Monday, 28 March 2011

American Idol: 11 Still in the Mix

What a weirdly decent week of Idol Motown performances! Am I crazy, or was there not a single train wreck in the bunch? My Idol-watching buddy and I had a strange moment of realization this week when we realized that we actually don't dislike anyone this season because of their inability to sing; instead, in true reality show viewing fashion, we dislike some contestants because of jarring personality traits (see below). I don't know how I feel about that.

Well, last week sure was entertaining, with the early exercise of the judges' save and all, but like with the previous week, I didn't feel compelled to download the studio versions of these songs. As the weeks get more and more competitive (seriously, who is THE frontrunner this season?), it will prove even more important for contestants to do something interesting with their songs in order to set them apart from the pack (see: Naima). My biggest problem with this season is the producer involvement, and the ways they're shaping the contestants into ready-made products. I do understand the irony of saying that in a post about American Idol, but what I mean is that part of what makes this show fun is seeing raw talent evolve over the course of the season. The best contestants have used the experience as an opportunity to try things out creatively for themselves, to varying degrees of success. The heavy music-producer involvement is, as I see it, stifling some of that creativity instead of actually creating the product they want. Even if that is the endgame of this competition, it seems like this new format might be the thing that prevents contestants from having late-in-the-game "wow" moments, like Bo Bice's "In a Dream", Jordin Sparks' "I (Who Have Nothing)", and Kris Allen's "Heartless", among others. The format certainly isn't helping the "growth" of Lauren Alaina or Scotty McCreery. Well, there's still a ways to go.

Without further ado, then, here's my list of favorites as they now stand:

1. Naima Adedapo: That's right, I said it! I didn't much care for her semi-finals round performance of "Summertime" or "What's Love Got To Do With It" two weeks ago, but every other performance from her has stopped me in my tracks. Of all the contestants, she's the one that seems to be trying to do something interesting with her performances, and even when all the pieces don't come together exactly right ("Umbrella" was a little pitchy, dawg), I still find myself excited about what she's attempting to do. I also respected her understanding of the history of "Dancing in the Street" (a song co-written by Marvin Gaye!) and its connection with the Civil Rights Movement. I'm possibly the only person who feels this way, but her restrained wild card performance of "For All We Know" is my favorite performance of the season.

2. Stefano Langone: His Motown week performance of "Hello" was missing a real connection to the song itself (as J-Lo aptly pointed out), but I simply love what he can do with his voice! And what's more, I think he's contemporary and radio ready (can't you hear him singing on hip hop singles?), which is more than we can say for some other contestants (*cough*JacobLusk*cough*). Oh, and btw, Gordan Ramsey clearly sucks! I'm sure Stefano's mother's cooking was divine.

3. Casey Abrams: All it would take to put Casey back at the top of my list again would be a non-growly, musically creative performance to show off his lovely pipes. That's all I want. He missed an opportunity to do this with "Smells Like Teen Spirit".

4. Paul McDonald: This week reminded me of why I liked him in the first place: a tendency toward gentle guitar strumming with a whispery lilt on the vocals. Now if we could only get bandzilla to let the guy alone onstage with his guitar, I think we'd see his true potential.

5. Pia Toscano: I want to like Pia. She's got a lovely voice, a seemingly humble demeanor, and she's proven unafraid to wear sweatpants and glasses on camera, but every week, she bores me into oblivion with her pageanty, adult contemporary ballads. I can't ignore her talent, but I don't really want to buy her records. You know?

6. Thia Megia: I wanted to like her so much, that I may have crossed over into actually liking her. This week's performance of "Heat Wave" was her strongest big stage performance yet, even though she didn't really do anything special with it. Maybe I like the potential of her jazzy voice? That must be it.

7. Lauren Alaina: I'm starting to lose patience with Lauren. My disappointment with her can be summed up with her clip package confession that her producer chose her song for her this week. She has a seriously amazing voice and what sounds like near-perfect pitch to me, but this week again left me with the sense that she has no idea what she's doing up there. She's playing the American Idol karaoke game, robotically hitting all her notes and smiling pretty for the cameras, yet lacking any real connection to what she's doing. It's not her fault: she's only 16, after all. Unless A LOT of personal and musical growth can happen between now and the end of May, though, I call foul on all those early Dame Kelly comparisons.

