Sixties British Invasion Week on American Idol. Was going to be Paul McCartney week, but he bowed out. Which was smart because his soon-to-be-ex-wife Heather Mills totally killed on the fourth-edition debut of "Dancing With the Stars" the night before.
Everything is '60s on "Idol" this week -- the songs, Paula Abdul's wig, the strobe lights, the coaches -- Lulu for the chicks, Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits for the guys. An adorable prepubescent pigtailed girl starts weeping uncontrollably, just like that time McCartney and fellow Beatles sang on "The Ed Sullivan Show" -- except this time it's Sanjaya Malakar (dressed in a Sgt. Pepper kinda jacket and Twiggy kinda sweater) singing the Kinks' "You Really Got Me."
Even the ads are '60s. Someone sings the Petula Clark song "Downtown" for Visa. In one a guy smokes pot and tries to get his dog to inhale.
The coaches do not have a lot to say, and what they do say is ignored by the competitors, but not until each singer looks at the camera earnestly and says that meeting the old folks was "amazing" because their advice was "so useful."
This is, in fact, the greatest coach-ignoring episode in the history of "American Idol."
Among the highlights:
Lulu literally begs Lakisha Jones to sing "You Are My World" instead of "Diamonds Are Forever." She sings "Diamonds Are Forever." Judge Simon Cowell says she looked like Lakisha at 50. Lakisha shoots back that if she looks and sounds this good at 50, she'll be very happy. Snap!
Noone tells Sanjaya he looks more like a Herman's Hermit than a Kink and if he wants to win the competition he should sing "I'm Into Something Good," only then he says maybe Sanjaya had better sing "You've Really Got Me" by the Kinks. Sanjaya sings the Kinks' song and, while we know saying this probably means we need to adjust our meds, Sanjaya's performance is one of the better ones of the evening.
Haley Scarnato ignores Lulu's advice to sing "Tell Him" more staccato. In honor of '60s week, Haley wears hot pants, a shiny silk halter top and spectator pumps, which we think showed up later in a Payless ad. "You naughty little thing," says Simon approvingly.
Chris Richardson says being able to work with Noone was great because he knew these songs -- like Chris has just watched Homer perform all the parts in "The Iliad." Simon, who is British and old, says he was not familiar with "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying." Yeah, right.
Lulu puts the "You remind me of a young Beyonce" curse on Stephanie Edwards. Edwards's head blows up to the size of a dirigible and she blows "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me." The judges don't love and she begins to whine "the songs are so old!"
Noone tells Chris Sligh he, Noone, got voted Sexiest Artist Alive by somebody or another back in the '60s by singing "I'm Henry VIII, I Am," which inspires Sligh to sing "She's Not There" while marching around the audience holding his microphone stand like a scepter and exuding the rhythm of Queen Elizabeth. And Melinda Doolittle, professional backup singer, delivers the night's best performance and has toned down her "golly, I can't believe I'm in an actual singing competition and you like me!" schtick, though she can't help but tell viewers that when she heard she had to sing an actual British song, and from the '60s, her response was "Oh, sweet Lord Jesus what am I going to do?"