Cook finds a Hit Among Diamond’s Offerings on Idol

April 30, 2008

Tonight Neil Diamond offered the Top 5 American Idol contestants variety with songs from some 25 albums to choose from.  In fact, the contenders each got to select two Diamond songs, but did they make the right selection?

American Idol Top 5Out of all the mentors, I was looking forward to Diamond the most because of the number of great songs that he had to offer the Top 5.  However, I think the results were a mixed bag.  Only one competitor stood out with both songs.  And the other four made one performance better than the other – for two it was the first song and for two it was the second song.

Leading the pack tonight was David Cook with two of Diamond’s lesser known songs.

Picking the more obscure “I’m Alive” was a smart choice for Cook.  It allowed him more flexibility with the song and less comparison with the original.  As always, I was impressed with his performance.  However, I’m wondering if there was any significance in this song choice for him?

Cook steps up to the plate again outdoing his first outing of the night with a version of “All I Really Need is You” that not only rocked but showcased his ability to truly own a song.  I’d never heard this song before, but I’d buy Cook’s single.

The girls didn’t do too shabby this week either although I think their second songs were much better matches for them.

“I’m a Believer” wasn’t a bad song choice for Brooke White.  I think she started out a little tentative, but picked it up towards the end, looking like she truly was enjoying the performances.  Unfortunately, I can’t help but compare her to the Monkees’ version and she didn’t quite measure up.

However, “I Am … I Said” was a much better song choice for Brooke.  It seemed to fit her personality and her voice much better.  I think it was one of her better performances and reminded me of what I like about Brooke.  I understand that she wrote a critical lyric on her hand to prevent a reoccurrence of last week’s mishap, but I have to wonder how she planned to read it while she was planning the piano.

At first I was afraid we’d seen the last of the personable Syesha Mercado from last week.  For her first song, we had Syesha barefoot again (does she not like shoes?) singing yet another ballad.  But in actuality I don’t think she did a bad job with “Hello Again.”  While it was pleasant, it did nothing to stand out from the rest.

But Syesha rebounded the second time around with “I Thank the Lord for the Night Time.”  This type of song suited her much better than the ballad.  It gave her a chance to showcase her personality, not just her voice.  I like this upbeat Syesha better that the crooner.

Also splitting his song choices tonight was David Archuleta.  I’m not surprised that Archuleta chose “Sweet Caroline.”  Not only did the song seem to fit his tastes, but he handled it very well.  My only complaint is that the ending didn’t seem natural (I understand that’s an artificiality of the time restraint).  All in all, I thought this was one of Archuleta’s better performances.

As much as I liked his first performance, I disliked the second.  I know I’m in the minority, but I didn’t like his versions of “America” at all.  I think it lacked the power that Diamond brought to the song.  I’m not sure if it’s because of Archuleta’s voice or because he seemed to slow the song down.  Either way, I didn’t care for it.

And then there’s Jason Castro, slacker extraordinaire.  “Forever in Blue Jeans” was a nice safe choice for him – a song that didn’t require him to put forth much effort (and obviously that’s his mantra – anyone else would have been mortified to forget the lyrics in front of the song writer).  The performance itself was forgettable.

But his first song was nothing compared to the train wreck that was to come.  Jason’s second song “September Morn'” did absolutely nothing for me.  I can’t even find a silver lining here.  I was just left wondering – did he try at all?

My pick to go home is definitely Jason (let’s see if I’m right this week).  I would like to see Archuleta join him in the bottom two, but even if Archuleta wasn’t a favorite, he’d earn points with his patriot song choice.

It’ll be one of the girls joining Jason.  My guess is Syesha, after all forgetting the words didn’t earn Brooke a bottom slot last week and she performed better this week.

Who did you think performed the best?  Who’s your pick to go home?

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Even Webber Couldn’t Save Carly Smithson on Idol

April 24, 2008

Popularity won out over talent as the results of the American Idol Top 6 sent the Irish rose Carly Smithson home after Tuesday’s solid performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Carly SmithsonI would have really liked to hear Andrew Lloyd Webber’s thoughts on tonight’s elimination.  He, after all, was the one the mentor that has really provided the contenders with the best and most honest advice.  And we saw firsthand how his advice improved the performances of those that took it and how those that didn’t resulted in a train wreck (I’m looking at you Jason Castro).

Except for the shocking news of the Bottom 2, Webber stole the results show.  First he performed with the contenders in the opening number “All I Ask of You.”  Then he bantered with Ryan and the judges with wit and graciousness.

