Season 4: Got Your Money

Imagine Kylie Minogue reprising her role as the Green Fairy from Moulin Rouge as she flies over the turrets and haunted houses of New Orleans and sprinkles her special brand of ambrosia to give... Ryan Sleazebag, happily "breaking down" Kelly Cluckson, Ruben, and Fantasia as examples of the shining success the show can give you if you are foolish enough to sell your soul to the people of this show. People partying in hedonistic abandon, balloons, clowns, men in stilts, drag queens, drama queens, the biggest drama queen himself throwing beads and confettis from a balcony to the people below (the guys who catch the beads with the numbers 5, 6, and 7 get to come upstairs and play checkers with Sleazebag) - where else can we be but in New Orleans? And what else can it be but one of the two episodes of this show where it is okay to be gay?

Gullible gay teen asks, "It's okay to be gay on this show?"

Realistic music and TV guy answers, "You can be gay but do keep in mind that this show is heavily watched by populations of all over the country collectively known as Red America. You can be gay but if you're on the show, you will need to have a beard, preferably a virgin Mormon girl or an overweight African American woman (so that fat virgin girls and their fat mothers will feel that they are actually open-minded about African American or skinny and beautiful people when they vote for you a zillion times after they fall in love with your fae, gay self). Having said that, we encourage you to be gay because Stupid Little Girls and their mothers go for the gay thing, only to them, it's not gay as much as being a safe, sexless, feminine boy next door that they can marry without having to actually have sex or anything."

Gullible gay teen stammers, "Uh... you're saying that I must pretend to be straight?"

Realistic music and TV guy responds, "Yes, but don't worry. We have a hunky selection of hairdressers and wardrobe men that you can pick and shag on the sly with."

Are you ready for the show, people? Sleazebag wants to know. Are we all set? Let's go! Credits. Upon closer observation, I notice that they have put images of Fantasia, Ruben, and Kelly in those TV-like things in the credits background, making those three winners come off like animals on display in a zoo. How apt.

For this episode, Gene Simmons will be the guest judge. It's quite cool for this show to bring in a guy from a group whose acronym stands for Knights In Satan's Service. Unfortunately, I think it is a sign of how passe Satanism is when KISS is invited onto this show. The tribute clip shows Gene saying in an old interview that all the gruesome rumors about KISS are "true". They do not inform people that Gene Simmons used to be a teacher before he became a kabuki guy with long tongue and he is actually staunchly anti-drug. The tribute montage is very G-rated except for the scene where they superimpose Gene's kabuki make-up on King Tut's face which is actually obscene in how unimaginative that gag is.

So there is Genie Simmie, a man whom I used to adore, sitting between Randy Randy and Miss Paula. Though, I do not adore Genie in a sexual way because when KISS came out, I had a one-year old hyperactive brat to raise and, apart from Genie and Friends having worse toilet habits and runny noses (or so I hear), the KISS brats and my son have plenty in common when it comes to bratty foolishness. I just like their kabuki make-up. And the music. Oh gosh, I'm old.

David Brown starts the show. He's nineteen. He sings Isn't She Lovely? in the same manner as the last sixty decent African American kids that sang that song. Okay, maybe not sixty, but I can't tell him apart from the other pleasant but ultimately unmemorable ballading wannabes on the show. He's in. Everyone loves him.

A small kid wants Sleazebag's autograph. After a scripted speech about the perks of stardom (cancelled talk show, selling of one's soul to appear on Dubby's inauguration party, broken romance with co-star, the usual), Sleazebag gives the kid an autograph only to have the kid throw it down because the kid finally realizes that Sleazebag is not Kewpie. Sleazebag voices over sheepishly that this is the first time people mistook him for Kewpie. How silly! Sleazebag is too short to be mistaken for Kewpie! Maybe Kewpie's poodle, perhaps.

Meet Bobby Barfoot. I've never seen anyone who beats all competition effortlessly like him when it comes to qualifying as the Saddest Person on Planet Earth. Without shame, he shows Sleazebag his entire ring-binder album filled with American Idol cards. My God, people actually buy those crap? Sleazebag jokes that Bobby dresses up like him. Yes, and I bet Sleazebag has six ring-binder albums filled with Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe phonecards.

