get more screen time that way!
My favorite contestant of the night was Jermaine Purifoy, who showed off a quiet confidence as he unexpectedly fluttered into his falsetto at the end of "Smile." I grinned as the judges backed up how I was feeling. Kristin loved his pure voice, Kara called it "honest" and Randy reverted back to being a five-year-old when he invented the number "two bazillion percent!" My only wish for Jermaine is that he ditch those curly-cue Ed Hardyesque shirts.
In the end, the Happiest Place on Earth was less than magical. In keeping with the Disney theme, it was more "The Great Mouse Detective" than "The Lion King." Where are all these amazing girls we keep hearing about from the judges? Are next week's Los Angeles girls going to "blow us out of our socks," to paraphrase Kristy Lee Cook? And did you think the judges were too hard on the night's first contestant, the theatrical Theo Glinton? (I didn't think his voice was that bad!)