American Idol Recap: Tinseltown Travesty

I figured we were at least a few years away from the day that Fox would randomly bump American Idol from its regularly scheduled time slot, but tonight, the unthinkable happened. I flipped on my TV at 7:59 p.m., and the following programming information popped up on my screen:

Real Famewhores of Los Angeles
Thurs 02/03 at 8p, 60 min
New, HD, “Episode 1,” (2011), The desperate, the deluded, the depressing, and the deranged attempt to validate their existences by stepping in front of a TV camera. A teenager blithely throws away his chance at a college education, a young woman invokes the wrath of God, and a possibly mentally ill man dances. TV-GS (Gold Shoes), TV-HS (Head Scarves), and TV-GH (General Hootenanny). (Reality)

Okay, naturally, I’m being as melodramatic as ever about my favorite TV show. But you’ve got to admit that the sixth episode of Idol‘s tenth season felt less like a pit stop for the world’s greatest singing competition and more like a journey into the septic tank where Los Angeles flushes its tired and poor excuses for entertainers.

Sometimes I wonder about these people, these folks who’ll suffer all kinds of indignities in exchange for their 15 minutes — or even 15 seconds — of fame. But, really, they’re just a product of the times. Heidi Montag, despite a total lack of discernible talent, continues to make a living as a “singer” and “entertainer” instead of being forced to work in a cubicle or retail shop (like a normal human) or Siberian garbage barge (the way God intended). “Snooki,” the poufy-haired, frequently inebriated “star” of Jersey Shore, is now a published author! Heck, you can find Idol‘s season 9 breakout jokester, Gen. Larry Platt, on iTunes.

The moral of these L.A. stories, of course, is that the rules governing fame and fortune in our modern times are as capricious as the trajectory of those little plastic balls that determine who wins Powerball every Wednesday and Saturday. So why not get your screen time whenever and wherever you can? Why not treat the entire Idol production as if it were a local TV news reporter you can stand behind while you goofily wave to mom?

That certainly seemed to be the preferred tactic of Hoboken, NJ’s Tynisha Roches, who brought a hat, a microphone, and some insane-looking bangs to her audition, but forgot to carry a much-needed crib sheet for the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Of all of tonight’s “joke” auditions, Tynisha’s was the funniest, if only because her blissful cluelessness kept inadvertently deflating her delusions of grandeur. “I’m definitely a musician, I just know it!” she declared hopefully, then later told the judges she had three albums “ready to be composed.” (And if you believe that, I’d like to sell you patents on the next three blockbuster pharmaceuticals that I am all set to invent in the future.) Still, any singer who can drive Randy from the room for a minute can’t be all bad.

I was less amused by the long and labored audition package for Matt “Big Stats” Frankel, the guy who claimed he’d worked with Chaka Khan, at first because he seemed like the kind of dim bulb who didn’t realize he was the butt of the joke, and later because the dude broke into a rendition of ” Jenny From the Block,” a pretty clear sign that he wasn’t taking the process seriously.

Victoria Garrett, on the other hand, wasn’t joking even a little when she indicated “God brought the auditions to L.A. for a purpose,” then tackled “Now Behold the Lamb” with the kind of tremulous bleat that’s native to slaughterhouses. Can you imagine God catching up on a DVR backlog on Saturday afternoon and discovering such an egregious use of his name? Cue: Storm clouds gathering ominous over Victoria’s home. (Girl, you should’ve paid attention to His last cease-and-desist Tweet!)

God might also want to think about sending a couple lightning bolts directly into the booties of buddies Isaac Rodriguez and Daniel Gomez — the better to shock them into the harsh realities of 2011. The former — if he’s to be believed — dropped out of college in order to pursue a never-gonna-happen career in music, and failed to tell his mother, who was taking obvious pride in her son’s academic achievements (but has clearly never heard him sing in the shower). Seriously, buddy, you’re going to sacrifice a four-year degree for a chance to prove you can sound like one of Alvin the Chipmunk’s cousins on “Build Me Up Buttercup”? Oh what will become of today’s youth?

At least in Isaac’s case, though, the kid has a better-than-tenuous grasp of his own emotional health. I’m not sure the same can be said for possibly 59-year-old Cooper Robinson, who is possibly from Arkansas, and possibly has some mild-to-moderate mental issues that became more and more agitated the longer his segment dragged on. Cooper entered the audition room tonight looking like this year’s answer to Renaldo Lapuz — leather pants, knee-high boots with bells, and a feathery hat worthy of Kentucky Derby Day —  but there was plenty of deeply uncomfortable, nonspecific anger wrapped up in his shtick. Ending the episode with the rantings of a sad, confused old man shouting he’s going to “be in your bedroom, your kitchen, your closet,” etc., isn’t really my idea of a good time. How about you?

Anyway, in the midst of so many brutally bad auditions, we did get to see five singers advance to the Hollywood round of the competition. Let’s see if we can recap their “journeys” in one or two sentences apiece:

* Mark and Aaron Gutierrez (pictured, top right) | Foppish brothers brought a powerful Glee-like vibe to “Lean on Me,” but they might’ve missed their long-lost triplet when that delivery guy brought a plate of orange cheese to the judges.

* Tim Halperin | Yet another two-to-one vote goes in favor of a Golden Ticket, but methinks J.Lo said yes ’cause he crushed on her as a kid, not because she crushed on his singing voice.

* Karen Rodriguez | What hath the MySpace auditions wrought? A woman who can easily render Whitney’s “You Give Good Love” virtually unrecognizable by throwing in more runs than the Boston Marathon.

* Heidi Khzam (pictured, top left)| Boot the belly dancer, save the world! (Or something like that.) Then again, is it wrong that a small part of me would like to end season 10 with the wave of a magic wand and a win for someone with such a spectacular pop-star surname, talent be damned?

What did you think of the Los Angeles auditions? What did you think of J.Lo’s bleeped and salty use of “balls” in her critique of Justin Carter tackling Madonna’s “Secret”? Were you also disgusted by he talent-to-oddity ratio? And what to make of the fact that Idol tonight kicked off with the faces of a a bunch of reminders of the Brett Loewenstern, Lauren Alaina, Casey Abrams, Robbie Rosen, Jacee Badeaux, Chris Medina, Paris Tassin, Jordan Dorsey, Thia Megia, Travis Orlando, and Scotty McCreery, and Jackie Wilson?

What’s more, if you have some strong thoughts or opinions on anything you saw this week on Idol — pertaining to judges, contestants, trends or conspiracy theories — and you’d like to share them on the next episode of TVLine’s new Idol-related Web series, Idoloonies, email a paragraph or two to idoloonies@tvline.com (and be sure to include a contact phone number). We’ll be selecting a handful of readers each week to join me in cohosting the Webcast via Skype or iChat (to tape on Friday afternoon). We’ll also be choosing a Twitter Question of the Week, so don’t hesitate to fire your best shots to me @MichaelSlezakTV. Be sure to tag it #Idoloonies!

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