8. James Durbin: Him being a "huge professional wrestling fan" pretty much clarified to me why I find him irritating. It's the adolescent tendencies in this 22 year-old father that I find jarring -- the way he persists in wearing "tails", the way he screams in every song just because he can, the Judas Priest song in the semifinals: he's the Judd Apatow movie of this season's American Idol. There's definitely a market for his particular musical stylings, but it's not my demographic.

9. Haley Reinhart: My Idol-watching buddy astutely pointed out this week that the only way she seems to be able to find her notes is in growling her way to them. For the most part, I find her vocals relatively inoffensive. It's the weirdly sexualized performances (accented by the growling) that bum me out.

10. Scotty McCreery: Yep, still not a fan.

11. Jacob Lusk: Over-the-top has made a new friend in Jacob Lusk. This week's less insane vocal was probably his best to date, but I'm still not convinced he has any idea what he's trying to do with his voice.

That's my two cents. Next week's Idol theme: Elton John songs (a season 3 theme that gave us this piece of horror and this curious caterwaul).

Make It or Break It Returns!

Okay you guys, no TV secrets here: I'm a HUGE Make It or Break It fan. Guilty pleasure? For sure! It's on ABC Family, after all (airing right after the truly abysmal Secret Life of the American Teen, which only makes MIoBI look like a Sorkin show by comparison), but I can't think of another show in recent memory that has treated female athletes with such respect. Can you? Maybe Pretty Little Liars, but the swimming team thing is only a subplot for Shay Mitchell's character. Sure, MIoBI plays up the soapy side of things with our protagonists (they kind of have to, don't they?), the characters do fall into generic categories (the Girl from the Other Side of the Tracks, the Unprovoked B*tch, the Down on Her Luck Champion with a Heart of Gold), and the girls have their share of catty infighting about boys. At the end of the day, though, it's about elite athletes trying to succeed at their very competitive (and dangerous) sport. Respect. Name another show where a legitimately hardcore but sympathetic female athlete has a 13-episode arch dealing with her depression about not being able to compete in her sport because of injury, or a show that takes the tired TV formula for anorexia subplots and makes it instead about a gymnast's attempt to achieve athletic success (Female Athlete Triad, anyone?). Anyone who's been around competitive female athletes (in college or elite athletics, etc.) knows people who've been there. Yeah, that's right: MIoBI is addressing the real experiences of women/girls in sports at a time when TV coverage of female athletes is actually dwindling. RESPECT.

Enough defending it, though. I really just wanted to advertise its return to ABC Family on Mondays at 9/8c, which starts tonight. If we had to lose the increasingly awesome Pretty Little Liars to hiatus, at least we get an entertaining replacement to keep us busy for a few months. Have you seen the promo for the new season? Who's going to die? It can't be one of the main four girls, can it? How is Emily Kmetko's dream "literally killing her"? And while we're on the subject, how is the show going to handle Chelsea Hobbs' recent pregnancy in the long term? An injury for Emily by the end of the season perhaps?

It's no Southland, but Make It or Break It sure is fun!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Fringe: "Bloodline"

I almost entitled this post "I Heart Fringe! That is all." Did you watch this week's episode where [SPOILERS!!!! DON'T BLAME ME IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW!!] Fauxlivia gave birth on the Other Side to her and Peter's son? Did you love it as much as I did? No sooner do the producers over at Fringe give us the news of Fauxlivia's pregnancy (in the episode "Immortality", which made her much more sympathetic than when she had been merely the usurper of our Olivia's life) and a few short weeks to process the information that Peter's ties to his adopted universe might not be as stable as we thought, do they speed up Fauxlivia's pregnancy and bring Baby Harbinger of Doom into the already fraught alternate universe. The plot continues to thicken. (Here's a fantastic recap of the episode, btw.) How are there only four episodes left this season, and how, for the love of TiVo, are we going to wait all summer for more?!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this show has really come into its own this year. All of the actors, not only the superb (and overworked!) Anna Torv, have stepped up their games, making their characters more complex in response to the enhanced dramatic layering of the show itself. I'm reluctant to compare any shows to LOST because I think LOST was on a different level than other shows from its beginning, but I would happily call Fringe in its current manifestation a close cousin of LOST and even The X-Files.

