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Star Search, April 23: Ben’s Montage and Naomi’s Mistakeby Ken Kellam III -- 04/24/2003
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When I was a traffic reporter, more than once I filled in when someone got sick and couldn't make it in. Well, in this case, the regular Star Search writer wasn’t able to cover the show and even the backup had to cover for somebody else. Therefore, I agreed to pinch hit at the last minute.
Arsenio starts out by explaining that last week there was a special package called "The best of Naomi," and this week, we'll be seeing the "best of Ben Stein." We see him as the "Dance Critic," who tells a group of cheerleaders they're very good, but they're like "cheerleaders from outer space," whatever that meant. There is also Stein's "Washington Insider" persona, who drops political names like they're his corporate sponsors. Then there's the economics professor, who makes comments like, "There's no recession of talent in this country." Finally, there's the side of Ben that gives "Too Much Input," such as when he referred to a female contestant as "Viagra for the ears."
Before the competition gets started for the night, Hall introduces tonight's guest judge, Brian McNight. Hall says he hasn't been this excited since listening to track No.13 on the Justin Timberlake. We go on to learn that Timberlake co-wrote the cut with McNight. The two men then engage in a bit of banter, and have a short discussion of "vocal gymnastics."
The evening starts with the junior singer category. First up is 10-year-old Mark Mejia from San Diego. As it turns out, Mejia is also a multiple spelling bee winner. Too bad for him "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" has already been done on this show. Of course, there's always "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" by Travis Tritt, and "M-E-T-H-O-D O-F L-O-V-E" by Hall and Oates. Instead, however, Mejia gives a splendid delivery of the Jackson Five tune, "Never Can Say Goodbye." In fact, he sounds a lot like a young Michael Jackson when singing it, but does so without sounding like an imitation. Speaking of which, would someone please tell Arsenio to leave the "Jacko" jokebook at home when discussing junior vocalists?
The crowd is clearly under Mejia's spell (sorry, couldn't resist), and now it's time for the voting. Naomi Judd calls him the future of show business and gives him 5 stars. Ben Stein says it was like he was from outer space, fantastic and unbelievable, and also awards him 5 stars. What's with Stein and outer space references, by the way? Ahmed Zappa calls the performance "awesome," and gives Mejia another 5 stars. Brian McNight-calls the youngster "incredible" and "amazing," but gives him just 4 stars.
Next is his competition, 14-year-old Richard Krakowski of New Jersey. He starts out by saying when he was in fourth grade, everyone was forced to audition for the school play, and all of a sudden, this "beautiful sound" came out of his mouth. He croons Elton John's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," from The Lion King. However, the judges apparently didn't this time.
Naomi says he has a "real throaty sound," and that he needs to learn to sing out of his "mask," or the front of his face. After telling him vocal training will teach him to sing from his diaphragm, he gets just 3 stars. Ben Stein says the teen does have a beautiful voice, just not quite up to the competition, and gives him 4 stars. Ahmed Zappa, like Stein, cites the competition, but says he thinks Krakowski has a good voice and that as he gets older he's going to be "super kickass," and gives him 4 stars. McNight says the vocalist need to get his attitude to match his voice, or vice-versa, and gives him 3 stars.
I have to agree with the judges. The performance was good, but not great. He ends up behind after the judges' vote, 19-14. Unfortunately, right as we're about to find out how America voted during the commercial, the Weatherwoman from the local CBS affiliate breaks in to give an update on the storms in the area. When they return to the network feed, it's on to the next category, so I have to wait until CBS updates the show's website to find out Krakowski won the call-in vote 16 to 15. Obviously, it wasn't enough, as Mejia advances by a score of 34-30. Don't get me wrong: Kristine Kahanek is great to look at, and if female meteorologists were given their own category, I'd give her 5 stars in a heartbeat. But I hope that next time the station lets her pre-empt a commercial instead of part of the show.
Now it's on to the Dance category. First up is a quartet of teen males from Las Vegas known as "Da Crew." One of them explains that they're not just limited to one style of dance. They come out in jumpsuits that look like something they ordered from NASA, and thrill the crowd with a high-energy, upbeat performance.
Ben Stein says they look like children of the Dust Bowl, calls them fabulous and says they blew him away, and awards 5 stars. Ahmed Zappa says he's totally surprised, and that there was a lot of imagination. After saying they did things that had never before been seen on this stage, he also gives them the maximum 5 stars. McNight says it's just amazing that young guys are willing and able to get up and dance like that, and awards them another 5 stars. Naomi Judd calls them jumping beans and says teenage boys didn't dance when she was a teenager, and that they must be little heartthrobs. Unlike her male counterparts, however, she gives them 3 stars, but says she wishes it had been four. Leave it to Naomi to bring the audience to a standstill. She asks Arsenio if she can change her vote. He chooses to ignore her, and tells the guys they have a total of 18 stars.
I think they definitely deserved five stars. Their performance was very acrobatic, lively, and the synchronization was awe-inspiring.
Next up is a quartet of three boys and a girl from Utah known as Sudden Impact, and yes, they are Mormons. Why is that relevant? 17-year-old Autumn, the lone female of the group, explains that because they're Mormons, they have strong religious beliefs, and that dancing is entertaining, while religion in their life. She also says that they try to separate the two, but won't let their dancing compromise their religion. John, the group's youngest member at 15, says if they were asked to dance to a certain number or wear a certain costume that compromises their religious beliefs, they won't do it. Apparently, Autumn's bright red, navel-baring outfit isn't too compromising.
Their routine is slower-paced than their competitors, relying more on a sultry aspect, with the three males dressing like Gansta Dancas. Arsenio calls their performance sensuous and classy.
Ben Stein says they're amazingly talented, and they would've won on any other night, but the competition was incredible, giving them 4 stars. Ahmed Zappa says he doesn't want to get into any religious trouble, but "that was hot," and he gives them 4 stars. Brian McNight says Zappa "touched" him during the performance. Obviously, Stein isn't the only one guilty of too much input, but McNight gives them 4 touching stars. Naomi notes that she's also a Christian of the Pentecostal variety, and that they dance in church. Although she calls the performance colorful and dramatic, she ultimately gives them just 3 stars.
Da Crew ends up ahead 18 to 15 in the judges' votes, and when they come back, Arsenio makes reference to being in dance troops known as "Uncoordinated Inc" and the "Big Booty Trio." It's a good thing for him he's already been discovered, because those jokes wouldn't get him past the first round. We then learn that Da Crew wins the phone vote as well, by a score of 18-13. This gives them a 36-28 win and they move on.1 2 Next-->
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