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`American Idol' auditions raise quibbles, questions

January 26, 2007|Richard Rushfield | Times Staff Writer

As was entirely predictable, the New York City stop of "American Idol" produced a packed-to-the-rafters two hours of trying-too-hard-to-be-crazy drama queens -- a chorus line of borderline personalities with itchy fingers on the hissy-fit button. That said, there is something compelling about watching summer stock dropouts play out the poles of their emotional range. If we didn't enjoy high drama, we probably wouldn't be watching "Idol" in the first place.

The tone was set early on by a 19-year-old Ohioan, who, choking out her words between fits of sobbing, told host Ryan Seacrest how she had lied to her father, claiming that she was staying at her friend Rachel's house, and sneaked off to New York to audition (do 19-year-olds have curfews?). She was trying out under the cover of lies because, she explained, her father never supported her and all she wanted to do was make him proud.

After against all laws of nature she turned out to be not so bad and won a ticket to Hollywood for the next round, she called her father, who seemed entirely supportive, which in turn induced another round of hysterical sobbing. You'd have to be a harder man than I not to watch this and not swell with pride for TV's new Golden Age.

Some random thoughts and questions from the New York visit:

* Simon Cowell, in his testy impatience with the auditioners, who were acting up for the camera, seems dangerously close to becoming a character denying the premise of his own show.

* Paula Abdul has been goofy but very much awake, and even perky, during the last couple of episodes.

* In their completely forgettable inane mumbles, the celebrity guest judges (Carole Bayer Sager sat in Wednesday) demonstrate how hard Simon's, Randy Jackson's and sometimes Paula's job really is.

* Twice this season, the judges have summoned security to remove a guest and they appear in an instant. The show's security must be on red super-alert from the moment a contestant enters. Which makes you think, they are doing a show where they summon in dozens of crazy people and crush their hopes and dreams of fame and riches -- the judges' jobs are probably on a level with Delta Force munitions expert in terms of staring danger in the eye every time you go to the office.

* The editing takes great pains never to show the young lady who sits in a folding chair by the door and hands winners their golden tickets.

* In many of the segments, particularly with the crazies, we see the contestants enter, tell the judges about themselves and their song choice, sing, be rejected and storm out of the building in rage. But later, those same contestants are included in the montage of the one lame song everyone is asked to sing. When do they shoot this? Do they call them back after they've stormed off?

As ever, with a text as rich and complex as "Idol," every new set of answers only leads to a larger field of questions.

Show Tracker is a new column that follows television series through their highs and lows.

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