As for Bobby's singing, well, he collects those stupid cards and his singing is as bad as one would expect a no-life geek would sound like. Miss Paula thinks that he sounds good though. I think that's a sign of her early medication kicking in. That poor dear, she always gets these headaches, you know. King Tut calls the singing "a cross between a rodeo and La Cage Aux Folles". Ah yes, La Cage Aux Folles. Did King Tut and Sleazebag ever tell anyone about the time they have to pretend to be just two friends living together when King Tut's mother came visiting? Miss Paula insists that King Tut just doesn't like Bobby's image and then tells Bobby consolingly, "It's your image." Bobby's face is all "What? How? Help?" as Miss Paula goes on a bizarre and incoherent ramble about how she thinks Bobby can spice up his image. Randy Randy and Genie are laughing all this while because Miss Paula is giving this show one of the most hilarious audition of them all. Finally, Miss Paula concedes the point to King Tut and tells Bobby that his image has "confused" King Tut about the quality of Bobby's voice. King Tut takes that as a dare and sends Bobby to sing behind the hideous screen of Fantasia and Ruben that acted as a background to the stage. Bobby obliges and Miss Paula is forced to eat her words without sounding like she's hating every munch. She says that Bobby sounds nasal. Bye, Bobby. Take those cards with you, please, because I'm sure those will be worth quite a lot one day, snort.

Sleazebag, looking for the S&M pits, ends up in a tourist store. Trying to save face on camera, he pretends that he's in some haunted house thing and asks various people with faux-Goth make-up whether they have eaten tarantulas. He then introduces Daron Beck. Daron wears black, tries to follow Gary Oldman's image on The Fifth Element a little too closely, and hopes that his unique kind of sound will make himself stand out. Also, he hopes that Genie will appreciate his Goth look. Actually, "Goth" is pushing it, try "Steve Buscemi with pancake make-up" instead.

As he walks in, Miss Paula starts crying that he looks "tremendously different and unique already". She hasn't seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I suspect. I actually find his Delilah quite delightful in a campy manner and his voice isn't too bad. Or maybe I'm just mesmerized by his beautiful eyes. He then launches into I Put A Spell On You. While he will be all wrong for the show, I think he's really cute. The judges, even Genie, don't appreciate a healthy dash of camp that is much needed on this show. King Tut even says that Daron should be wearing "ladies' underwear and red lipstick in a cabaret". Outside, Daron laughs and tells Sleazebag that he thinks King Tut has seen his "act". Sleazebag voices over that King Tut surely has.

Lindsey Cardinale comes, sings sweetly but forgettably, and is gone. Um, who is that again? Some sad movie projectionist says that handling the projector all alone up there in the dark has given him a chance to practice singing so he'd like to try out. The judges cut him off. My suggestion? There are better fun things to do to oneself in the dark. Try some of those things instead of singing.

Sleazebag's on a toy train ride. He likes his trains, after all. He reveals that New Orleans is Randy Randy's home town (a-ha, maybe Randy Randy has a secret past involving ladies' underwear and red lipstick in a cabaret!) and laments insincerely that only two people have gotten through. He also talks about the upcoming workshop episodes which will be stretched on and on until the contestants are at least 80 when they start the preliminary rounds. I won't bother recapping those details about the workshops because we'll all find out on our own soon enough in the upcoming weeks. Speaking of losers, a montage of these rejected wannabes follow. I like that guy who realizes that he's singing badly halfway, says "F**k!", and just walks out like that from the audition room. Awesome!

Meet Sundeep Achreja. He is a typical stereotype of someone working in the accounts department - the sad, boring loser who always sits in the table at the back of the office and whom people only talk to in order to borrow stationery. His colleague Jeannie, a sweet dear, happily helps Sandeep dig deeper into his humiliation. She talks about Sandeep dressing up as a "pimp" in the previous Halloween party and has heard Sandeep sing (she thinks he sounds nervous but also "pretty good" at the same time, before admitting that she doesn't know anything about singing). She finishes her character assassination with a smile, which has me suspecting that she's enjoying Sandeep's humilation as much as anyone else. He doesn't have a sense of rhythm when it comes to singing, poor Mr Sandeep, and after his monotonous, nearly deadpan performance, the judges send him home. Or as King Tut says, "The calculator beckons." Sandeep cries outside the audition room. Aw, come on dear, it's not so bad. It's time for a payback to that bitchy witch Jeannie. What can he do as a form of payback, hmm? Ah, I know! Why doesn't Mr Sandeep go impregnate one of her daughters as a form of revenge?