How about a slow hand-clap for the symphonic season 3 of Fringe, and for FOX for ordering a complete season 4?

Friday, 25 March 2011

More Good News for "Fringe"!

In another move proving that, in spite of the recent/forthcoming endings of Big Love, LOST, and Friday Night Lights, TV is not doomed, FOX has renewed its cult hit Fringe for another season! Not only has it been given the green light, but FOX has ordered a full, 22-episode season for next year.

I haven't posted much about specific episodes of Fringe this season, but it's having a banner year, anchored in large part by Anna Torv's acting gymnastics (JJ Abrams discovered another great female lead with her!) and the lurking tragedy of the other universe. One of the best things about it is the way it's managed to move seamlessly between the two worlds, piling on top of the freak-of-the-week episodes a philosophical depth that wasn't quite developed in the show's first season and a half. It's gotten better and better. Well done, FOX!

By my count the only awesome shows still in jeopardy are NBC's Chuck and Parenthood. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

TNT Renews "Southland"!

In a decision that makes the end of Big Love more bearable, TNT has, like the superhero network it has become, renewed its brilliant cop drama Southland for a fourth season!

Southland seems like the kind of show that would normally have a pretty short, but amazing run, so it's a wonderful surprise that TNT has stuck by it. I really can't laud this show more, and I think there are very few dramas on TV right now as compelling as Southland. Win!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The End of "Big Love"

This is a short note to commemorate the ending of one of my favorite shows on TV, Big Love, which airs its series finale tonight on HBO. On one hand I'm glad that the showrunners decided to leave the show on its own terms, during what seems to be one of its best seasons (seriously, if you haven't watched last week's episode "Exorcism", you only have yourself to blame), but I'm of course disappointed not to see a continuation of the Henricksens' fascinating story, which to me feels by no means finished (in the TV sense, that is).

I’m also really disappointed that this brilliant show is ending with no Emmys and only one major acting award (Chloe Sevigny rightfully upset Jane Lynch at the Golden Globes in 2010), but maybe it’s a testament to the complexity of the drama that it didn’t appeal to everyone. For me, the most fascinating thing about this show is the way it managed to take an “icky” topic like polygamy and turn it into a catalyst for the kind of anti-hero family drama that makes BL so gripping. The show was never about polygamy. In the broader sense it's about the First Amendment, but perhaps more compellingly, it focused the relationships at the center of the drama and on the wonderfully multifaceted characters at the heart of the show. Last week's episode "Exorcism" demonstrated this as well as any episode we've seen, in that in the midst of the Henricksen's social and political isolation, the show focused on the personal struggles of each main character. I don't know about you, but the more I learn about these characters, the more I feel like there's more to learn.

I'll probably post something about the finale later this week, when I get past my BL-is-ending-oh-no! depression. It feels like a TV conspiracy that we're losing Friday Night Lights, LOST, and Big Love in the span of a year. If Fringe or Southland gets canceled, I'm gonna freaking lose it, y'all!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Parks and Recreation: Redifining the Workplace Mockumentary as We Know It

Reader, are you watching Parks and Recreation? Short answer: you should be. Long answer: if you're not, you're missing out on a show that has taken the once-funny Office-style mockumentary and "de-cynicalized" it (no, that's not a real word. Don't use it in essays) to maximum comedic effect.

I just came across this excellent review of the show's current (third) season. Like the reviewer, I didn't really like the pilot of this show very much. It seemed like Amy Poehler (who I love) was playing an unfunny female incarnate of Michael Scott on his more awkward days, only in a different setting. The first season improved upon the pilot, with a couple of really funny moments, but was generally uneven. The second season, however, was a whole other story. From the premiere, it seemed like the writers had a better sense of the ensemble potential, anchored of course by Poehler, as well as a strong sense of how the show works differently from The Office. Where The Office uses (used?) Jim as the cynically comic straight man to Michael Scott's optimistic insanity, Parks and Rec eliminates the need for such cynicism by making Leslie Knope an eternal optimist, but not as cluelessly out of touch as Michael. The result, as the above review says is that "it creates comedy, which is not to be confused with satire, out of workplace optimism".

