American Idol : Is This the End of Jennifer?

How hard is it to be a writer for American Idol? Just lift the narration from The Sorrow and the Pity, begin every sentence with "Coming up..." and change "death camp" to "singing competition". But the rest is all there -- the ultimate challenges, the heartbreak, the tears, the uncertainty. C'mon, Idol writers, they're just singing friggin' Beatles medleys!

This brings me back to my biggest Idol complaint. Stop trying to artificially manufacture suspense and drama when the real money of the show is watching the PERFORMANCES. This year in particular. Every season they boast that "this is the most talented group of kids we've ever had", but this season they might actually be right.

Despite the horrifying fact that some of the kids had never even heard of the Beatles, the snippets we saw of them performing Beatles songs were terrific. Why not hear more? Why not see all the groups (the kids were split up into duos and trios)? My feeling is if you're going to do a show on Fox that has music, unless you cut away to Jane Lynch I want to hear SINGING. Two hours of Beatles songs would have been fabulously entertaining.

Instead, here's what we got:

The mother in Precious as a vocal coach screaming at two scared waifs.

A committee of Phil Spector-lookalike-slimeball music producers shitting all over other groups.

One of the loon contestants marrying her doomed boyfriend and being so excited because it's the same chapel that Brittney Spears' got married in.

Endless shots of people crying. The kids. The parents. J-Lo. (Although in Jennifer's case I didn't mind it. It was refreshing to see a judge who really cared that much. Paula used to cry but that's because her cartoon cat wouldn't answer her texts.)

Soooo many recaps that even the guy from Memento was going, "I remember! Move on!"

Ryan interviewing various nobodies asking innocuous questions. I thought I was watching Piers Morgan.

Deliberation. Nothing's more riveting on television than deliberation.

An interminable hour of watching kids walk the length of an airplane hanger to learn their final fate.

And drawn-out misleads that now fool no one anymore. Well, maybe Sarah Palin.

Let's see the singing because everything else is completely bogus. We know who's going to get into the Top 24. They're the kids we see all the time. And these competitive rounds mean nothing because if the producers like them, like the teenage stork whose voice is so deep he can't burp, then they can screw up the words or sing off key and it makes no difference. They get sent on anyway. Meanwhile, someone who nails it but doesn't have the right look or personality gets kicked to the curb.

It's a casting call. They sent through a kid who's a complete weasel. Another who's a pretty blond who does every vocal gymnastic but sing while drinking a glass of water. Meanwhile, as one boy walked the runway of death Seacrest said, "The road ends now for Alex Ryan from New Jersey." Who???

And they're trying to add even more phony suspense by suggesting that Jennifer is too distraught over delivering bad news and might not be able to go on. Talk about schmuck bait! For what she's making, she ain't leaving if they ask her to deliver bad news while roller skating.

Part two is tonight and I guarantee the Baby Huey teenager who cries at supermarket openings and the black kid from Compton who's got an amazing voice (which is good because I can't see him lasting an hour in Compton) will sail through.

I'm looking forward to next week and the weeks to come. I have high hopes that we're going to be treated to some wonderful performances (unless they have "National Anthem" week). And I must say, the new judges are starting to grow on me. Steven Tyler is amusing in that "kid who got left back in the 7th grade for five years" sort of way. And Jennifer has empathy and unlike Paula, resides on the planet earth.

However, I think the producers are missing a bet with Jennifer. Watching this last episode where the judges give the contestants their final verdicts, it suddenly became very clear to me. If Fox wants to really utilize Jennifer Lopez and get a huge spike in male viewers - lose the desk. Simon Cowell may have been acerbic, witty, and compelling, but J-Lo's got those gams.