Michael Luizza reveals that his mother was a honky-tonk garter-wearing singer (and not, as some bad people insinuated, a prostitute) who ran off to the bar opposite her club in a huff of indignance and ended up falling in love with the piano player there. And so Michael is born, probably as a result of a drunken quick hump behind the piano after the club was closed. The club's name, by the way, is Lets Fook Bonbons And Tool Me Loose, er, sorry, I mean Les Rues Bourbon et Toulouse. The show even introduces Michael's Mamman Rouge and Poppa Cherry. Michael cheerfully tells everyone that his parents have taught him to love music (translation: "Play, stupid boy, play and let Mamman and Poppa live out her dreams of stardom through you!") so now he will sing an incredibly wobbly version of Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans? and get in to show the world, which he calls "an evil place", that he can "give some good love around". Um, yeah, I've seen how Mamman Rouge and Poppa Cherry "give some good love" so I'll pass. I suspect that I will never hear the end of New Orleans from him if he gets far on this show. Indeed, he dedicates his qualifying to Hollywood to New Orleans.

Well, at least Genie doesn't like Michael and thinks that he's "reminiscent of the female singers from the early '50s".

And now, the show offers a little clip show called "The Incomprehensibles". No, it's not the Miss Paula show, it's instead a show making people who can't sing English properly the joke of the day. I think that Chinese young lady butchering The Star Spangled Banner is having a laugh though. Nobody sings The Star Spangled Banner and refers to the words from a paper unless it's all a joke. I thought the star, Leroy Wells, is a joke too and I really laughed with him on that one. He walks in like a cross between Chris Tucker's Ruby Heart character in The Fifth Element and some joker out of a Wayan Brothers slapstick comedy. When he walks in, he shows off his false "bling bling" teeth and starts stomping around in a really killer version of the rapper Old Dirty Bastard's Got Your Money. It is a good thing that nobody can catch half the words he raps out because I took a look at the lyrics of the song the other day and realized that two-thirds of the song are swear words. Even Genie is persuaded to get on his feet and do a silly hand clap dance. Leroy is really fun to watch. Alas, I know now that he is not joking but probably high on drugs as he's now currently in trouble with the law for using a gun on somebody.

Stupid Randy Randy tells Leroy that American Idol is a "singing competition", apparently now the only music that sells zillions of copies in America is not good enough for the show. The stupidity of the people involved in this show never ceases to amaze me. I mean, seriously, why would a "singing competition" cut out a good portion of contestants for not conforming to the screaming aspiring diva or boy next door balladeer mould? What passes off as "mainstream hip hop and R&B" sells like hot cakes nowadays and yet this show still insists on looking for the next Whitney Houston or Barry Manilow. And then they complain when everyone sings Whitney Houston songs.

Leroy is really bringing on the killer hooks. He tells King Tut to go "crunk and bob" his head to Leroy and then tells the judges that his bling-bling teeth are for TV while his real teeth are for "your Mommy and Daddy". The judges insist that he's not for this show even as they love him and send him off. Oh, Leroy, stay sober and lay off the guns because there is great potential in you to be one helluva entertainer. I'm not as amused by the show subtitling his post-audition babble with things like how he is talented but he's decided that it will make him more money to be Randy Randy's scriptwriter. That is obviously made up by the show because Leroy is funnier than that.

Sleazebag walks down the streets and pretends to be horrified by the "debauchery" taking place in New Orleans. The camera pans to this incessant debauchery going on and I lean forward eagerly, one hand ready to call up a ticket agent to get me tickets to New Orleans ASAP. Alas, to my disappointment all I see are a bunch of clowns and some people with too much make-up. Oh yes, I forgot, this is a family-friendly show. We can laugh with our children at the crackheads of the streets but we cannot subject our children to gross indecency like people with too much make-up on their faces. Does this mean that we can get Miss Paula banned from the show?

All this talk of clean and virtuous living is because Jeffrey Johnson's schtick is that he's a religious clean-living young man. Ah yes, I can see all those erect nipples sticking out in Idol-watching households all across the lands in the Bible Belt already. "I'm in the ministry and lead praise and worship for a living," Jeff insists. He can be good-looking, I guess, and can be passed off as Cary Elwes in the dark, were not for his eyes that droop downwards and give him a perpetually melancholic expression. He says that New Orleans is a shock because he has never seen drag queens and such before. Really? He works in prisons as a counselor or something, and he has never seen indecent behavior before?

I do approve of people sending men that look like him to prisons though. Those rowdy, badly-behaved criminals will settle down better if they have a nice, cute-looking whitebread counselor to keep their spirits upright and their bodies engorged with the desire to let their passion for life spurt forth in copious exuberance. Just like how Jeff leads a prayer circle outside the audition room so that God will make every one of them go to Hollywood, I'm sure those prisoners will now prefer to hold hands with Jeff in a circle of love and self-discovery rather than to bend over in the showers ever again.

