Eight years ago, a little Oklahoman farmgirl you may have heard of named Carrie Underwood tried out for a little show called "American Idol," and the rest was history. So when "Idol" returned to Carrie's original audition city, St. Louis, this Thursday, they milked it for all it was worth, all in an attempt to convince viewers that The Next Carrie was somewhere to be found here in the gateway to the West. (Or "the gateway to 'Idol' success," as Ryan Seacrest put it.) They kind of failed.
Carrie Underwood in Season 4
Yes, the nostalgia was laid on thick Thursday, from the vintage footage of Carrie roadtripping to her 2004 "Idol" audition; to the shots of kumbaya-singalongs in the St. Louis parking lot with the Ryan voiceover that declared, "'Idol' is where this generation comes together"; to even a memory-lane parade of past bad auditioners (i.e., William Hung 'n' Friends). And of course, I understand why "Idol" pulled out all the stops for this last stop, this final auditions episode before Hollywood Week. It was time for the "Show Me State" to show me, and other hopeful viewers, some real Underwoodian talent. But all this "Idol" nostalgia sort of backfired, as it only reminded me how much better this show used to be. (I'm not so sure the judges have found a Carrie Underwood this season, and they've certainly not found any trainwreck as enjoyable or viral as William Hung.)
William Hung in Season 3
When the St. Louis auditions finally started, there were a couple promising country girls who might be able follow in Carrie's cowgirl-booted footsteps (or at least in Kellie Pickler's), but ironically, the episode mostly trotted out a bunch of scruffily handsome folk-rock boys in Kris Allen-regulation plaid shirts, typical of the last four seasons' male winners--so I'm not sure what the producers were trying to accomplish with the whole Underwood nostalgia fest. And THEN, a midshow preview of Madonna's football-themed "Gimme All Your Luvin'" music video upstaged all the auditioners--not only emphasizing the sad fact that few "Idol" contestants will ever enjoy a career as sensational and decade-spanning as Madonna's, but also serving as a compelling advertisement for Madge's Super Bowl half-time performance on NBC this Sunday...which of course will be followed by the premiere of "Idol's" rival show, "The Voice." Oops. Again, I'm not sure what "Idol" producers accomplished there.
Madonna plays ball
Anyhoo, maybe the judges did find the next Carrie or Madonna in St. Louis, since they handed out 46 golden tickets...but frustratingly, only FIVE of those ticket-holders received any significant screentime during Thursday's hour-long episode (because all that actual Carrie/Madonna footage hogged up so many minutes). So who knows?
The judges try to keep up their spirits in St. Louis
Want to know more about those fortunate five? Read on...