Season 5: That Old Black Magic

Ryan "North Carolina, Are You Ready For Me?" Sleazebag opens the show with his voiceover, reminding me that North Carolina produced thespians like Kewpie and Fantasia in the past. I suppose that justifies this episode being two hours long. To encourage me and make me hope for the best, the show now presents a trio of fabulous people - a fireman, a Lil' Kim wannabe, and someone who dresses up like a blue Christmas elf standing before the entrance of the stadium. Oh, and there's that Michael Jackson wannabe I first saw in the preview montage in episode one as well! And he's grabbing his crotch to tantalize me into not switching the channel! And... and... I need to lie down for a while.

Sleazebag reveals that we're actually headed towards "a small town" called Greensboro. The kids are cheering, they are screaming, they are waving at the cameras, you get the idea, I'm sure. Miss Paula tells the camera that she expects great talent from these people. I'm sure. Her last young man can't even use his tongue properly, I hear. Randy Randy pretends to the camera that he doesn't know where he is. Most likely, he's annoyed that he doesn't know where the buffet table is but pretending to have amnesia is the only way he will actually get camera time. King Tut, according to Sleazie, pays "a local woman" a hundred bucks to make him look good. Sleazie lies. That chubby hausfrau giving King Tut flowers surely isn't one he pays money to - he goes for blondes, especially bottle blondes, I hear.

As the judges await the freak show to begin, Sleazie walks among the wannabes in his white shirt, tight black jeans, and sparkly shiny belt to recount the talents from the south that America presumably has seen and can't get enough of: Bo, Ruben, Fantasia, and Kewpie. Well, what can I say? Many people in the Bible Belt did claim last season that Bo is Jesus and I hear these people are waging an online holy crusade on those who insist that Kewpie is Jesus. The Jerusalem, I hear, is the official website forum. Hmm, I find myself fascinated at the sight of Sleazie's lean and mean physique nicely highlighted by his shirt. The more I watch this show, the more I feel like I'm being drawn irrevocably into the screaming fangirl darkside.

First up is Sabrina, who calls herself the teenaged witch. She's fat - cue Pavlovian haw haw haw here - and King Tut tells Sabrina to lose the "teenaged" part in her name. I agree. The "witch" part is questionable as well because Sabrina's version of Lean On Me can topple towers in how awful it is. Still, the fact that she states in her resumes that she has won many karaoke contestants and men are always hitting on her suggest to me that she's just one of those jokers who are being deliberately bad for a laugh. There are so many of them nowadays that I'm sure one of these days the bad audition episodes will be populated by aspiring jokers wanting to be remembered as a funny fellow. King Tut says that Sabrina is more Springer than Idol and she protests that she doesn't take off her clothes or anything like that. Both King Tut and Randy Randy say that after a few drinks and some karaoke, you never know. They are, I hope, not speaking from experience although I suppose there's a reason why those two are rumored to be banned from returning to Joe Murena's Lisbon-themed karaoke bar in town. Sabrina launches into a series of cusses on her way out. Yup, definitely someone who's putting on a show for camera, that Sabrina. And she's not even funny while she's at it, sigh.

Cachet Robinson - did I spell her first name correctly? - is next and she looks like she's slipping some watermelons down her pants. She sings I'm Every Woman without backing music and the result is expectedly hideous and off-key despite her insistence ("I'm every woman... umm... doo-doo-doo?") that she's the total package for a self-professed shower singer. Goodbye Cachet. There are more enjoyable things to do in the shower than singing (hint: the shower head) and the neighbors will be probably be happier if she explores those alternative activities. This is followed by a montage of young ladies being rejected. Then there's Amanda McManaway who lifelessly warbles her way through Somewhere Over The Rainbow. King Tut mock-screams and acts like he's being electrocuted in his seat while Randy Randy bursts out laughing.