I could gush for pages about my new favorite TV comedy, but the review says it much better than I could. Let's just say that that Parks and Rec has hit its stride in a major way. I hope you're watching it!

American Idol: Top 13 Week

After a good, if not amazing, top 24 week, and a fantastic Wild Card round, we got to see the Idols take on their first post-semifinal theme week. "Songs by Your Idol" seems like a promising theme, yes? Why, then, was it so tepid? In a post-David Cook Idol, it's no longer acceptable to just sing the song. Now, contestants must do something creative with the song, and by my count, only three contestants (Naima, Stefano, and Thia)--with varying degrees of success--did that. Hey, I don't make the rules, kids.

Without further ado, then, here's my current favorite rankings:

1. Casey Abrams (last week: 1): My favorite wookiee holds steady in the number one spot this week, after a solid, if not especially creative, rendition of Joe Cocker's [rendition of Lennon/McCartney's] theme to The Wonder Years (silly, I know that's not the song's original purpose, but can you hear it without thinking of Kevin Arnold pining for Winnie Cooper? I think not). I like Casey's stage presence. He's interesting, and, in spite of an occasional bum note, a pretty solid performer. It wasn't my favorite performance of the night, but Casey's still my favorite.

2. Naima Adedapo (last week: 3): This was my favorite performance of the night, and the only one I actually downloaded. Yeah, I agree with J-Lo's critique that Naima needs to work of her vocal control when she's performing. There were definitely some shaky, if not necessarily out of tune, notes in her performance of "Umbrella" (which is totally one of the most fun pop songs of the last decade), but she did something interesting with it. She danced! She reggae-d it up! In an amazing turn of events, her performance actually made me not care about her pitch (there, I said it). She seems like she really wants it, and while that can often manifest itself in an unseemly level of desperation in contestants (Gina Glocksen was robbed!), Naima seems ready to work. Combined with her absolutely loverly wild card performance last week, Naima is rapidly rising to a Carly Smithson level for me, and I LOVED Carly Smithson.

3. Paul McDonald (last week: 2): Okay, Paul's ranking this week has nothing to do with his borderline terrible performance of Ryan Adams' "Come Pick Me Up". While I've got nothing against Paul's obviously excellent taste in music (Ryan Adams [aka, Mr Mandy Moore] is awesome, and you should listen to him), his vocal was all over the place in a terrible arrangement of a good song. Paul remains in my top 3 solely out of my refusal to forget about "Maggie Mae" (both times) and "Blackbird". I still love Paul's whispery tone and slightly manic performance mannerisms. This week, he's gonna have to bring it, though!

4. Stefano Langone (last week: 4): Anyone that knows me knows that I'm not a huge Stevie Wonder fan (shock! horror! Let's move on), but I totally get why Stefano would sing a Stevie Wonder song, and I applaud his effort. The heavily-synthesized arrangement actually worked for me, and it seemed like Stefano kept up with it well. Additionally, I really enjoy when he goes for the high notes. It's like a scrappy, more energetic version of Jovany Barretto's lovely higher register. He's enjoyable.

5. Thia Megia (last week: 6): That's right, kids: I'm keeping the faith with Thia. Sure, it wasn't a great version of "Charlie Chapman's" (hehe) "Smile", but I love it when she sings that stripped down stuff. Chica's done some strange song choices ("Smile" is an Idol kiss of death song. Is the curse broken?), and Michael Jackson was creepy, but I'm still getting an artist vibe from her. The tone of her voice is also lovely. I'm just hoping that we'll get a chance to see a vulnerable moment from her before she gets voted off.

6. Lauren Alaina (last week: 5): Okay, I still like Lauren's voice, but something she said last week was really obnoxious. When she was talking about her surprisingly low-energy "Any Man of Mine" (a brilliant counrty song that I'm convinced should NEVER be covered on the Idol stage again. Seriously, no one ever gets its attitude! How is that possible?), she said something like, "I was trying to do it better [than everyone that had ever done it on Idol]." Honey-child, let's cool it with the comparisons at this early stage in your Idol history. I still like her voice, but I'm getting a little restless to see something else from her.

