'American Idol': Season Six

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Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 17, 2007; 1:00 PM

Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes will be online from California on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 1 p.m ET to talk about the season premiere of "American Idol" and catch those of you up on what happened Tuesday night with the return of her "We Watch So You Don't Have To" column. Be there.

We Watch So You Don't Have To: 'Idol's' Trying Times

Blog: de Moraes on TV

Today's TV Column: A Golden Day-After With 'Betty'

A transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: Lisa will be with us very shortly. Please stand by.

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washingtonpost.com: Lisa is just arriving, starting shortly. Thank you.

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Bethesda, Md.: Whos telling these people they can sing? Or do they know they can't sing and if they act strange or cry, etc., they will get on the show?

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. Sorry for delay -- NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly's Q&A session at press tour ran long. NBC is happy these days with its numbers and he likes answering questions. Now, to your question. I do not have access to the little people in their heads who are telling these people they can sing. Juggling/dancing/singing man was defintely the scariest.. and how about his comment that he "wanted to start famous" in his career. Yikes.

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Wake Forest, N.C.: I only watched a few minutes of it last night. I think I will just wait for when they all get to Hollywood. My question is why do they let all these losers in? Can you imagine how many pretty good singers they didn't allow in just so we could all watch the truly awful ones that are just there for their one moment of fame?

Lisa de Moraes: Because, sadly, people like me really enjoy watching the lousy auditions.. Last night's episode aveaged between 37 and 38 million viewers. That's the show's biggest debut -- ever.

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Lexington, Ky.: Paula sober and normal? Looked like she was hammered and snoozing. Seemed like Jewel got more face time than the average guest judge. I know it's a stretch, but could we be seeing potential judge auditions for Paula's replacement? You have to figure, as out-there as she is, it's a matter of time before she does something so nuts they have to make a move.

Lisa de Moraes: You say potato and I say pohtahtoh....I doubt they're going to whack Paula. You don't start messing with the lineup on a show that's clocking nearly 38 million viewers... She'd have to do some thing pretty extraordinary to get pulled....

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think any of the military performers on "Idol" last night were planted to help with military recruitment efforts?

Lisa de Moraes: ya think?....pretty creepy, if you ask me. There's product placement and then there's product placement....

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Madison, Miss.: I thought the first segment with the Jewel wannabe dragged on way too long. Paula seemend lost in space somewhere. I thought the hard rocker that sang ABBA was the best part of the show.

Lisa de Moraes: Didn't you get the feeling if you could get him to stop trying to sound like he had gravel in his mouth there was a sort of nice voice hiding there somewhere? Butg yes, his manic search for an ABBA song -- or even anyone who knew what ABBA was -- was priceless..I liked Urban Amish Guy. His comeback line to the judges was wonderful, that he never claimed he could sing or that he was the next American Idol. That shut them up -- and so refreshing...

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Glen Ellyn, Ill.: Given that Simon Cowell has said he'd rather listen to Kelly Clarkson than to the young Bob Dylan, why should we take him seriously as a judge of musical talent?

Lisa de Moraes: Remember this is the guy who dismissed Jennifer Hudson...Notice how when they do the "Idol is the biggest thing since the invention of the TV" bits they no longer focus on just the winners -- because of course some of them have gone on to mediocre things. Now they're including clips of Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls, Chris Dawtry, etc....

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Columbia, Md.:"Because, sadly, people like me really enjoy watching the lousy auditions ..."

Yep ... and many people like me only watch the auditions, because they're funny. Once they get to Hollywood, I quit watching.

Lisa de Moraes: But you've already invested about a workday of your life that you're never going to get back --

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Boston, Mass.: I remember two years ago that before the new "A.I." season started, Paula and Randy did lots of publicity saying that group was the most talented they and the producers had seen (this was the group with Carrie Underwood, Bo Bice and temporarily, Mario Vasquez). I don't remember hearing such praise last year or this year -- are we in for a year without blockbusters, like last year?

Lisa de Moraes: Maybe -- and yet, last season was one of the more interesting, I thought...

