American Idol 2, March 12: Blame the Producersby Sting7 -- 03/13/2003
This is when the show really starts. For the twelve that are left, the pressure is mountainous. Sure, we hear Ryan Seacrest say that every week, and we think "sure, it must be hard to know if you're gonna move on." But, it really is more than that. Everything you do, everything you say, every expression on your face is scrutinized. We will see an example of that tonight, as the twelve become eleven. And, it could be the producers' fault.
Ryan welcomes us and tells us that tonight, he is going to "break someone's heart." The messenger is taking a little too much credit, but we'll let that go.
We met the judges, we know who they are, we say hi to the twelve. They are sitting on these blue George Jetson couch-things. The set-decorator shouldn't waste a moment of sleep dreaming of an Emmy, believe me! I guess when the field narrows, we go back to the ominous red couches that collectively look like a big mouth waiting to swallow them whole.
Ryan takes us back in time 24 hours, to a happier time when eyes were full of hope and wonder and determination, and Lamont Dozier was getting some deserved accolades for the tremendous contribution he has made to pop music. (I would love to see an Elton John Week! Or a Billy Joel Week!)
The twelve combine for a wonderful (okay, cheesy) performance of "Heat Wave" (bet if Kimberley Locke ever hears that song again, it would be way too soon). Yes, we are back to the cheesy production numbers, but Fox insists this is a family show. I pray we reach the kitschy level of "California Dreaming" last season.
Okay, on to the business at hand. Ryan goes through the arduous, torturous process of reading a condensed version of the judges commentary to each contestant before he tells them if they are among the bottom three vote-getters, or safe.
Yesterday, I predicted the bottom three would be Carmen Rasmussen, Charles Grigsby, and Kimberley Locke.
Ruben Studdard (no way, stay comfy big man, you ain't going) is safe.
Vanessa Olivarez (you were fine, even toned-down the clowning a notch) is in the bottom three. Really??
Clay Aiken (naw, you're a star, and everyone knows it) is safe.
Kimberly Caldwell (did great last night, best I'd seen from you) is safe.
Rickey Smith (best I heard from you too, you should be fine) is safe.
Julia DeMato (uh-oh. Kinda bitchy with Simon last night, and it don't pay!) is in the bottom three. Whoa.
Trenyce (I see Trenyce signs out there! She's so gracious, was excellent last night.) is safe.
Joshua Gracin (in these times, a Marine is sure to garner support from America) is safe.
Charles Grigsby (likeable as he is, he was the weakest link last night) is safe. Really???
Corey Clark (a true wildcard, it will be fun to watch him develop this season) is safe.
That leaves Carmen Rasmussen (the new girl in school. I think America may resent you) and Kimberley Locke (it was the song, not you, it would so unfair is you have to suffer). One of these two ladies is among the three lowest vote garnerers and could be dismissed. Ryan sends us to a commercial (Carmen and Kimberley share nervous smiles with each other, Carmen clearly says, "I'm gone!")
Back from commercial. Who is joining Julia DeMato and Vanessa Olivarez on the bubble? It's Kimberley Locke! You must be kidding! You can not be serious. I'm not entirely sold on Kimberley, and I put her in the bottom three. But of the three that were here, in my estimation, she is the weakest, and I don't want her to go!
Julia, Vanessa, and Kimberley stand next to Ryan like they are facing a firing squad. Ryan asks the judges if they are surprised by this result.
Randy - "I'm a little surprised. They didn't have the best performances, but I'm a little surprised."
Paula - "I kind of understand."
Simon - "I think five people should be in the bottom three, but America got it right."
(In the history of this show, only Simon has vocally challenged the vote result. And he did that once. The judges always say "I understand" or "I agree." This segment is kind of a waste.)
How did they get here?
Julia - mouthing off to Simon (and it seemed so planned), then pandering to America, "Did you like it?" We don't want to be asked. We don't like telemarketers, we don't like door-to-door salesmen, and if you ask us to vote for you on American Idol, we will likely say no. You earn the votes, they are not given. When Justin did it last year, it was an ego move. When Julia did it, it was an ego move, laced with desperation. It was doomed to failure.
Vanessa - after Vanessa sang last night, she went to the schmooze-and-cry area with Ryan, for him to ask her something insignificant, and remind America how to vote for her. He said, read that cue card. She said, "I'm a real entertainer, not a trained monkey like you," or something to that effect. The expression on Ryan's face looked somewhat hurt. Ouch. Back from that commercial, Ryan made it clear (I thought) that the whole bit was scripted, Vanessa is very sweet and she would never say anything like that if she wasn't supposed to. But I think that hurt her. America is so quick to judge, it gave a reason - a weak one - not to vote for her. Think about it, you read about the public figure who did a bad, bad thing, but when the retraction comes, we don't give it the same weight as our outrage. Just another reason not to vote. Her performance of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" didn't warrant a bottom three result. This was the producers' (writers, whoever) fault.
Kimberley - the song, the song, the song. If Simon or any other producer were working on Kimberley's album and the label decided she needed a cover, "Heat Wave" would have been rejected immediately. It's not right for her voice, it does not show her strengths, it's like having Madonna singing "Ave Maria"! I have to wonder if the contestants chose the songs they sung or if they were assigned. If they chose, I don't think Joshua and Ruben would have had the same song (I don't think Joshua would have risked facing off with Ruben like that). Kimberley is talented enough to go far in this competition. If she gets the boot, I blame the producers again.
Ryan says one of these three will be sent back to George Jetson's couch, and continue on with the competition. It's Kimberley Locke! (Whew!) She shrieks, and launches herself into Ryan's arms. Trenyce is fairly bouncing in her seat, and Kimberly Caldwell threw her head back saying, "Thank God!"
Julia looks like she may blow chunks and Vanessa is still smiling, but the rose has lost some of its bloom. It's time for the bad news. America has spoken, and decided to send someone home. And America has eliminated...
Julia DeMato begins crying, so much that I thought she didn't understand what Ryan said. She looks more upset than Vanessa. The cynic in me is thinking she realized how close she came to blowing it. And Vanessa was fun to have around.
Ryan asks us to watch Vanessa's journey to this point, like she's dead. Ryan asks Vanessa if she would like to say anything (before we juice up the chair!). She thanks America (for not voting for her?) and that we haven't seen the last of her (like a stalker, she will be avenged - I do think she may be insane).
And now, the final indignity: sing the song , Oh Exiled One, that America felt no desire to vote for. Jesus, Fox. Vanessa gives it a spirited shot and the other eleven come out to sing with her. And so ends a surprising show.
At this stage of the game, anything can happen. One bad performance and you can be gone. Vanessa didn't even have a bad performance - it wasn't great, but it was better than four or five of the safe people. This is when the competition is won. I have to evoke Kelly Clarkson's name again - she came out and hit home runs week after week. They cannot afford to be "just okay." I have a feeling the next three or four weeks will be like dodge ball for nine of the remaining eleven. And, I'll be here to cover it all.
But, not next week! Stinger's going on vacation, so the Big Kahuna, David Bloomberg, will be filling in for me on American Idol 2 and somebody else will cover Nashville Star (oh, yes, I'm on that too!). So, do me a favor, take it easy on him!
Sting7 can be reached at email@example.com.
Be sure to sign up for our e-mail update so you can stay informed about new articles on the site! And take a look at the rest of the site. You can find all of our recent AI2 articles at the American Idol 2 page -- and don't forget to check out The Foxes On Idol Website for more great coverage!