Because the best money can be made from cashing in on overzealous and pretty delusional religious people who have lost all perspective about things (see: very rich and very corrupt televangelists), the judges see a cash cow in Jeff and sends him to Hollywood. So, yes, go forth, Jeff! Never mind the bland and personality-free In The Still Of The Night - go forth, go west, young man!

Except for Genie, who I love if only to deliberately, with a straight face, rips into Jeff's religious facade by telling Jeff to be a country singer because he cannot be a pop singer without compromising his moral values. Before the kiddies get themselves all worked up in knee-jerk defensiveness, Genie is right, you know. People can quote me Amy Grant as an example of a successful Christian artist crossed over to pop but how many mainstream albums did she last? She had one big album with Baby, Baby and that was it. Pop music is all about sex and drugs and rock and roll. Genie says that he cannot let Jeff go to Hollywood, heh, because it's for his own good. I love Genie. That's the way to treat these annoying biblethumping hypocrites who just want money and sex but pretend that they are better than the rest of the world. But the other three judges say yes and Jeff runs out to hug his girlfriend in joy. Don't worry, my fellow Biblethumpers, I'm sure he's not having sex with her. Premarital sex is a no-no, after all. Right, people?

Sleazebag talks about the winners and the show briefly shows a montage of screaming people. It always makes me nervous when I see how the winners behave so similarly to the losers. And then there's a staged clip where Sleazebag accompanies David, the guy with the supposedly best voice ever who sang early on in this episode, to tell his church that he has been selected to go to Hollywood. They are shocked because Hollywood are filled with disgusting homosexuals, Jews, drug addicts, and Angelina Jolie's cast-off ex-boyfriends and beg David to reconsider. When David refuses to go back to God, they string Sleazebag up by his feet and hang him from the ceiling of the church as a warning to all sinners before putting David on their electric chair and subject him to electroshock "Do you repent and love God again?" treatments. No, really, what do you think the church people do?

Now Sleazebag talks about double things. Twins. Twins don't have a good track record on the show - cue flashbacks to horrid twin auditions of yore - so will the next set of twins be any different? Say hello to the Lamar twins. They wear the same costume that they stole from the funeral of the dead one of Milli Vanilli and sing like... I don't know. At this point I just want the show to be over so I am not bowled over by watery, ordinary singing like I may be in other circumstances. Then there are Rich and JP Molfetta, who say they have different plans from other twins. By this - no, you perverts, not that kind of plan - they plan to audition separately as separate individuals, like they should be if you ask me. I suspect the show coerce them into auditioning together because they don't seem to be happy walking together into the audition room. They have nice arms. Drool. Uh, their singing? It's okay, I guess, for a boyband audition. Genie and King Tut don't like the Molfetta twins though so they argue with Randy Randy and Miss Paula until King Tut comes up with a "plan". He thinks Rich is the better singer so he asks the judges to give their verdict on Rich. Again, King Tut and Genie say no. Because a draw is the same as a rejection, Rich is out. The same happens to JP.

Now, I think that is an unnecessarily nasty thing to do, but I won't be so annoyed if it doesn't mean that I will be losing some eye candy in this season. (Okay, I was quite enthusiastic about the Roman twins too early in the previous season but hey, the Molfetta twins have nice arms!) Miss Paula is not happy and after some screamfest at King Tut, walks out. Randy Randy, when she asks him whether he is coming, quickly follows, leaving King Tut and Genie to enjoy their quiet personal time in the audition room.

The Molfetta brothers are not happy. They say that they wanted to audition separately but the show made them audition together instead. In a way, I agree that they should be upset because they seem to be cut in a gimmick stunt by King Tut rather than be cut on the grounds of their actual merit. They then launch into a long, lengthy, mostly bleeped-out rant about how fake the show is and how "plenty of cats" who can't "hold" Rich's "jock" have gone through when they can't. Blah blah blah. Whatever. They can be my pool boys if that will make them happier. I will respect them more if they don't keep showing up within the next few auditions. Oops, did I spoil something?

Sleazebag summarizes the episode: sixteen people got through only (thank you, Genie and King Tut) and next, the show will go to Las Vegas where Kenny Loggins is revived from the dead especially to grace this show. Aren't we feeling lucky, people? Sleazebag also wonders whether Randy Randy and Miss Paula will come back. Duh, as if they have anywhere else to go for a career.