Season 4: You Don't Have to Say You Love Me

An American flag flutters in the air. Er, have I switched onto CNN by mistake? Nope, I hear Ryan Sleazebag's voice so I'm on the right show. Scenes of landmarks of the cities where the auditions have taken place follow as Sleazebag talks about how the show has seen more than 100,000 people across 10,000 miles in seven cities, which calculates to 10 people for every 1 mile, a reassuringly low number if I want to have my faith in mankind restored. He prattles some more about how some contestants are good, some are not so good, and some are "just plain weird" (hello, Mary Roach, and hello to you too, Miss Paula). Now, 193 of these people, although Sleazebag doesn't say whether they are from the "good" or "just plain weird" category, are going to "Hollywood" where Sleazebag declares that they will experience their most "intense" week ever. Cool. Cut to Rich Molfetta comparing this Boot Camp thing to "Hell Week". Sleazebag goes on to explain that only 12 males and 12 females will make the cut and only one of these will join the ranks of Ruben, Fantasia, and Kelly Cluckson as the new American Idol. And with that, credits.

The wannabes come in by planes and take buses to the hotel. Lots of camera mugging, hand wavings, and pointless "Hollywood, I'm the new Idol!" declarations follow, which is to be expected, I suppose. Sleazebag talks about how being bussed into a hotel by creepy old men for auditions is something many of these wannabes have been dreaming of all their lives. Some are here to make friends (two idiots declaring to the camera that they are soulmates so don't tell their moms that they are shagging like bunnies), party (which consists of scenes of some boyband wannabes pumping iron), or maybe not (Mario Pipsqueak talking about how he is here to sing and not make friends, et cetera). Some people work on their voices (ooooo), others work on their appearance (where is the nearest liposuctionist, sir?), and others play pool and insist that they will probably sleep in a little while. How rivetting, I tell you. This sure beats an episode of Real World on MTV.

7:00 am, day one. The wannabes are separated into two teams and are shuttled off in separate buses. Much is made about how these wannabes don't know where their buses are going, for a while I find myself expecting some sort of twist, like maybe one bus will be catered off to legitimate stardom while the other bus will head straight to a brothel where the wannabes will be forced to eke out a living for the rest of their lives in a Hollywood True Story manner. Alas, no, instead one bus will go on a sight-seeing trip while the other will head down to face the judges at the Orpheum Theatre and, er, face the music. The School Bus folks are told by Uncle Nigel to choose one song from a list of twelve so that the show won't have to pay too much royalty to greedy songwriters and then work with Debra Byrd and the Assface Pianist on that song. They have two hours to get things right before performing under a minute of that song to the three appreciative judges. Since Debra and Assface are handling dozens of wannabes simultaneously, or so it seems from the scenes they show me, I don't even know why these people bother in the first place.

The first group of ten now take on stage. The spotlight first goes to the first of Uncle Nigel's Favorites, Carrie Underwood, that farm girl whom Sleazebag makes a big case out of her first time to the "big city". He asks her whether she has met any stars. She assumes that he is talking about astronomy and insists that her hobby is singing. The lightbulb isn't working too well upstairs in Miss Underwood's head, methinks. He explains that he is talking about celebrities, not the white dwarves of Cassiopeia, and she goes, "Oh!" She tells him that he's the only celebrity that she has encountered. He preens because this is the first time someone calls him a celebrity without a mocking context attached to the word.

Back to the stage, she sings Ain't No Mountain High Enough, also known as The Song That Just Won't Die On This Show, substituting a few words with "hmmm... mmm", and sounds great while she's at it. Jaclyn Crum sounds good too. Sarah Mathers has creepy flat, elongated horizontally eyes that make her look like an alien so it's a good thing that people into mammaries will be looking at her chest, not her face. She sounds good with the music backing her, but when it stops and she sings a few more lines, she sounds really flat.

