Flattered by the Lens, if Not the Microphone

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Officially it's Barry Manilow's Best of the '50s night on "American Idol," but in reality it's "Extreme Makeover: 'American Idol' Edition."

Thanks to the magic of television, Kevin Covais is transformed from Chicken Little into a little mouse singing his sweet little heart out, Elliott Yamin looks less like Snow White's Eighth Dwarf, Sweaty, and more like a not-bad-looking guy in a Vandyke, and Taylor Hicks has been changed into Andy Griffith in "Matlock.

And show host Ryan Seacrest, last night in an elegant dark suit with a white handkerchief perfectly folded in his breast pocket, looks more and more like Dick Clark every week -- or is it just me?

Seacrest kicks things off by spanking judge Simon Cowell for having gone public with his picks for the final three on the show: "the bald-headed kid," "the guy with gray hair" and Kellie Pickler, he told Howard Stern the other day.

Best performance of the night is also the first, Mandisa singing "I Don't Hurt Anymore," which is not good because viewers will have forgotten about her by the time they start voting at the show's end. Randy says her performance left him speechless -- as if -- and Paula pulls out her "you're a thoroughbred" line and Simon says "I absolutely loved it" and that it was "very sexy," like he's surprised she could pull off "sexy."

Seacrest, who unlike Simon wasn't raised by wolves, tells the audience, "Doesn't she look great?"

Bucky Covington squats his way through Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy"; Simon calls it Pointless Karaoke. Is there karaoke with a point?

Pint-size teen Paris Bennett sings Peggy Lee's "Fever," dressed in a Lady Sings the Blues costume complete with a flower behind her ear; it looks very "let's put on a high school musical," we think. It is gratifying/horrifying when Simon says virtually the same thing about the night, after Lisa Tucker's performance of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love."

We Watch American Idol So You Don't Have To
Rocker Chris Daughtry does what he always does, turns every song he sings into the very same song, which sends the judges into rhapsodies. Randy: You know exactly who you are and you never veer from that. Paula: You are so true to who you are and don't ever abandon that. Simon: You make it your own version.

Katharine McPhee continues to have no idea what to do with her body onstage, singing "Come Rain or Come Shine" while shooting her right arm up into the air. "Tonight you turned into a star," Simon says. Wait just a minute! She's not bald, gray-haired or Kellie Pickler. What's Simon up to?

Taylor Hicks, in blue suit and white shoes, sings "Not Fade Away"; Simon, pausing to rub his man-breasts, calls it "a hideous party performance." Hard to argue. Paula, hearing "Hideous Party Performance," is magically transformed into a cackling harpy, getting all up into Simon's face and screaming that when someone dances onstage he can't stand it.

Simon says she's talking rubbish and tells her to "shush." "Shush" is apparently the magic word that turns her back into semi-sane "American Idol" judge with the lustrous hair, and she calms down.

Kellie "I don't know nuthin' 'bout spinach salad" Pickler says she doesn't know nuthin' 'bout the '50s and so she calls Grandpa, who tells her "Sing that Patsy Cline song 'Walkin' After Midnight.' " Barry Manilow explains to her what "walkin' " and "midnight" mean, which seems to help. Simon says she's back.

And, finally, Purdy Ace Young wails like a demon lover through "In the Still of the Night." Simon said it wasn't one of his best vocals but it does not matter because it was "a hell of a lot better than last week."

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