Tuesday, April 21, 2009

American Idol recap

All week long, I waited in eager anticipation to see tonight's American Idol. Disco Night! How very, very cool. What will they do? I thought.

Imagine my disappointment when a few of the performers didn't follow directions and wimped out, turning a classic up tempo, heavy driving bass-drum dance-beat into a non-recognizable, passe ballad. Hmpf! For that reason, I removed stars from some of the  performances. There's probably no harder genre than disco and I have to give credit to everyone who tried it.

01 — Lil Rounds — I'm Every Woman 2 Stars

If Rounds hadn't been pitchy, pitchy, pitchy, I would have easily given her four stars for her performance of this Chaka Khan song.  It's really hard to go on first and bring the tempo from zero to sixty in one second flat. But Rounds did an excellent job of warming up the crowd. 

02 — Kris Allen — She Works Hard for the Money — 4 stars

Allen chose to ignore the disco theme, and instead created a more moving rendition on guitar of this "woman-power" song sung by vocal powerhouse, Donna Summer. I really liked his creative arrangement, the funky beat, and the tropical sound, which reminded me of Gloria Estefan. I think maybe Allen has found his niche.

03 — Danny Gokey — September — 5 stars

When Gokey hits the stage, one can't help but feel that they are watching a professional performer. Smooth, smooth, smooth. The arrangement of this Earth, Wind, and Fire classic was good, especially in the way he enlisted the help of the incredibly talented backup singers. Great job!

04 — Allison Iraheta — Hot Stuff — 5 stars

Iraheta's performance was both strange and bizarre, but in a really good way. This was one time when her intense vocals worked well for her as she built from a soft and soulful verse into an intense, rock/disco chorus. Wearing six inch heals and a strangely shredded sequined ensemble, she got my attention. The drama was perfect. Her voice was perfect. The tempo was perfect. Fabulous!

05 — Adam Lambert — If I Can't Have You — 4 stars

When you think "disco," most people think "Saturday Night Fever." Lambert picked his song from this album, but did it straight, wearing a black suit, tie and white shirt.  He ignored the disco genre and sang the song as a ballad, proving that he can be a fabulous singer without all the bells and whistles. Sometimes, Lambert reminds me of Elvis. Tonight, he reminded me of Robert Smith of "The Cure." Whenever you see Lambert perform, you know you're watching something really, really special.

06 — Matt Giraud — Staying Alive — 3 stars

Giraud proved that not only can he dance and sing in tune and on time (have you ever tried that? It's impossible!), but that he can sing anything, even disco! It was energetic and I should have loved it, but... Unfortunately, it was lacking a certain something, which I haven't been able to put my finger on. Simon suggested that the performance "came over as a bit desperate." Maybe that's what it was lacking - confidence?

07 — Anoop Desai — Dim All the Lights — 3 stars

In an effort to showcase his sexy voice, Desai slowed down the tempo on this Donna Summer hit. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me. Singing "Gonna dance the night away" to a slow tempo sounded a bit loungey. I think this was a missed opportunity. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

You've come a long way, baby

If you caught Live with Regis and Kelly on Friday, you would have been pleasantly surprised to see Kelly Ripa's real life hubby, Mark Consuelos, filling in for Regis on his day off. Consuelos doesn't fill in very often, so this was a real treat. (He was absent from Oprah's Friday Live panel filmed in Chicago where he is a regular, possibly to make the Regis and Kelly show filmed in NYC.) Consuelos and Ripa met and fell in love while both acting on All My Children.

The two engaged in a playful banter that lasted a full 12 minutes, which I have to guess was lengthened to account for the missing American Idol reject interview, usually scheduled around this time. The two told stories about everything from a traumatic bicycle accident which Ripa suffered as a child, to tales of Consuelos' obsessive compulsion to clean, and funny tidbits about eating Chinese food with the kids. I was enthralled and captivated. The dialog was magic.

The two did not disappoint when it came time to interview their first guest, Drew Barrymore, and discuss common and everyday dilemmas: Do we get on Facebook? Do we read papers in print or online?

I first began watching Kelly Ripa on All My Children where she played Adam Chandler's illegitimate, long lost daughter, Hayley. At the time, a whole slew of younger characters had been added to the cast. Every day, I would rush home from school to watch the latest episode to find out what Hayley, Kendall, (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Charlie (Robert Duncan McNeill), and Julie (Lauren Holly) were up to. I cringed when Ripa's character Hayley was attracted to Alec McIntyre, who seemed twice her age. Soon after, I stopped watching the show because my school schedule conflicted.

Imagine my surprise when many years later, Ripa was chosen to cohost the Regis show after Kathy Lee Gifford left for greener pastures. I'd watched a few shows where she filled in and thought she did a fabulous job.