Then it's Kellie Pickler's turn. She's the token wannabe whose shtick is so overbearing and so annoying in its relentlessness that the judges just have to let her through or she'll start stalking them. Her pimp clip shows her rollerskating in her stint as a waitress and she's from a smalltown (which is American Idol talk for "I'm a virgin and if you vote a lot for me, I'll let you imagine that you can deflower me!") and she has everyone's favorite Idol accessory: the grandpa whom she pretends to adore and waits hand and feet to before the camera. Kellie talks about how her mother left her when she was three and how devastated she is because Mommy left just like that. Yes, yes, that's sad, but what's even sadder is her willingness to flog her sad story like that. Oh, and her drug-abusing father is in and out of prison her whole life so HER LIFE IS SO SAD SO WHY DON'T ALL OF YOU LOVE HER, WAH WAH WAH? It doesn't matter if she lamely goes through Since U've Been Gone and A Broken Wing - two songs calculated to tug at heartstrings after she's done whoring her mother and father to the TV screen - because she wants everyone to know that she told her grandfather that there is no way she will not make it through to Hollywood. Then there are her pathetic wailings to the camera that she has nothing to go home to, et cetera. Ugh. And she's going to Hollywood! I feel like retching already. Dare I hope that she gets arrested for drug possession and has to be disqualified from competing? If Miss Broken Home here makes it far, I shudder to imagine the extent she'll shove her glorified trailer trash existence down everyone's throat for sympathy votes.

Sean DeSalazar - did I get the last name correct? - shows up in shades and a suit. He looks better with the shades on, by the way, because when he takes them off, he really looks seventeen with a fake moustache. He and his family have created a blue giant foldable card which he claims tells his life story. Sleazebag manages to get a dig in when he says that it must be a short life story given that the card has only three pages and it's all ugly big-fonted scrawlings telling everyone that Sean will do anything to be on American Idol. Except kissing King Tut on the mouth, Sean manages to write down on the card as qualifier, by the way, although kissing other body parts are apparently negotiable. After some wretched scene with Sleazie and Sean's brother who tries to be cute, Sean meets the judges and launches into a very dull and forgettable performance of That Old Black Magic. Well, at least he's on tune. The judges all think he's like some singing waiter, chef, or maitre'd in an unpopular restaurant singing at closing time and Miss Paula finds the outfit distracting. Maybe she likes it better when he's not wearing anything while singing. The judges send him packing although Miss Paula insists that she's telling him no because she doesn't think that his voice is appropriate for the show. Um, Rank Sinatra, anyone? Sean's little brother gives a prepared rant to the camera and I honestly don't care one way or the other to recap that little snit's painstakingly rehearsed babble. Who's next?

Next is a montage of people who bring in "props" like a chair, a sign that says "Ask me about my voice!", a sketch of King Tut, and a cut-out of a boxer with King Tut's face pasted over the boxer's face. "Gross!" is King Tut's reaction to the last. Richard Garland must have wandered onto this show by mistake because he's a ventriloquist and he has a dummy along with him to demonstrate his ability. Sleazie has a silly banter with the dummy which tells him that Richard is the next American Idol because Richard is wearing Sleazie's shirt. Ooh, that's some sexy slash fiction in the making there. I'm sure that will crop up on the Web one of these days. Richard tells the judges that he has been playing with the dummy since he was eight but he put it away when he turned fourteen and it wasn't cool to do that anymore. (Read: kids start picking on him in the playground for being a freak.) Richard brings his dummy out of the closet just for Miss Paula today. Richard then proceeds to sing Flying Without Wings, which he claims to have sung to his wife a year ago. He has a wife? Oops, there goes his chances with the teenyboppers and their mothers! His singing is passable but not too exciting, although I'd swear that he sounds better than some of the loser guys that went through in the last two episodes. The judges send him packing because he's not, according to them, of star calibre or something like that. He should've said he's single and kept the dummy at home.