While the theme of musicals was a poor choice for the contestants, Idol was all the better for having Webber as a mentor.  And to top it off, he saved us from another dreaded round of call in questions.

So how is it that the two competitors that brought down the house with performances that embraced Webber’s advice ended up in jeopardy tonight? 

No one expected either of the Davids to be anything but safe this evening – Cook because he’s talented and Archuleta because he’s a favorite.

But then that’s when the results when awry.  First false-start Brooke White was declared safe, sending Syesha Mercado to the stools.  Then Jason’s charm won him a spot in safety despite his disastrous performance of “Memory” that left fans wanting to forget and Carly in peril.

Even before the elimination was announced, I was shaking my head and mumbling “this is all wrong.”  Last week or the week before, I would have gladly said goodbye to either Syesha or Carly, but after Tuesday’s performances – their best by far – I’m stunned.

But alas, there is no fairy tale ending for Carly.

So what do you think – did America get it right?  Who should have gone home?

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Could Sam be the Devil’s Spawn in ‘Reaper’?

April 23, 2008

Last night the CW freshman series Reaper returned with its first of five post-strike episodes to close out the season.  But the fate of the show still hangs in the balance.  But it’s the status of Sam’s soul that I’m curious about – or actually more specifically, his lineage of his soul.

Sam and the DevilThe premise of the show is that run-the-mill slacker Sam Oliver (Brett Harrison) has his life turned upside down when he turns 21.  On his birthday he finds out that his parents (Andrew Airlie and Allison Hossack) sold his soul to the Devil (Ray Wise).  The Devil decides instead of taking Sam’s soul to Hell, he’d rather employ him as a bounty hunter for escaped souls, telling Sam:

“That’s a problem we’ve been having lately, what with overcrowding and so forth.  Honestly, we were underprepared for the influx.  I blame myself.  But that’s not your problem.  All you have to do is track down fugitives and haul their asses over to a portal to Hell.  Easy.”

The story sounds pretty simple and straight forward; and as you can imagine hilarity ensue when Sam tries to take down souls mean enough and bad enough to escape from Hell with nothing more than the help of his two best slacker pals – Ben (Rick Gonzalez) and Sock (Tyler Labine) – and a vessel given to him by the Devil:

“This will help.  A vessel.  Handcrafted in the bowels of Perdition, by the iniquitous and the vile.”  (Sam looks blank)  “Oh, I forgot, you got 600 on the SATs, didn’t you?”

And while on the surface the story sounds simple, the episodes are littered with clues that suggest there’s more to the tale.

First there’s the parents reluctance to tell Sam about the deal.  He’s dad stumbled through:

“There’s something I… I have to tell you. I, uh, I probably should have told you this a long time ago. I, uh… Before you were born, your Mom and I… sold your soul to the Devil.”

The parents tell Sam that his father was dying so they bartered the soul of their first child (because they didn’t they could have any) for the return of his health.

Then there’s the contract.  When Sam ask his parents to see it, they stall, coming up with vague places it might be before admitting they don’t have it.  An outraged Sam replied:

“You put the contract for my soul with my third grade report card, and Mr Huggles?”

And when he asks the Devil for a copy of it, the Devil claims inefficiencies in his administration:

“You know who works for me in my central office? White collar criminals. They hate me. They hate their jobs. I’m lucky if I get coffee in the morning.”

Eventually Sam gets it, but it’s so thick (think War & Peace) and written in legalese that Sam doesn’t understand it.

And finally, there is the unusual relationship between the Devil and Sam.  The Devil has taken Sam under his wing – acting like a mentor – helping him to succeed with his reaper duties and “interfering” with the rest of his life.  An example of the Devil’s guidance:

“Get the girl. Get the soul. I don’t care which, man, just pull that trigger. I’m tired of coddling you.”

It might not sound like much, but it’s clear that the Devil doesn’t dote on all his employees like this.  In fact, Sam’s demon neighbors – Steve (Michael Ian Black) and Tony (Ken Marino) – mention how rare it is for the Devil to talk to one of his charges, let alone confide in them in this latest episode, “Rebellion” in which the Devil invited Sam out for ice cream.

These clues make me believe that Sam could actually be the Devil’s son.

Think about it.  The Devil fears his enemies might harm his infant son (or worse, corrupt him into challenging his father), so he sends him to be raised in secret by humans.  Maybe the Devil traded his son’s safety for Mr. Oliver’s health or for the Olivers to have a child of their own (Sam has a little brother that we haven’t seen since the pilot). 

This explanation could clarify why the Olivers were so uncomfortable with revealing the deal and why nobody wanted Sam to see the contract.