Tameesha Foote is next. The camera allows her an opportunity to talk about how she told her twin brats back home that she is leaving them for this show and she will not disappoint them. How sweet. And then she sings in a manner that doesn't feel right at all until she starts ranting backstage at the camera that Assface is playing the song at the wrong key. Okay, so now I know why she sounds weird: she's singing in the wrong key. I'm not sure how Assface has anything to do with her being in the wrong key though.

Because the other ladies don't matter in the scheme of this episode, the show cuts straight to the elimination. Sleazebag says that elimination will be in "sudden death" form, which is to say that the judges will just say no or yes without explaining their reasons. Since half the time their explanations makes no sense unless they're high on drugs (Carmurp, Princess Tinkerbelle, Rank Freaking Sinatra, anybody?), it's better this way, I think. Carrie and Sarah go through while Tameesha along with two others whose names don't matter for obvious reasons have to go home. As she leaves, Tameesha lashes out, saying that she's better than some of them, single-handedly fingering out Carrie who forgot some of her words, and claims that she should have gotten through. Wah, wah, wah, whatever, Tameesha. Oh look, the babies are calling for Mommy! Run along now.

Now five boys come out to play. Anthony "Trachea Boi" Federov comes out and goes all "I've always dreamed of being here, and now that I'm here, maybe I can finally lose my virginity to some fat chick!" to the camera. On stage, he launches into Diana Ross' When You Tell Me That You Love Me exactly like I expect him to: melodramatically, showily, and swooningly. Swooningly, that is, if you would love to see this guy win and then throw all the Kewpinities into a horrified tizzy because Trachea Boi may then just challenge their darling Kewpie for the throne of cheese on the moon. I think I kinda like him because he looks like Anthony Rapp if I squint. How can any girl resist Trachea Boi when he goes, "Everytime you touch me, I become a hero"?

Next is Michael Luizza, that New Orleans kid whose parents conceived him after a drunken shag behind the piano of a cheap Moulin Rouge knock-off, if you care to remember. He performs Unforgettable like some bar warbler high on enthusiasm and alcohol but not much else, reminding me of those horrible moments when I was trapped in staff dinners and those people just have to keep going at the karaoke machine.

The other guys don't matter, it seems, because the show then cuts to the judges allowing Trachea Boi to move through to the next day while Michael's road to stardom ends there and then. Michael tells the camera as he exits that he will have to find another way to change the world. May he can start by not singing altogether and just become a bartender like life clearly wants him to do.

Let's see what the Party Bus wannabes are doing in Hollywood. They are shopping! They are happy! Woo-hoo! (Idiots.) Meanwhile, there is this young lady who unfortunately looks like the "manly" one from a drag queen troupe. Her name is Shunta Warten and she realizes that she should have been on the School Bus because she is supposed to be auditioning today. She tells a few symphatetic wannabes of her story ("I was supposed to be in auditions and I went shopping!" - as if that is such a bad thing to do, really) and one of them, a sassy lady, tells her to get a cab instead of standing here and telling them her story. Shunta looks like she really would rather keep shopping but she decides to look for a cab anyway.

Back to the School Bus gang, meet Rashida Johnson. She is not a happy person because she has a cold since she got off the plane and she is unhappy that she will not be able to perform well as a result. Her nose does look red, the poor dear. Debra tells her to "press on" and "don't trip" (huh?) because, according to Debra, not everybody has "100%" on the show (huh?). So Rashida forlornly tries to sing Baby Come To Me, sounding exactly like how someone with a good voice and a cold would sound. Happily, the judges let her through to the next day. She is shocked and stands there staring at King Tut when he tells her that she is going through. Miss Paula tells her that the judges love her and Rashida bursts into tears. Say, she's not related in any way to J Hu, is she?

Shunta has called for a cab using her cell phone to pick her up but now she is confused because it seems that the cab is waiting for her but she cannot see the cab from where she is standing. She starts wandering around in search for the cab. Sleazebag's voice over wonders whether Shunta will make it in time for her audition. Poor Shunta walks around like a lost cow. I hope she makes it. Drag queens need some representation, after all.