If Rhonda Jones knows that she sounds like she's overdosed on helium, why oh why does she audition for this show? Won't she know that she'll get mocked? Then again, maybe she wants to get mocked. She wants to be on TV. She wants to feel... special. Well, everyone watching this self-proclaimed "Cattle Underwood crossed with Britney Spears" (or at least, her mother calls her that) murdering the Backstreet Boys' As Long As You Love Me will believe that she has, at least, spent some time in special school. The line that she sang - "People say I am crazy and that I am blind" - seems sadly self-prophetic. Rhonda seems shocked that they turned her down and sobs to the camera. Yup, this one is definitely putting on a crazy show for the camera. She knows to ask for a hug from Sleazie, after all, that hussy. Sleazie calls Rhonda "self-effacing, naive, and nice".

He claims that Sgt Steven David, Jr is the polar opposite of delusional Rhonda. Hmm-mm, that Steven sure looks pretty good in his uniform and clean-shaven head and all, until he opens his mouth and I find myself thinking that this guy is going to promise more than he can deliver. He sings Let's Get It On (passably but not too impressively), hits on Miss Paula, gets the judges into his shtick so much, it's apparent that they will personally shove him to Hollywood if they have to. And then he goes on to show off the fact that he's married to the camera, which will surely cause his stock to plummet, although I'm sure that will never stop Miss Paula even if she pretends to be outraged about a married man hitting on her to get to Hollywood. Sleazie "jokes" about how the Stevens seem okay with him doing anything behind closed doors with Miss Paula as long as he comes out with an acceptance slip. I'm confused. I mean, isn't that how Sleazie got his career start- oh, never mind, forget I said that. I have to admire this show's insistence on flaunting the whole Miss Paula likes her hot boys thing in my face though. They and she obviously have learned nothing from her recent "I sleep with lice-infested boys" scandal. ("I think it's more accurately an issue of people not caring that she slept with that fellow. The fans of the show are so overinvested in it that they choose not to believe that there is any possibility of unsavory going-ons attached to it," suggests hubby.)

Anyway, back to the show. Is it just me or do many of those people the judges send off to Hollywood don't sound halfway decent or memorable at all? It's almost like the judges are auditioning for familiar stereotypes to fill up the finalist roster, hmm.

Sleazie brings up the fact that Greensboro is a small town but the audition draws big family support. That's because the wannabes learn quickly that showing off the father or grandfather (if you're female) or the mother or grandmother (if you're male) is the fastest way to win the hearts of Middle America, duh. The mention of family is actually a cue to introduce a montage of people celebrating or commiserating with their family members as well as the audition of Halicia Thompson, she of the fifteen family members and self-proclaimed single mother of an eleven-year old. She performs the theme song to that TV show A Different World and she sounds better than most of the "successful" auditions I've seen so far in this episode. She goes through and the Middle America KKK'ers that watch this show sharpen their knives that are still dripping with Fantasia's blood should she make it through to the finals. Halicia brings out a plastic in case King Tut wants to kiss her - maybe she should have thought of using protection before that kiddie of hers was conceived. Yeah, yeah, cheap shot below the belt, that one, I know. I'm just kidding. I like Halicia from what I've heard and seen of her so far. Her fifteen family members are predictably loud in their celebrating her going to Hollywood. "I told y'all! I told y'all!" Halicia shrieks triumphantly.

Donnie obviously thinks that his skinny and dweeby face will get him laid often since Kewpie was so popular... oh, three seasons ago, so he comes here to audition. His mother's claim that he didn't inherit his singing "talent" from her comes off like some hasty denial to save her own face when Donnie butchers Bridge Over Troubled Water as if he's some tsunami coming over to destroy the world, Godzilla-style. "When you're weh-eh-EH-eh-EH-ry... with fre-EH-eh-ENs... like a bridge ov-UH-uh-UH troubled WAHHHH-der!" The judges send him packing. King Tut nastily tells Donnie that he will have a new career from this moment on and poor Donnie obviously doesn't get it, that poor dear.