And now that Sam has come of age, the Devil is teaching him the family business and getting to know Sam, thereby explaining the Devil’s particular interest in Sam.

Furthermore, in “Unseen” when Sam candidly asks the Devil if Cady (Jessica Stroup) is his daughter.  The Devil openly admits that she is not.  But it’s the way the Devil says it that makes you think that Cady might not be his offspring, but someone Sam knows (like maybe himself) is.

Either way, the addition of the demon neighbors has added a new dimension to an already great show.  I know some people might not have given Reaper a chance because it’s on the CW or because they fear it’s some dark sci fi show dealing with the supernatural like Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the CW hit Supernatural

In reality, Reaper is a comedy that relies on witty dialogue, pop cultural references and comical storylines for the slacker in all of us.  I particularly like the dialogue as you can tell from the many quotes I used above.  Unfortunately, reading them in print is not the same as when Ray Wise delivers them.  The Devil has the best lines in the show.

Reaper airs on the CW at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays.  You can watch full episodes on cwtv.com.


Syesha Mercado does Webber Proud on American Idol

April 23, 2008

Tonight Andrew Lloyd Webber helped the Top 6 bring Broadway to American Idol.  But were the performances music to our ears or a heartbreaking tragedy?

While I personally love musicals, I’m not sure that their songs are appropriate fodder for Idol competitors.  These songs are made for a certain type of voice that clearly does not include all the contenders.  But I guess you can say the same thing of most of the themes.

Either way, I’m glad that they waited until this late in the competition to bring in Lord Andrew as a mentor.  As expected, the result of his work with the contestants was a mixed bag.

Lord Andrew predicted that Syesha Mercado would bring down the house and I have to agree that she topped the night.  She finally showed us some personality.  She was delightful, entertaining and captivating.  Her performance of “One Rock & Roll Too Many” was by far her best.  And if this was Broadway Idol, Syesha would be the clear winner.

Give Lord Andrew another point for convincing Carly Smithson to pick “Jesus Christ Superstar.”  It was definitely a better song choice for her.  During a couple points in the song, Carly sounded like she was shouting.  Otherwise, she sounded good and actually looked like she was enjoying the performance.

On the other hand, it was nice to see a softer side of David Cook tonight.  I liked his version of “The Music of the Night.”  Sure, it doesn’t stand out as his most memorable or most original performance.  But considering that I in no way expected musicals to be Cook’s forte, I was impressed with his effort.

Conversely, David Archuleta did not impress me.  I’ve never been a big Archuleta fan.  Unfortunately his rendition of the traditionally female-sung “Think of Me” did nothing to change that opinion.  I agree with Simon that the performance was pleasant but easily forgotten.  However, despite my criticisms I won’t be surprised to see him sail through to the next week.

Then there was Brooke White.  I liked that we got to see her emotionally connect to “You Must Love Me,” but I thought the performance itself was average.  I’m concerned about her restarting the song.  This week is the second time that Brooke has stopped and restarted a song.  It clearly shows her lack of experience.  And this late in the game, forgetting the lyrics is going to hurt her.

Finally, I never expected Jason Castro to blow me away on Broadway night and he most definitely lived up to that expectation.  I was not surprised to learn that he wasn’t familiar with musicals, but the fact that he didn’t realize that “Memory” was sung by a cat (a hard guess considering the name of the musical is Cats) only added to the pure torture of my ears.  Jason should be voted off on this performance alone.

My picks for the bottom three are Archuleta (I know it’s a vain hope), Brooke and Jason with Jason going home.

What are your bottom three?

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Could Cally be the Final Cylon on BSG?

April 21, 2008

Since Galactica entered the nebula in the Season 3 finale, the Internet has been buzzing with speculation as to the identity of the final Cylon on Battlestar Galactica.  But to be honest, I’ve been so stunned by the four revealed in that episode that I haven’t given it much thought – until now.

CallyObviously, Starbuck is too obvious.  And I think she actually has another role, although I’ve not quite worked out the role myself – a messenger maybe.

And I think I read somewhere that the producers said it definitely wasn’t Roslin, Baltar, or Bill or Lee Adama.  So where does that leave us?

Knowing what we do about the four among the crew – Tigh, Anders, Tory and Tyrol – I think it’s clear that the Final 5 are very different from the other Cylons.  What exactly that difference is, I’m not sure.  I’ve even speculated that they were from Earth.

But knowing how similar the Final 5 are to the rest of the survivors and how long they’ve been integrated with the colonists (Tigh has been friends with Adama for more than 40 years), I’ve had trouble picking up any clues as to the identity of the last Cylon.  That is, until this last episode.