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Washington, D.C.: I love the rejects on this show. But do you think Jewel started to feel bad at some point in the show? She seemed a little down when talking to the contestants.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, but right off the bat, when Jewel-Stalker chick performed and was lousy. Didn't Jewel say she didn't want to comment on that performance...How is she going to host the country singing competition on USA if she can't take one episode of "Idol."

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Burlington, Vt.: I was thinking last night that "American Idol" may have finally passed its prime. I'm not surprised by anything anymore, and the fact that Randy is this season's bad guy makes me think they were desperate to find ways to change the format -- without really changing the format.

I'm not sure it's fashionable anymore to smile at mean-spiritedness. (I suspect that there is a political parallel but I won't go there.) I didn't have any problem changing channels midway through. What do you think -- has the show peaked?

Lisa de Moraes: According to the numbers, not at all....again, more than 37 million viewers according to fast nationals. Final stats in this afternoon...

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"some thing pretty extraordinary": Like sleeping with a contestant?

Lisa de Moraes: Oh, pookie, that is so two seasons ago. Of course not. Sex has never been extraordinary in Hollywood....you need to think out of the box.

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Burke, Va.:"Why should we take him seriously as a judge of musical talent?"

I think he's a great judge of talent, and I almost always agree with his critiques of contestants. He does tend to favor people with good looks, but if you can find a consumer out there who doesn't care what a pop star looks like, I would LOVE to meet him. Also, don't forget, Simon doesn't pick the winners, only the competitors. Sometimes I think he purposely gives harsher or lighter criticism of performances to try to influence the vote.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, and he always insists at the end that the viewers got it right. He was pretty savage to Jennifer Hudson..

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Van Ness, Washington, D.C.: Lisa,

So we basically saw no good singers in two hours of 'Minneapolis Idol.' They didn't even have the typical these-talents-got-through montage at the end after all the dredge!

Since the singing secretary revealed she had previously auditioned in Pasadena, we know that tryout came before Minneapolis chronologically.

Is there anything more to the story than the producers knew the "Idol" premiere would get a huge number regardless, so why not roll out (read: kill off) a totally mediocre audition city first, and save some of the promising cities (Pasadena, perhaps) for later, when better singers would draw an audience to stem the post-premiere early diminishing returns?

Lisa de Moraes: No. In first few episodes of Idol, bad is good so worst goes first... I know it's counterintuitive.

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Why losers audition: Because of their "self-esteem." No one has ever told these children that they are talentless clods. Notice the parents after the auditions who assure them that they can sing and they're going to be a big star. If they were honest with their children the poor kids wouldn't be humiliated by Simon. Simon is rude and overly focused on looks (otherwise he wouldn't have dismissed the curvaceous Jennifer Hudson so easily) but he is rarely wrong about real talent.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, because we've never had an enormous Idol winner (Ruben).... and there's never been a plump pop star (Aretha)....

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Something pretty extraordinary ...: We should make it a contest who can come up with the most creative and plausible (yeah right) way Paula would leave the show. Winner gets to have lunch with pookie.

Lisa de Moraes: Done. Taking all suggestions...

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Lewiston, Maine.: In past "American Idol" auditions, usually Simon would cut the contestant off in short order when the contestant was "dreadful." In last night's auditions the first few contestants sang for what seemed an excruciatingly long period of time before being cut off... all the while the judges eyes were rolling, or had a look of disbelief or horror. What is up with the extended torture? It got to be a little too much.

And, couldn't the producer tape an "Exit" sign on the right hand door so that the dejected "singers" wouldn't humiliate themselves further by trying to exit through the locked door.

Lisa de Moraes: I think the locked left door was supposed to be a metaphor for something. Not sure what. Maybe man's inhumanity to man...and I don't know about extending the torture but I did notice Simon was being uncharacteristically kind last night and I fear for him....

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Washington, D.C.: It seemed to me that there were very few, if any, "wow" performances and way too many, "eh" good enough for the next round, but that's about it performances. Is "Idol" scraping the bottom of the barrel?

Oh, and I now love Jewel. She tried so hard to be nice to everyone, even the really awful circus sideshow contenstants.

Lisa de Moraes: I'm guessing they deliberatly withheld all but one or two good auditioners from Minneapolis. Yes, there might have been more in the mix but this first episode was the best-produced first episode. The producers finally seem to have gotten it down. Remember how last year's finale was the best by laps (Prince). Previous finales had been a holy mess....