Kendra wants the world to know that she has been through 42 group homes. In case someone is unclear about what she is saying, she clarifies that "group home" is another word for "orphanage". I hear she and Kellie are going to start a record a single called Our Lives Suck So Give Us All Your Money. Kendra also wants everyone to know that she was emanicipated by 15, married by 19 with three kids, her husband was no-good so she sent him packing, and now she's making a good life for herself and her kids. That's nice to hear but I have a thing against people milking personal tragedies for personal gains in a public outlet so she and Kellie can shut up on their personal Fast Car soapbox now, thanks. Kendra also tells Sleazie that he's hot. Is this where I make a really distasteful joke about how she wouldn't have had kids if she married Sleazie instead of that no-good man of hers? Still, Kendra isn't as offensive as Kellie in milking her sob story - Kendra is presenting her story as one of inspiration and chasing dreams, after all, while Kellie just wants the world to know that she had a horrible life so that makes her automatically entitled to fame and fortune. So Kendra's still a tentative A-OK in my book. After protesting that she was always compared to "a young Whitney", looks-wise, since she got her hair all curled-up when King Tut takes one look at her and calls her just that, Kendra sings Ain't No Mountain High Enough. She doesn't sound anything special to me, King Tut says no, but as Kendra says, it doesn't matter because she's going to Hollywood as the other two judges said yes. Gotta love how Kendra tells her three kids that she is leaving them to go to Hollywood though!

Sleazie babbles about stepping up despite headaches and sore throats and more (his personal philosophy, no doubt, when it comes to his personal life) and I find myself thinking that his personal trainer and cosmetic surgeon really deserve a raise for the work they put into turning a doughy off-season guy who was cavorting with John Stamos in a beach to this plastic-looking kinda-hot guy on the TV screen. Next is Kenneth Chase Bush who sounds really a lot like a woman. He just has to perform (horribly) I Have Nothing. King Tut says that he keep picturing Kenneth in a dress and Kenneth says that he'd wear one if it means that he's going to Hollywood. Somewhere, Sleazie is wondering who leaked his secret method to success to ugly unwashed losers like Kenneth here. Randy Randy and Miss Paula however agree to let him move on. Have to fill up those spaces somehow in the workshop episodes, I suppose.

The show then picks on King Tut's constant usage of "I don't mean to be rude" or its variation as his catchphrase of this season via a montage of him using that phrase on various losers and freaks. King Tut doesn't mean to be rude when tells this guy with green-dyed hair and in a green shirt that says "I lost my number, can I have yours?" that the guy can be the wife of the Incredible Hulk. Actually, I don't mean to be rude as well but I think King Tut is right on the mark in that particular observation. Is it just me or somewhere in that montage is Frankie Muniz, Jr of Malcolm In The Middle wearing a long blonde wig?

Shawna Klepper, in full Arabian-Night stripper regalia, waits for the camera to roll before she calls Sleazie "so short". Sleazie thanks her and wishes her luck before looking at the camera with a mock expression of confusion before asking Shawna, "Is that bad?" He points out that he looks short because Shawna is wearing eight-inch heels. Shawna says that she's only five-foot-nine. Sleazie says that he's of that height too and she says that he's bluffing. He says that he's "average height", she says that he's not, and he says that in California he is. She says that she's moving to California in January and she doesn't want to meet short guys like him. Don't worry, Shawna, it's fat guys with thick wads of cash that you'll be meeting in those clubs you'll be working in. In the meantime, those two are not good actors at all and they really shouldn't consider acting as a future career option unless it's adult films that we are talking about. Shawna reveals to the judges that her mother who chose this outfit for her is a stripper. The judges all insist that they are not judging her mother even as King Tut writes in his notes "Ask her mom about that dress", Randy Randy writes "Get her mother's number", and Miss Paula draws a cow chasing after a moon. They send her packing and King Tut then makes fun of the fashion taste of Shawna's mother.