Evil hubby: I bet Shunta will change her name to Trenyce when she makes it to the prelims.

Me: Shut up!

Sleazebag voices over that Ain't No Mountain High Enough is a popular song among the wannabes. Why isn't he shoving his plastic face on the camera? This show isn't the same without him reminding me with his existence as to how fake and smarmy this show is. Anyway, this is the cue for the show to play a montage of performances by Travis Tucker (yummy voice and heavenly looking - baby, where has he been all my life?), Amanda Avila (ho hum), and Lindsey Cardinale (sounding exactly like a professional Kelly Cluckson impersonator). All three make it to the next day.

Sleazebag now brings up the fact that before they perform, the wannabes must explain why they want to be the next American Idol. Sort of like job interviewers asking people, "Why are you here?" - the question is so stupid that it is begging for a sarcastic response like "Because I qualify to take over your job, twit?" So what happens is that some wannabes come up with particularly irreverant answers, like the show would now reveal. First, Sleazebag reminds people of Fantasia's response in the last season (she has big lips and her talent is bigger). This season, some wannabes are deadly unoriginal, like the endless procession of people wanting to be a role model. That prison warden Christian fellow Jeff Johnson takes it further - he tells the judges that he wants to be the "best role model ever". Some people have overinflated perceptions of their self-worth, I tell you. Others are irreverant, like that guy who says he should be the American Idol because he cleans up well, or the other guy who says that he is King Tut's brother. Lovely, bald Pastor Sean McNeill says that baldness is the new sexy. Another guy says that he wants to be an Idol because his current job sucks. Hey, that's an excellent reason to be a pop star!

Say hello again to Rich Mulfetta. He really wants to be an Idol. The clip of him saying that he will be the next American Idol is played one more time. As he waits for his turn, Pastor Sean goes up and sing (very nice, I like) followed by Ross Williams the crooner (sounds pretty good from what they show me). And then Rich comes on stage and performs How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?, complete with hand gestures and all. Too bad that he sounds like someone who would get cut from Making The Band. Then again, the judges already have their "Oh no, not this freak" expressions firmly planted on their faces when he comes out to sing so he will still get cut even if he sings well. Sometimes it doesn't pay to come on too strong like a desperate wannabe on the show, especially when you pin your contestant number next to your package. He gets an "unanimous no" (thank you, Randy Randy) while Pastor Sean and Ross are going through. Poor weepy Rich tells the camera in his exit that oh well, such is life, et cetera. Psst, Rich, I have a suggestion for your next career move: Playgirl. Think hard about it!

Sleazebag voices over that it is now 3.00 pm and Shunta manages to make it to the Theatre with "minutes to spare". Looks like she won't be singing "Shunta Taken The Other Bus" anytime soon. As she waits for her turn, wannabes are performing You Are My Sunshine, including Nadia Turner (decent, not too interesting though), David Brown (a funky version that I really, really like - he sounds just like Stevie Wonder), Scott "Simon Birch After A Big Mac Diet" Savoy (excellent, I love it, but I wish I don't have to see his eyes-tightly-shut expression while he sings though), Amwar Robinson (too much affectations in the voice), and Jeff Johnson (bland with a creepy smile). Have I mentioned how much Jeff Johnson looks more and more like a maniacal serial killer every time I see him? All are going through except for Jeff who will be going back home. Maybe if every other word from his mouth isn't "Jesus", "God", or "role model", the judges would be more lenient with him.

And finally, Shunta takes the stage. Appropriately enough, she performs like a seasoned pro on Young Hearts Run Free and the judges unanimously (or so Randy Randy says) let her through. Sleazebag voices over that Shunta is finally headed in the "right direction". I'm sure he's headed towards her room to ask for make-up tips as we speak.