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Alexandria, Va.: There's Bad Auditions ...

And then there's making fun of people who (to me) appear to be mentally ... not 100 percent. A lot of it comes off as being very mean. Mean comments by the judges, and mean editing by the producers.

Lisa de Moraes: No, Simon was kinder and gentler, Paula barely spoke up at all -- didn't even hit Simon once. It was Randy laughing at auditioners that was grating. And how much makeup was he wearing. He looked way too pretty. Like a Randy Jackson doll...

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Annandale, Va.: Lisa,

It would appear that Simon Cowell is now insulting contestants for their physical appearance, so one would assume that he would reject singers such as Luciano Pavoratti or Beverly Sills because of their weight. Someone needs to send Cowell's address to Keyser Soze!

Lisa de Moraes: yes Simon would make fun of both but then neither would have made it as a pop star. He's in the business of packaging pop stars and you don't see many plump-ish pop stars these days....

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Paris, Miss.: This is just anecdotal but I had a friend who worked the first round of "A.I." a few years ago and she said that her whole job was to whittle down the field of approx 10,000 contestants per city into "the best" and "the worst" and send those people on to the judges.

Any idea if this is true? So, those in the middle range never make TV at all, right?

Lisa de Moraes: Middle range....zzzzzzzzzz... Best and worst are entertaining. It rings true to me...what's hooey is when the judges complain how many bad people there are auditioning in a city when we all their producers are under orders to send them a big batch in each audition city...

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Ashburn, Va.: Biggest freak of the night goes to the girl who thought singing like the Cowardly Lion would get her to Hollywood.

Lisa de Moraes: On the other hand she got on national television, which was presumably what she wanted....

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Minneapolis, Minn.: Wait, so this means "Idol" will DEFINITELY come back here, right?! I mean, awful auditions = biggest premiere ever = have to keep doing it.

I guess I can look forward to another day of 30 minutes added to my commute sometime in 2007.

Lisa de Moraes: Not necessarily. I assume Fox wants them to move it around each season, so as to goose viewing in major markets...If there was an audition in Dallas, Dallas will tune in that night in a big way...

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Alexandria, Va.: Lisa:

Can we please get a big fat pay raise for the producer or set designer or whoever came up with the idea to lock one of the exit doors to the audition room? Hee hee -- first we humiliate you, then we reject you, then we laugh at you again as Simon calmly points out "wrong door."

I love this show.

Lisa de Moraes: like I said: man's inhumanity to man.

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Washington, D.C.: Also don't forget that by the time the singers go in front of the judges they have already gotten through a couple of rounds. Although why none of them wonder if they've just gotten through because they are going to be horibly good television is beyond me -- or maybe they just want any camera time they can get so they go beserk

Lisa de Moraes: Urban Amish clearly falls into that category, but I think he's the first of the lousy auditioners to actually come right out and say so. and for that we applaud him...

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Extraordinary Contest: I think Paula will OD on her meds, be found walking naked along Wilshire Blvd at 3 a.m. yelling racial and sexual slurs at passing cars and pedestrians. Police will arrest her, wrap her in a blanket and the press will get great photos of her being led by police looking all doped up with her hair sticking up in every direction. She will deny everything saying it was a bad reaction by mixing acetomeniphen and orange juice.

Lisa de Moraes: and she'll do it in an interview with Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America" who will coo over her sympathetically....

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Creative way to get rid of Paula: Call MC Skat Cat out of retirement (her animatated co-star in the "Opposite Attracts" video who actually had his own album! seriously!). Have him appear as a contestant unbeknownst to Paula. Watch Paula's have a nervous breakdown due to her embarrassment at having never returned the feline's phone calls or helping a kitty out when her career took off again and his has been finished since the mid 90's.

Lisa de Moraes: wow, terribly convoluted, but I'm game...

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Columbia, Md.: I had a whole different take on the Randy Jackson and Mr. Voice Coach tete-a-tete. It seemed Jackson was going to leave it at a single comment, but Simon wanted to escalate it and baited Mr. Voice Coach into getting into it with Randy. Same Simon the puppet-master at work.

