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American Juniors, Episode 2: Little Hearts, Big Heartbreaksby Sting7 -- 06/11/2003
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In only the second episode of American Juniors, the producers have shown they have a soul. For the most part, we were spared the vision of heartbroken, crying kids facing some major league rejection, probably for the first time in their lives. It has to hurt. A lot of ground to cover in one night, climaxing with the announcement of the Top 20!
Ryan Seacrest welcomes us next to a model of the stage that will be the performance home of American Juniors. It's splashy and gorgeous, and from the looks of it, nicer than the American Idol sets! Ryan points out the spot where the judges will be. "Yes, there will be judges," he advises, answering part of a lingering question surrounding this show. The other part is, who are they? They are supporting characters in this drama, anyway. On to the stars.
The New York auditions promise to be intense. One unnamed Mom says she expects the parents "will be more competitive." We'll see.
First, we meet Jamel Hudson, who is bursting with confidence. Calling out Michael Jackson and Ruben Studdard ("See? I'm 1205 and you're only 205 so take that! Big!") as future conquests! His performance, his dancing particularly, suggests he may have been born to be on a stage.
Amanda Rittweger's mother says she comes from a family of singers. She wonders if all the children of the family exit the womb singing instead of crying. Amanda was certainly singing, ripping a sweet version of "Until You Loved Me."
Nicole Spiratos is a little spitfire singing her lungs out on "Falling" (she's so cute, I won't even complain about being sick to death of this song). Then she proceeds to dance like her life depended on it. What does she think of her performance? She channels Randy Jackson and says, "I did my thing and I worked it!" That is a true statement! Dad Spiratos says he is full of anxiety when he watches his daughter perform, but he knows deep down she'll pull it off.
Delaney Jordan is a precious 6-year-old who attempts to explain that an angel helps her when she performs, but she hasn't figured out its methods. She alternately says it comes from her ankle, her belly, and out of a loud speaker. However it works, Delaney sings in a precious 6-year- old voice "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." I doubt it's what the producers are looking for, but it certainly is a breath of fresh air.
Harry Harris, a songwriter at 11, performs one of his own creations, "Lights, Camera, Action." I didn't say a good songwriter, but he sings it passionately. I didn't say well. I am trying to avoid Paula-isms, here. Harry has plenty to say as he conducts his own Barbara Walters interview with the camera as shots of a deeply advancing clock are interspersed in Harry's litany. It's genuine humor like this that separates Idol/Juniors from the back in terms of teleplay!
Melanie Brook, painfully shy, literally hiding behind her father in the pre-audition package, finds herself onstage with a moving rendition of "Reflections." Her beaming Dad says her voice has come into itself of late, but her audition far exceeded what he could honestly expect. She can be proud of herself!
We are treated to montage of dancing Dads, perhaps showing where all this talent is coming from. Or, where it isn't. Funny stuff.
Julie Dubela flat sings the junk out of "You're No Good." If I were naming Picks to Click, and I'm not, she'd definitely be one. Then comes her scary Mom, who unsettles us with, "I watch every little thing she does. We have a strange communication... if she's doing something that I think she can do a little better, she wants to hear it from me first!" Sure she does, Mom. Ease up, she's doing fine.
Ryan reminds us that dancing talent counts for the Juniors as much as singing. Enter 12-year-old dancing machine AJ Melendez, who has star written all over him.
Casey Schuber, 10, showing every tooth in her mouth, sings a pitch perfect rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." She has a beautiful tonal quality to her voice. As she grows, and her voice matures, she'll be imposing!
In the big chair, kids are asked if they are going to give their parents any of their fortune when they are superstars. Their answers:
"I'll give them four million dollars... no, four thousand," says an obvious future lawyer.
"No! It's my money!" says little Miss Congeniality.
"If they desperately needed it!" Okay, there is some hope.
"I wouldn't let her have it!" As definite a 'no' as you'll hear.
Speaking of no, one Dad, Anthony Amato, is having trouble dealing with the rejection of his daughter by producers. Insert your best New Yawk accent and read along, "I got half the balcony going 'what happened to the one on the left?' I say, 'That happens to be my daughter!' they say, 'oh my gawd, she can really sing!' I'm like, yeah, I know." Then, he has his daughter do an impromptu "Cabaret" while the camera happens to be there. It isn't bad, but she has some growing to do. You wonder if the light of day will make these parents feel bad about the fact that they are showing less grace than their children, who aren't old enough to know better.
Another furious Mom snaps, "We're not doing the media thing." And, as the camera dares to follow her out the door, she snarls, "Do you want to get sued?" For what? You signed a release. And now you are on television, looking like an ass, thanks to said release. Nicely done.
In sunnier news, we learn that Jamel Hudson, Amanda Rittweger, Nicole Spiratos, Julie Dubela, AJ Melendez, Casey Schuber, and 10 others are advancing to the next quarterfinals. Which brings the total to 60 kids, at least 60 parents or guardians, and huge pile of nerves!
To Carver, CA, where the competition heats up. The kids are asked to memorize "One Step Closer," a.k.a. the curiously Fame-like theme to American Juniors (Ryan called it "an original" song, but your crack RNO staff has learned that the song is "One Step Closer To Heaven" by a group called S-Club Juniors, another created kid-group in the UK. Don't you just love us?), as well as a little dance routine that no one seemed to have learned. Musical director Michael Orland, the same guy playing the piano in the Round of 32 of American Idol, Showed infinite patience with the kids who were displaying predictably short attention spans.1 2 Next-->
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