Macarena plays as the day comes to an end. Sleazie says that there are plenty of potential Fantasias going through but alas, no Kewpies. How sad when Kewpie is the standard of masculinity of this show. This leads to a montage of truly sorry examples of manhood screeching and murdering all kinds of songs in the name of getting some Baptist preacher wife fan of the show to conduct an illicit affair with them. Eric appropriately wonders why he hasn't heard from the judges. A skinny alien from who-knows-what planet named Brandon hiccups his way through Uncle Kracker's Follow Me all the while with his eyes wide shut. Brandon seems to think that he's channeling Michael Jackson, how pitiful. His mother insists that Brandon is just nervous and his clothes aren't right and they will come back next year with him in better clothes. Hope springs eternal, I suppose. Does his mother know that Brandon is gay, by the way? The mention of nerves by Brandon's mother leads to a montage of people flubbing because they claim they are nervous.

Then... ooh, a guy with facial hair! Is that a first? Ryan Brasden sings Bless The Broken Road in an obnoxiously fake country twang and my momentary interest in this guy dies a quick death. He looks like Jeff Timmons with blond hair, come to think of it. King Tut says that this Ryan is the first Ryan he has met that has any talent. I don't think singing is one of those talents, unfortunately. Ryan is going through so that King Tut can explore this guy's talents a little more.

After that fact that there's "potential in the guys in Greensboro" as per Sleazie (and he's the authority on guys, after all), it's back to the sorry state of testosterone weenie-ness as Cedric, despite claiming to be related to Fantasia, performs a Muppet version of Fantasia's rendition of Chain Of Fools. The much-hyped Paris Nesby, granddaughter of Ann Nesby of the Sounds of Blackness, is next. She's 17 and she has this squeaky chimpmunk voice when she speaks. She sounds a little better when she's singing the Dixie Chicks' Cowboy, Take Me Away but I'm underwhelmed by her singing. Paris then sing a Billie Holliday song and I'm still underwhelmed, especially by how much she seems to have deliberately contorted her voice to imitate Holliday as much as possible. That performance feels very rehearsed, in other words. The judges imagine that she's Ann Nesby and sends her to Hollywood. Sleazie hosts five minutes of Ann and Paris Sob Showcase to pimp Paris further.

At the end of the day, 24 people are sent to Hollywood. Um, okay.

Day two is here. Half an hour more before this episode ends! Oh, and it's King Tut's birthday. Since Uncle Nigel discovered the Web and realized how sexy King Tut and Ryan Sleazebag are when they are acting all in love and lust and all that, orders have been sent out to make sure that there are as minimum shared screentime between those two men as much as possible. Thus the lack of the forbidden love moments between the two men and the tedious attempt to shove some chemistry-free King Tut and Miss Paula Moonlighting thing down my throat make the party too boring for words. This show is turning into a show for kiddies. Where are the innuendo-laden sparrings between King Tut and Sleazie? Where is the freaking love? I'm so bored recapping the non-spontaneous attempts by the show to emulate some Nickolodeon kiddie special. I want TEH SEX, damn it!

Anyway, on with the show. Marcus Antoine Behling is pretty hot and he claims to be a professional talent show contestant and frequent winner. He thinks he's unique but if he has to compare himself, he's a mix of Ginuwine, Usher, and R Kelly, fans of underaged girlies. Which is why he sings the fan of underaged boys Michael Jackson's She's Out Of My Life, I suppose. That's like saying he likes oranges only to start munching on an apple, doesn't it? And is there a rule saying that all the guys on this show have to be some big fan of Michael Jackson? He then sings. "She's out offff-" He holds the "off" for about ten seconds and "life" for another ten. He keeps doing this until he sounds like a complete buffoon. He's joking, right? His voice seems okay but he comes off like some guy who is being deliberately bad for laughs. When King Tut asks Marcus whether he has any vocal lessons and Marcus says that he has the Randy Randy and Miss Paula's DVD on singing, that's when I'm positively sure that he's putting on an act for the show. Outside, he breaks the DVD with a hammer. Okay, he's definitely playing an act. How sad, really. He's hot and I don't mind seeing him a little more longer on the show. King Tut is amused though and he says that this is the best birthday he's ever had. I agree, it's especially hilarious how Randy Randy and Miss Paula try to get Marcus to admit that he's joking because their DVD can't be wrong!

