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I have two quick (and timely) items to cover before the regular column today...

American Idol: Testing

Already this week, Cast Member testing has proceeded at American Idol, with rumored unannounced testing open to the public perhaps as early as later this week. One kind soul sent me this note of his perceptions so far:

I saw the CM preview on Tuesday 1-6-09. I actually saw the very first running of a finale show at 4pm with 7 finalists. While the audience was probably half full (about 500), we were looking forward with great anticipation.

The show started at about 3:30pm in the holding area. The warm up host came out and got the crowd ready and excited. He was great! They also filmed a lot of us reacting to different singers, shouting our encouragement and so on. I assume they do this every show to have some video to cut into the actual show.

At about 3:50pm we were ushered into the big room There was no video taping or cameras allowed. The set is amazing. It looks just like the set on TV and must have cost Disney a small fortune.

The warm up host came out again and got the crowd ready for the main show. Again, he was very funny and energetic.

Then the shows director came out to thank everyone for attending. Unfortunately, he came of as very smug, as if he himself created Idol and built the set with his own hands. Not a good way to endear yourself to 500 strangers.

Then a video of Ryan Seacrest came on and introduced the show. It should have led into the main show, but a technical glitch forced them to start over.

Once they started over, the main host came out. Unfortunately, all the charisma and energy of the warm up host was nowhere to be found in the main host. He seemed stiff and detached, and the 3 piece suit he wore didn't help. I know he couldn't be Ryan Seacrest (who wound want that!) but he just lacked the warmth and sense of humor needed to host such a huge show.

Then the problems began. The three judges were introduced. These were all Disney actors I had seen in other shows from Nemo to Tarzan and The Ad Club. Yet the show treated them as if they were big time record executives. Now I have no problem if they are actors playing this role. However, they were introduced by their real names and to an unassuming audience, passing themselves off as music industry experts is suspect.

They also assumed the roles made popular on TV. The first judge, though a female, was Randy. Her comments after every song were "street" and she used lots of "girlfriend" and "dog." The 2nd judge assumed the Paula role and kept dropping names as if she had spent decades producing Grammy award winning records.

The 3rd judge played Simon to a T and had some great zingers that will probably be cut from the show. His best line after a female contestant sang: "Hearing you sing was like seeing a thong made of glass: pretty to look it but rubs you the wrong way."

Unfortunately, while the comments should have been off the cuff, they seemed very scripted. Again, nothing wrong with that, but the audience should know these are not professionals in the industry but merely actors playing a role.

But the main problem with the show is in the talent itself. Now the show I saw was all cast members singing, including some from shows on property. When you get your average Disney guest on stage, it turns into basically the world's most expensive karaoke show.

I compared it to Rising Star at CityWalk which is far superior. First, Rising Star features a great variety of songs, most of which will NEVER end up on the American Idol stage, though it would be fun to hear someone sing "I Kissed a Girl" or "Baby Got Back" at Disney!

Second, Rising Star features a live band, and a great one at that. Since American Idol just uses tracks, it comes off as one of the early shows in the season rather than the top 12 shows. You think they could have cut a few of the flat screens or lights and used live musicians. It really would have given the show the much needed spark and energy.

Finally, when a singer sucks at Rising Star, you only need to wait 3-4 minutes for the next one. And pretty much anyone (over 21) can get up and sing at the club on any given night. With American Idol, you get 21 people per day. And even getting to be one of the 21 is pretty difficult.

In retrospect, the concept was interesting, yet it just came off as a really expensive karaoke show. And not one I will be rushing back to see anytime soon.

No More Beer

Starting February 1st, all the Anheiser-Busch parks will lose the hospitality centers serving beer samples, free of cost, to park visitors. They will be replaced by regular restaurants. I guess the InBev purchase of the mother company really will have ramifications, even if they can't sell off the parks right away like they'd prefer. This is not a customer-friendly move, no matter what the PR spin in the newspaper reports.


2009 Kevin Yee

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