The wannabes who have gone through their auditions are free for the rest of the day so they head down to the beach. Everyone runs to the beach in a choreographed dash, making me wonder whether there is anything at all in this show that isn't staged. It is times like this that I wish there is a shark in the water to spice things up. The School Bus gang go "Ooh!" at some dolphins in the sea. Some young lady writes "American Idol" on the sand. Two guys hold a stick while a third guy leaps over it. Eh, I thought he should be trying to go under the stick or something? Yes, it is a fine party these people are having. Lots of twentysomething folks gathered on the beach and all they do is to watch dolphins and play G-rated games with nary a drop of alcohol in sight. Now I know I am watching a family-friendly show.

Creepy Francisco Torres starts bawling because, as he rambles incoherently to the camera, he has a big family in which he is the youngest kid and he is crying because he used to sleep in the streets of Washington but now he is sleeping on a beach and he wishes that his entire family can be sleeping with him on the beach. Or something. Maybe there is some alcohol being passed around after all.

Night falls. Back at the theatre, the last of the School Bus gang are finishing up their auditions. Performing How Will I Know are Melissa Figueora (sounds good but she sounds like she's slurring through some parts of her performance) and Vonzell Solomon (overblown but still listenable). Given the spotlight is Regina Brooks, whose initial clip where she said she will just die if she isn't given a chance to sing has been played ad nauseum as a teaser in this episode. She's the one who pawned her wedding rings to be on the show, remember? She tells the camera that she has lost forty pounds and even went to the hair salon to get her hair a little curlier. Her Crazy Little Thing Called Love sounds very ordinary though.

Melissa and Vonzell are going through but Regina is going home. Miss Paula kindly tells her that it is an "unanimous" no. Why doesn't she hand Regina the razorblade while she's at it? Crying, Regina tells the camera during her exit that she'd rather be horrible and therefore not have any expectations because right now she is "devastated" to be going home. Aw, come on, if that's how she is going to be, she's better off not in the music business after all.

Sleazebag summarizes that 54 people are given their marching orders on day one. A parade of disappointed losers follow. Surprisingly, Alden Wynn is among these losers. When given the cut, he tells the judges that they are making "a big mistake". Yes, because the franchise will just die without him on it. 45 people went through, including Sharon Galvez, and these folks can now look forward to a day of relaxation come tomorrow. The Party Bus gang, on the other hand, will face the music tomorrow. Are they worried? Mario Pipsqueak isn't, he tells the camera that he is confident that the judges will like him. Such confidence is charming, especially coming from a short, short, short young man like him.

Day two, Party Bus gang audition day. After they have prepared in the allocated two hour period with Debra and Assface, the first group of guys get on stage. The show deems that only Francesco "Crybaby" Torres, Mario, and Patrick "Fat Farm Boy" Norman are worthy of my attention. Mario may be short but da-yum, his How Can You Mend A Broken Heart is fine. Wish I can stop mistaking him for Justin Guarini though. He is cocky and he doesn't care if he comes off such but he is confident that he will get through. Lucky for him, he can deliver what he brags about. On the other hand, Fat Farm Boy sings the same song as Mario but is horrible, with him trying too hard to reach the high notes only to have his voice cracking spectacularly. Francesco sings Baby Come To Me exactly the way a drugged-up dude would sound. Mario goes through but Fat Farm Boy and Crybaby Franny are going home.

Marlea Stroman tells the camera that she feels "uptight but calm" because if it isn't God's plan for her to go on in this show, she'll be happy to go home to her son. I don't really catch what she is singing because I can't make out a single word of that song. She is singing off-key at places but shockingly enough, it's an "unanimous yes" from the judges for her. What on earth? Marlea says that she is in shock but she feels blessed, happy, the usual.

Meanwhile, the School Bus gang get to visit the OC soundstage. Jaclyn Crum starts crying because she is so overwhelmed at the thought of being on a soundstage. And then her creepy mother shows up and starts crying along too. She looks just like Jaclyn, only heavier and more desperate. Babbling some incoherent nonsense about how Jaclyn the baby has to take care of mommy, she is an embarrassment to watch. And what's this about Jaclyn having to take care of her? Jaclyn, watch your back. Your mom intends to take all your hard-earned pop star money. Do not make her your manager, sweetie!