In “Ties that Bind,” Cally, Tyrol’s wife, suddenly became a suspect for me for two main reasons.  Let me explain why.

The four revealed in “Crossroads” all became aware of their Cylon status when they entered the nebula.  Clearly that nebula has had an effect on Cally too.  She said her insomnia started when they entered the nebula.  But unlike the others she turned to pills to help with the symptoms.  Could the pills have prevented her from hearing the music?  Or as the last model, could she simply be so different that the music didn’t affect her?  If the final Cylon is on Galactica, why else would they not have responded to the music when in the nebula like the others?

Then there’s baby Nicky.  A great deal was made about Hera – a child born to one Cylon parent and one human parent.  Hera is considered the chosen one.  But what about Nicky?  If Tyrol is really a Cylon and Cally a human, wouldn’t Nicky be some miracle baby too?

In everything I’ve read the producers have been especially evasive in acknowledging Nicky as a half human, half Cylon.  Could that be because he really is a full Cylon?

At first I thought the difference between Hera and Nicky was that one had a Cylon mother and the other a Cylon father?  Or the fact that Tyrol was a different type of Cylon that Athena could be the difference. But if Nicky has two Cylon parents that explains a lot.

The one think that troubled me about this theory is why would Tory kill a fellow Cylon.  But clearly the other four Cylons aboard Galactica don’t know who the final Cylon is, so it’s possible that Tory didn’t recognize Cally as a fellow Cylon.  The other four didn’t recognize each other’s status until the nebula.  And we also know that Cylons are above attacking each other.

But the big question is what has become of Cally.  Is she really dead?  Do the Final 5 regenerate like the other Cylons?  If so, how?  They clearly don’t have a resurrection ship nearby which is pretty risky in and of itself.

And that leaves me with one final question (or at least one that I’ll ask here).  How many copies of the Final 5 are there?  Is there only one?  Could that be what’s different about them?  Or are there more copies?  If so, where are those copies?  Earth?

So tell me, do you think Cally could be the final Cylon?  Or are the clues I’m reading misdirection?  If not Cally, who do you think is the final Cylon?

————

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Who Could Actually Win American Idol?

April 17, 2008

Well the Top 12 have been halved on American Idol and the end is near. But are we any closer to knowing who will be crowned the Season 7 Idol?

I know who tops my list, but the voters seem to have their favorites. And for me the two do not agree.

My pick to win is David Cook. I think he’s leaps and bounds above the others not only in talent, but stage presence, song choice and arrangements. He’s the whole package.
But it’s the other David that I see walking away with the victory. Archuleta is a not only a favorite of the judges, but of apparently every teen girl out there. Even forgetting words to a song couldn’t land the younger David in jeopardy, proving that when you are a favorite all your sins are more easily forgiven.

But I ask you: Who do you think should be the next American Idol?  And then who do you think will actually get to take home the title? Don’t forget to explain your choices.

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Kristy Lee Tells Simon What She Thinks on Idol

April 17, 2008

It was a bad night for Kristy Lee Cook.  Not only was her number finally up on American Idol as she was eliminated from the Top 7, but now she can’t even buy her back the beloved barrel horse that she sold to get to her audition.

Kristy Lee CookTonight was a lesson in how Ryan could drag out a three minute announcement into an hour of fluff.

No longer are contestants sent to the couch or the stools depending on their status.  Instead Ryan played games with their fate (because last week’s announcement wasn’t cruel enough) by dividing the contenders into groups, changing the group members and then asking the shy 16-year-old David Archuleta to pick the safe group.

In between the games, the theme was about freedom.  The Ford video was set to “I Want to Break Free.”  Then we were treated to Elliott Yamin singing “Free.”  And even guest mentor Mariah Carey sang “Bye, Bye.”

But even as Kristy Lee’s group, which also included Brooke White and Syesha Mercado, was announced as the one in jeopardy, she showed no surprise at her peril. 

After Syesha was deemed safe, Simon predicted that Kristy Lee would finally say goodbye.  Brooke protested, but Kristy Lee knew he was right, proclaiming that at least she’d survived to the Top 10.

And you have to give this girl credit for tenacity.  Long after many of us of wrote her off, she hung on for weeks with smart song choices.

Moreover, she ended her journey with class singing her farewell song with a line dedicated to Simon saying that she had waited all of her life for a good comment from him.

If only she’d sung more often with that kind of originality, she might have stuck around for another couple of weeks.

In the end, we all knew it was time for Kristy Lee to go home.  So why did it take Ryan an hour to tell us the obvious?!?

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