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‘American Idol’: Here come the guys

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Every season’s first episode brings a lurch to the stomach. We see these 24 unformed, rough talents and the question looms heavy in the ether: is there a Kelly Clarkson among this crowd? Can the next Clay Aiken be hanging over that railing before us?

And at first glance, the answer is generally, absolutely not. There is no way that these wild, untamed beasts of the singing jungles can rise in one song, in one episode to the stature of the giants of entertainment. That kind of gravitas only comes after an entire season of trials and setbacks and brilliant breakthroughs.

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That said, if I were the Idol producers after last night’s first peek at the guys, I would be very concerned.

It’s not just that the guys in their maiden outing were a little rough or nervous. That is to be expected. But more problematic, both as a group and individually they seemed utterly lightweight, like mildly pleasant members of third string boy bands. Only three looked like potential long range contenders -beat-boxer Blake Lewis, back-up singer Brandon Rogers, and kinda-engagingly weird looking guy Chris Richardson. And none of these really looked like they were ready to go all the way.

One tries to remember one’s feelings on first seeing Yamin, on the first glance at a Covington or a Scott Savol of yore. Clearly, they were not at first blush giants waiting to be unleashed on entertainment. But they had something at first…Or is this just the perpetual cry of an aging generation of Idol fans – that the contestants of my day were true stars, not like these flim flam artists.

The next few months will tell if these twelve can walk in their predecessors footsteps. In the meantime, if I were the producers, I’d be praying that the girls better be pretty darn good. And these guys better be thankful for the gender quota system that guarantees, one way or another, half of them will make it to the finals.

A last note: One of the great questions of Idolology is how much do Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest really dislike each other. Mostly they harmlessly play up the bad-natured ribbing knowing it is part of the show’s appeal – Simon as the heavy, occasionally lashing out at his light-weight tormentor. But last night, during the “sweetheart” exchange, Cowell and his clenched jaw seemed very genuinely to be wishing Seacrest and his puffy shirt and vest combo dead.

--Richard Rushfield


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