Lisa de Moraes: brilliant, huh?

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Silver Spring, Md.: To get Paula off the show ... have her audition for "American Idol."

She could never sing a note ... she wouldn't last three seconds in front of Simon.

Lisa de Moraes: None of those judges would last. But they're not trying out...remember, those who can't do -- judge...

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Lanville: Pookie:

I'm confused about the Naval Intelligence dude. He's going to participate in a 16-week competition? Aren't we at war? His commanding officer seemed pretty accommodating (read: creepily obsessed with "Idol"), but c'mon!

Concerned for Our Nation.

Lisa de Moraes: (product placement)..

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Oxford, Miss.: One thing I noticed about the Locked Left Door was that only losers were shown trying to use it. I'm sure just as many (proportionally) of the winners tried it too, but we were shown how hapless they were. Sad, cheap gimmick.

Lisa de Moraes: you say cheap gimic, I say metaphor for man's inhumanity to man...same thing...

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Lancaster, Pa.: What is "American Idol?" Please don't tell me we're constructing a golden cow for the secular population to worship.

Lisa de Moraes: You betcha!

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My favorite part of American Idol: Your recaps -- seriously, it made the show worth watching.

Lisa de Moraes: thanks.

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Guest judge: Jewel is hosting the Nashville Star contest -- and now doing a guest judge spot on "Idol"? Is this some kind of new circuit for singers whose career is starting to fade?

Lisa de Moraes: Of course. It's better than Vegas....

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Re: Paula leaving: During one of the top 5-10 live performances she starts lining up all of her pills on the table and dividing them based on color and effect. Then pulls out various mini alcohol bottles to rinse them down with. Though as she's so kind, she happily discusses how she distributes the pills and alcohol to the contestants when then need them, especially those young ones, they get really nervous.

Lisa de Moraes:...also good.

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The Future: Don't forget that in scenes from the upcoming episode (with "lemur boy"), Ryan promised we'd see why SEATTLE is actually the worst city ever for "A.I." contestants. So Minnesota was just a warm-up!

Lisa de Moraes: I defy Seattle to be that bad...

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Former Seattle-ite: Judging from the previews, the wonderfully weird people of Seattle took it on themselves to prank "American Idol." Remember -- this is the city that nearly pushed it's "Real World" house into Puget Sound. I'm looking forward to all the people not getting the joke next week.

Lisa de Moraes: Oh, so it's neo-lousy....

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Arlington, Va.: Why did USA let Jewel be a guest judge on "American Idol"? She didn't get a single plug in for their talent show, "Nashville Star."

Lisa de Moraes: Honestly, I do not know. USA is owned by NBC Universal which is a competitor. On the other hand, it's a big fat plug for "Nashville Star" that she's there, though I'm sure there was no way "Idol" producers were going to let a mention of a singing competition on another network get plugged. Meanwhile, you notice Randy plugged Cowell's NBC reality show, "America's Got Talent."..

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S.S.: The door: most normal people naturally head towards the door on their right exit or enter a room. What was the problem?

Lisa de Moraes: You are chatting with someone who is seriously left-handed and always runs into doors.. I can't answer your question....

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Paula leaving the show: She announces she is pregnant and doesn't know if Simon, Ryan or Randy is the father.

Lisa de Moraes:..very nice..

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Bethesda, Md.:"Grey's Anatomy" question -- any chance the homophobic doctor gets written off the show?

Lisa de Moraes: Like I said, you don't mess with the lineup on a hit show unless a cast member does something really extraordinary. Apparently his comments to not pass the "extraordnary" test. Just the "stupid and disgusting" test.

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Washington, D.C.: Well I guess it was only a matter of time, but has "Crack Baby" trumped "Displaced New Orleans Resident" as the backstory of the season?

Lisa de Moraes: It appears that way. Though let's wait until audition city near New Orleans pops up...

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Paula Contest: Have Paula record a new album. or issue a Greatest Hits, Best of ... you get the picture. Have everyone who reads this chat buy one -- it'll go to the top of the charts. She'll tour and not have time for the next rendition because she is the "AMERICAN IDOL."

Lisa de Moraes: also great. I have to run -- Today show session starting and I don't want to miss Matt.....bye.

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