Now is a montage of freaks who make weird faces and wear weirder costumes to get on TV and become the next William Hung. Sleazie calls Jimmy Crabtree "Mr Personality" because he obviously going to sound monotonous (thanks for giving the punchline away, Sleazie). Jimmy says that he's in construction and dummy music plays in the background as Jimmy slurs and drones his way through a list of his best traits. He says he loves karaoke bars and how he met a girl at a karaoke bar. She asks him to sing at her wedding. What a loser, sigh. Jimmy sings Bless The Broken Road - probably the Country Anthem of American Idol this season - and he's off-key and sounding too contrived in imitating the country twang. King Tut says that Jimmy has the personality of a hippo while singing. Next is an obvious joker, Sammy Neighbors, with a red cloth that claims to be raw and acts like an overacting prima donna. He flounces around while singing A Whole New World (which he claims to be I Can Show You The World. The red cloth is his magic carpet, apparently. Then he starts singing Straight Up until he cracks in laughter because he thinks he's so funny getting on TV by being like that. "Sylvester Stallone's younger sister singing Paula Abdul" is what King Tut calls Sammy. Goodbye, Sammy. Maybe the local burger grill is hiring stand-up comedians.

Tyra Juliette was cheated on by her boyfriend while she was recovering from surgery and she took an eleven-hour train ride here. She sings In The Still Of The Night in an ordinary manner but what the heck, there are plenty of places in the workshop so she's going through. Next, It's Raining Men plays as a montage proves that North Carolina isn't without its share of colorful and atrociously bad flaming queens contrary to what some Bible-thumpers will love to insist. Now it's Seth Strickland's turn. He's the Michael Jackson wannabe. He sounds awful in his Thriller - complete with "Ah! Ah!" at appropriate spots - but I must admire him for going on TV like that and risking a sound beating from the local Georgian branch of the KKK. If that's not enough, he performs an encore with She's Out Of My Life. He's not going to Hollywood, safe to say, although the judges commend him on his dancing.

Remember the fireman and the Lil' Kim wannabe in the start of the episode? Well, the fireman's turn is up. He's Jordan Sutherland and he's actually wearing his father's suit, hmmmph. He claims to have watched the show since season one, which explains how he believes that he knows King Tut's favorite song is You Raised Me Up. He's shouting, he's oversinging, and King Tut and Miss Paula send him to Hollywood. They are deluded enough to believe that Jordan has a chance with the electorate with that face, I suppose. King Tut doesn't mind ugly guys, after all, only ugly fat ladies.

And finally, after being hyped the entire episode, the Lil' Kim wannabe Rhonetta Johnson is up next. She's touted to be the next Virgin Keith, William Hung, Mary Roach, and Da Derrick. She says that she's "dressed" real nice like the way she is now all the time, the other ladies are jealous of her style, she sings horribly, King Tut makes a predictable fat-chick/J Lo joke, and she cusses the judges until the next year. She especially has a thing against Miss Paula, saying that Miss Paula is a has-been who has never been famous in the first place anyway so Miss Paula has no right to judge talent like Rhonetta. She's not as funny as she thinks she is. The chuckle at the end of her rant is a dead giveaway of what she is hoping to get out of this show, although she may have to wait until her court date. By the way, her mugshots are so much funnier than the anticlimatic "bad audition" of hers - check them out, they're online!

Sleazie reveals that nine more people are going to Hollywood in day two and the show closes with a montage of broken notes to the tune of Fame. At this point it's obvious to me that they called the choice losers back just to "perform" for this montage. I think I like the Lady Marmalade montage better. Oh, and why is Jordan in this montage?