Sleazebag voices over that as evening falls, the judges are still keeping "a tight lid" and cutting down the numbers. Even the ones who made it through are feeling the pressure, he says. There, at the back of the theatre, Marlea is brooding. But the Conty Bint is not brooding. Remember him, that fake rocker who supposedly "quit" his band Pink Frilly Panties For Betty or whatever it is called to be on the show? He tells the camera that he is just here to "make music". Yeah, right. Sleazebag then reveals that there are two other inbred Betty Rockers on the show. All three with the uniform long-hair appearance, thin yuppified voices, and may or may not share the same screwed up DNA. If Genie Simmie sees them, he'd probably beat them to death with an electric guitar. All three sing the "rockiest" song on the list, The Letter. Aroo Bint sounds like crap, frankly, Bo Bint sounds okay, while Conty Bint sounds more overwrought than tuneful. The Bint Brothers are all going through though.

Brianna Davis is next. Well, she has stepped up, image-wise, taking a paintbrush and slapping blue paint around her eyes before dipping her hair into the bucket of blue paint. Then she wears a clown suit and pretends that she's some sort of Rainbow Jellybean Tinky-Winky Gothy monster. She sings The Letter but is completely out of tune that King Tut sends her home after telling her that the nerves has gotten into her. Maybe the lead in the paint she uses as conditioner has gotten to her too, methinks.

Marlea is now crying. She starts saying that the "girls" here are not nice and are "standoffish" and she doesn't think that she can remain here. Er, the door is that way.

Here's the energetic, camera-mugging fizzball named Mikalah Gordon. I shudder to imagine what her stage parents must have done to her to turn her into some Pavlovian monster who instinctively mugs at the camera whenever there's one turned on her. It's not natural, surely? She tells the judges that she wants to be an Idol so that she can be a role model for "young women" everywhere before pausing for the cute effect and going, "Hey, I am a young woman!" She sings You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, which is competent enough. King Tut is heard either telling the other judges or to the camera that Mikalah is the most confident sixteen-year old he has ever met. When King Tut bends to talk to Randy Randy over Miss Paula, Mikalah inserts his name into her song and tells him to look at her. Um, nice. Once she's done, she warns King Tut that if he doesn't put her through, he'll have to go with her to her prom. I feel exhausted already listening to her perky voice for this long. He tells her that he doesn't want to go to the prom with her so he'll put her through. She is so happy, she all but does cartwheels for the sake of the camera.

Marlea decides that she wants to go home and talks to two executive producers of the show about this. She misses her son and doesn't think that she can come up with the emotional stability needed for the "rollercoaster" ride that is this show. So she says goodbye and goes home. Sleazebag says that this is the first time that anyone has ever walked away from the show. Come on, having to act like an asexual kid on this show, prancing around and trying to appease to Stupid Little Girls only to lose out to some geeky kid with bad teeth, worse hair, and big voice? Can anyone blame Marlea for leaving? Besides, her singing is awful from what I get to hear so I should be thanking her instead. Goodbye, Marlea! Be gentle when singing that kid of yours to sleep!

Another stage monster, Janey Castine, sings the same song as Mikalah and goes through. Can we bring back American Idol Junior so that these monsters will go to that show and I don't have to watch them anymore? All these unnaturally perky little girls barely out of their training bras programmed to appeal to small girls and pedophiles alike through their calculated pageant antics - they make me feel so old and jaded.

Because the show has run out of time, it quickly zips through the remaining wannabes. The last wannabe of the day, Emily Gets On Your Nerves, is cut. They never even show her sing, which must really hurt that professional camera mug. Sleazebag summarizes the events of the two days: 97 wannabes out of 193 go through and we will be seeing the group performance workshop next. Again, the highlight of the day seems to be bitchy girls pulling at each other's hair extensions. In short, it's business as usual.