‘Idol’ Is Back, But Not the Chemistry

What’s missing is Paula, or even Ellen — and will Kara give up her temporary queen’s throne?

Last Updated: February 18, 2010 @ 7:51 AM

The season is upon us, dear readers! No, not that season. (And please for the love of Clay Aiken, take down your tree already; it’s practically February!)

We’ve suffered through almost eight months of “off-season” fare, and while “Jersey Shore” certainly runs a close second, we all know that there is no show, reality or otherwise, that compares to our beloved “American Idol.” And there is no judge who can compare to our beloved Simon Cowell. (He can tell me I’m dreadful anytime!)

As I’m sure you well know, on Monday Cowell announced that he will be leaving “Idol” after this season to launch an American version of “The X Factor,” on which he will serve as both judge and producer. How will this affect his final season on “AI”? While no one can say for sure, of course, I have a feeling that the ratings will go up, as former fans who’ve tuned out the last couple of seasons put the show back on their calendar to bear witness to Simon’s swan song.

And perhaps (I hope!) his comments will get even nastier as his senioritis sets in.

Who will be there to add some sugar to his vinegar? Ellen DeGeneres, of course. While her guest judge appearance on “So You Think You Can Dance” was more, um, "diplomatic" than judgy, Ellen has promised that she will be more critical on “Idol.” Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out how the chemistry will actually work, as we won’t see Ellen on the show until Hollywood Week.

And that’s what was missing on last night’s show: chemistry (and Ellen). In the absence of Abdul and DeGeneres and with Victoria Beckham sitting in as a guest judge, Kara DioGuardi was promoted to alpha female, and I’m not sure it’s a title she’s going to surrender so easily, even though we all know that Ellen has more star power. 

One of my favorite moments last night was when Kara got absolutely offended when an auditioner mistook her for Paula. Another great moment? When Posh Spice, who has made a career out of pouting and looking sullen, told an obnoxious auditioner that he came off “arrogant” and that he didn’t have the talent to back up said arrogance. Calm down, Mrs. Beckham. You are no Sporty Spice in the vocal department yourself.

Who knows what will happen when the Fab Four finally sit down at the table together? It could be the kind of chemistry that happens when Tiger Woods meets a cocktail waitress (read: magical) or it could be the kind of chemistry that happens when you try to highlight your hair on your own (read: a big ole Crayola mess).

Let’s not forget that the show is supposed to be a talent competiton and not an “All My Judges” soap opera. This year’s auditions kicked off in Beantown and offered up the usual suspects. There were the laughably bad — the girl who had been practicing “wicked haad” with the “AI” videogame and still couldn’t carry a tune and the guy who likes Chris Brown because he “touches young kids all around the world.” (Like, in a violent way?) 

There were also a few talented standouts, my favorite of whom was Katie Stevens, who had both the voice and the marketable backstory, a combination that seemed to work for Carrie Underwood. At only 16 years old, Stevens belted out “At Last” like a pro and emotionally told the cameras that she was doing this for her Alzheimer’s-stricken grandmother, while she could still remember her. That’s when I hit the pause button to go cry in the bathroom. (Oh, and I also managed to get a couple of rounds of Bejeweled Blitz in.)

Also representing well for Boston were Amadeo Diricco and Andrew Fenlon. The likable Diricco looks like he stepped right out of “The Sopranos,” but when he sang a Muddy Waters tune, it surprised everyone. Simon told him that the competition was “good for people like you.” (He clearly learned a lesson from that whole Susan Boyle thing.) 

If Diricco’s performance supported the old “judging a book by its cover” adage, then Fenlon’s proved the “guys get at least 50 percent hotter when they can sing” proverb. Even with two shattered wrists, the drummer earned a ticket to Hollywood. Perhaps his dreams of being the front man aren’t too far off. Hey, it worked for Phil Collins! I mean, who can drum with no wrists anyway (besides maybe that guy from Def Leppard)?

Oh, “Idol,” how we’ve missed you. Be sure to watch Wednesday night’s auditions with guest judge Mary J. Blige, Miss “No More Drama” herself, in Hotlanta! 

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