Hosting an interview show has got to be the most difficult job in the acting world. For most of the segment, you have no script and yet you have to look intelligent on live camera. You have to rely on your staff to do background research for interviews so you don't come off looking like an unprepared idiot. The camera moves around and you have to look for the light. You never know where the interview will go next, so you have to roll with the punches. It's truly an art and an amazing skill which few people have.

Ripa and Consuelos, who met while playing opposite love interests on All My Children, make a fabulous hosting pair. Someday when Regis is ready to try something new (maybe become the fifth judge on American Idol), I hope Consuelos will take over permanently.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wild Card Giraud Saved a Second Time

Matt Giraud has been voted out twice by America. Twice, he has been saved by the American Idol judges.

The first time Giraud was saved by the judges was after he had been voted out during the preliminary elimination rounds. However, he was saved by the judges as one of their four wild card contestants. Anoop Desai, another wild card, was also among the lowest vote getters during this elimination round. The other two wild cards, Jasmine Murray and Megan Joy Corkrey, were eliminated earlier in the season.

This time, Giraud was saved by the judges as their one and only, "save" for the season.

Was saving Giraud the right decision? Does it really matter at this point, if you get voted off, or not?

Two of the most successful final ten Idol competitors did not win the contest: Jennifer Hudson, who came in 7th place during the third season, but who has since won a Grammy and an Oscar; and Chris Daughtry, who came in 4th place during the fifth season, but has made his mark in the serious rock circuit. It's apparent that once you arrive at the finals, you've already won for all intents and purposes. You've gotten the attention of producers, record companies, and most importantly, potential customers -- the CD buying, iTunes downloading, concert ticket buying public . It's up to you to now ride the wave of success.

Giraud will have another shot, but I think it's a moot point. America will continue to vote for their favorites and I doubt he'll make it through the next two rounds. Fortunately, record sales seem to have nothing to do with the voting and Giraud has a good shot at being successful if he puts out a good product.

Speaking of "making your mark," whatever happened to Nicole Tieri, also known as Scooter Girl? She was one of my absolute favorites who did not make it to the semifinals, along with Nick Mitchell (aka Norman), who was eliminated early in this season. Both would have made the show so much more interesting!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

American Idol recap

Today’s American Idol featured songs from the Cinema and 7 contestants performed.  Before tonight, I predicted that the final three competitors might be: Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta, and Danny Gokey.  However, tonight brought some surprises.

Adam Lambert was so spectacular, he moved into a position at the top, which meant I had to remove a star from everyone else's ratings.

01 — Allison Iraheta — I Don't Want to Miss A Thing 3 Stars

Tonight, the tone in Iraheta's voice reminded me of Tina Turner. The beginning was soft and emotional. However, Iraheta bumped up the intensity too quickly so that she was shouting by the middle of the song. I graded her down for being off key and not utilizing the incredibly beautiful melody, originally composed by Diane Warren and intended for Celine Dion, but sung by Aerosmith. Iraheta is only 16 and has room to grow and learn how to use dynamics to build a song.

02 — Anoop Desai — Everything I Do — 4 stars

There is no doubt that this was Desai's best performance to date. His emotional rendition of Bryan Adams hit song was pleasant and soulful. Great job!

03 — Adam Lambert — Born To Be Wild — 5 stars

Move over Ozzy, Adam's in town!  My gosh!  This isn't American Idol. I think I've just watched an incredible rock concert by one of the biggest stars in heavy metal. Not only was Lambert's performance spectacular, it was one of the best I've seen from ANYONE, and I've seen Aerosmith live, twice. Unbelievable!

04 — Matt Giraud — Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman — 2 stars

How did this happen? This is the worst I've ever heard Giraud sing. The song was off key. The arrangement was bad - the band came in too late and was too loud. A simple string quartet would have been best. Ugh!

05 — Danny Gokey — Endless Love — 4 stars

Truly, hasn't Gokey heard that Endless Love is one of the more 'done over' songs in history? Seriously, I thought the intro was not his best, but in true Gokey style, he wowed us at the end. As Paula Abdul said, "You slay us at the end."

06 — Kris Allen — Falling Slowly — 4 stars

This was a truly emotional rendition of a song which I quite honestly had never heard before, written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The song is so obscure, I couldn't even find it on YouTube. Nevertheless, I really like the way he made the performance seem special. My biggest complaint was that the backup singers drowned him out as the song moved into the chorus. Allen's voice is strong enough to hold it's own on the high notes. He doesn't need to be 'bulked up,' to hide a lack of range.

07 — Lil Rounds — The Rose — 3 stars

This is another song that has been overdone. Rounds started off the song off key and weak. She does poorly on quiet songs which require a lighter, clearer voice. However, once she hopped into her soulful gospel rendition of the song, it was fabulous. I wish she had done the gospel rendition throughout.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More ‘Playing’ Needed on Parks and Recreation

When I first heard about the new Amy Poehler television show, Parks and Recreation, which debuted on NBC last night after The Office, I was ecstatic. If it’s anything like actual real-life stagnating bureaucracy, it will be an absolute hoot!

I imagined a comedy format similar to Seinfeld, with community meetings commandeered by unemployed sociopaths living on mental disability payments shouting, “You’re not following Robert’s Rules!” I imagined droves of people blocking traffic and throwing newspaper racks into Starbucks windows to protest idiotic issues while the really serious issues were basically ignored. I hoped to be a fly on the wall and witness secret donations by shady businesses to political campaigns in exchange for land use variances.

Instead, I saw a show formatted as a carbon copy of The Office. The Office is good, mind you, but it’s been done. Part of the attraction is that it is original.

Unfortunately, The Office can sometimes be depressingly realistic. I suppose that’s part of the reason it’s successful – we can all relate, having worked in a dysfunctional office with incompetent management. Just as the cartoon, Dilbert, is plastered all over office cubicles (when bosses don’t make you take them down), The Office recreates one of those universally experienced ills of our society. Misery loves company.

Parks and Recreation, however, is a day in the life of the largely unknown. Most of us have never experienced the bizarre world of community activism or city/county government employment. I imagine it’s hard for most people to relate.

What Parks and Recreation needs is a bit more ‘playing’ (a.k.a acting) and less narration. There’s lots of room for improvement and I want to give it a chance. I love Amy Poehler and love the idea. I hope they can make it work. Sadly, I didn't like this first episode.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Medium Becoming Murky

When NBC’s Medium debuted in 2005, it quickly became my favorite, must-watch-each-week-without-fail TV show. Not only did I love the show’s premise of a woman who experiences psychic visions and finds a unique niche in using her abilities to fight crime; I also loved the writing, the directing, and the incredibly talented and believable actors who had been cast to portray the roles of real life psychic medium, Allison Dubois, her family, and crime fighting cohorts. (Patricia Arquette, Jake Weber, Sofia Vassilieva, Maria Lark, Miguel Sandoval, David Cubitt, and Tina DiJoseph have impressed me since day one.) America agreed with me and the cast has picked up a slew of awards over the years. Most impressively, Patricia Arquette won an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama series in 2005.

Now in Season 5, Medium has changed. Nearly every scene seems to be filmed in the murky dark. Ominous, creepy shadows and a “gotcha!” spine-chilling, terror inspiring soundtrack add to the atmosphere. Almost gone are the fun and quirky daytime scenes with the whole family playfully arguing around the breakfast table; the kids’ shenanigans in school; and other casual, everyday happenings of this extraordinary psychic family. Even Joe’s new office is set in the dark. How ridiculous!

Even the website shows just how poorly lit the scenes are. Shown above is the real website for last night's episode, "All in the Family."

In addition, I’ve found myself wanting to change the channel during the last two episodes. In “Truth Be Told,” which aired last week, an incredibly annoying game show buzzer, which went off in Allison’s head every time someone lied, was set far too loud. In “All in the Family,” which aired last night, I was turned off by the gruesome portrayal of a man wrapping his live sister (we thought it was his mother) in a blue tarp, then bludgeoning her to death when she tried to wriggle free. Yuck! I changed the channel to watch the final NCAA basketball championship which was airing at the same time (NBC should have aired popular reruns), then changed back the channel in a few minutes.

Although I must admit that I admire the powers that be for attempting to keep twin, Miranda Carabello, cast as the youngest daughter, Marie, throughout all five years of the series, she isn’t doing so well with her speaking parts. The kid needs serious acting classes. Whoever dressed her needs a reality check, for she appears more like a sloppy glamour model, than a six-year old kid. Neat braids and non-prescription (or real prescription) eye glasses might help her look more the role.

I would love for the show to return to it’s roots and tell more stories about the real Allison Dubois, her attempts to find missing children, and her work as a medium between the living and those who have passed on (a part-time job to help ends meet, perhaps?).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Big Surprise -- Another Wild Card Down

As Megan Joy Corkrey leaves American Idol after being voted off yesterday, I can’t help but wonder: Were the judges wrong to pick her as one of the wild cards? Should there have even been any wild cards?

If viewers had been allowed to vote in their twelve favorites from the entire pool of 36 final contestants, I don’t believe that either Corkrey or Jasmine Murray, eliminated second, would have made it. Sadly, I don’t think Anoop Desai will be around much longer, either.

The judges picked their wild cards primarily by looks.

But, the proof is in the iTunes. When I close my eyes and listen to the contestants sing, it’s very apparent who could possibly be successful in the “real world.” Yes, there will be men flocking after Corkrey and Murray. Yes, there will be preteen girls who want to be them. But no, I won’t pay money to buy their recordings. Sorry, gals.

My theory is that Matt Giraud would have been voted in if viewers hadn’t been limited in their number of choices.