7. Pia Toscano (last week: 7): What did she sing again? Oh yeah, Celine. Meh. Pia's got a lovely voice, but she's sooo adult contemporary.

8. Karen Rodriguez (last week: 8): Speaking of adult contemporary, poor Karen had a rough week, eh? It was surprising how out of tune she was throughout the song, but the bigger bummer is that she chose Selena's "I Could Fall in Love" over the way more fun "Dreaming of You".

9. James Durbin (last week: 13): Don't see his improved ranking as proof that I like this guy. I still find him irritating and uncreative, but less so than some others, I guess. His "Maybe I'm Amazed" was a vast improvement over that horrible Judas Priest song he did the previous week, and he didn't maim the song in any way that I found offensive. I just hope he can find it in his heart to quit screaming at us.

10. Jacob Lusk (last week: 9): Ugh, that friggin' Space Jam song refuses to die! Perhaps for "Songs by Your Idol" night, Jacob could've chosen a song by a dude who's not a kiddie pornographer. HURL. Context aside, the vocals were pretty much horrible, and adding the Gospel choir halfway through the 90 second version of the song only made Jacob think he had to sing louder and more erratically. Yeah, that was not good.

11. Scotty McCreery (last week: 12): OF COURSE he sang Garth Brooks, and OF COURSE he was overpraised for it. Let me break it down for you. The kid has three moves: tilt head to the right, raise up an Elvis-style lip, and gaze deeply into the camera. When he sings, he dips into that deep voice of his for a second to find the note, and then quickly decrescendos out so he can repeat it for the next phrase. It's a formulaic copycat of deep-voiced male country singers that have considerably more grit. Despite what the judges say, the kid's not pitch-perfect either. I just don't think they can hear him hitting some of his low notes slightly sharp because of the mix in the room. There's a lot more I could say, but I'll leave it there. I feel a little mean. To leave it on a positive note, the kid's obviously got something that audiences find appealing, and it would be nice to see Idol produce another viable male country singer. Also, you can't really fault a guy for choosing Garth Brooks as his country Idol!

12. Halie Reinhart (last week: 11): Oddly enough, I thought her vocals were much stronger than her semi-finals performance. She actually got the yodel just about right on LeAnn Rhimes' "Blue". My problem with Haley is the way she tries to "sexualize" her performances (Ew. I'm wincing just writing that) and the stank attitude she seems to have when she's being critiqued. She's really not a bad singer, but I find her a bit grating nonetheless.

There you have it. Agree? Disagree? Am I being too hard on Scotty and Haley? Comment below!

Monday, 7 March 2011

American Idol's Top 13

As promised in my most recent post, you can expect to read a lot about American Idol in future weeks. It's how I process the results of the often maddening, but often fantastic TV talent show. Here we go.

I have to admit that I was skeptical of the one-week, all or nothing semifinal round this year, but that I found it to be surprisingly thorough, and all the ones I thought were terrible (with only three maddening exceptions) got cut. Jordan Dorsey and Clint jun Gamboa saw the effects of their Hollywood Week d-baggery come to term, and the frightening visual components to Brett Lowenstern's and Rachel Zevita's performances properly put people off. While I put Rachel in my "good" category last week, I'm happy to admit that she seemed a little "too Broadway" (to borrow an original from the Simon Cowell lexicon) for Idol's big stage. As a collective viewing public, we weren't ready for her.

I also should admit that although I spent most of the performance episodes vehemently disagreeing with S-Ty's and J-Lo's vanilla critiques, they selected a worthy group of sing-for-your-lifers (with the exception of their undoubtedly producer-infused exclusion of Lauren Turner, whose sarcastic magic will live on in the short-term memories of Idol fans least one season), and then made an awful lot of sense with their selections (controversial, yes, because based on talent alone Kendra Chantelle should have gotten in over Ashthon Jones, but from a demographics standpoint, they made a smart move). One of my favorite Idol moments of the season was when J-Lo knowingly told poor, adult contemporary Jovany Barretto: "You did all you could do." In comparison with last season, which was basically an act of endurance until Crystal Bowersox performed, I'm [dare I say] excited [GULP!] about this season.

Here's what I think of the top 13 in order from my favorite to my least favorite:

1. Casey Abrams. He's a BASS PLAYER! (I'm a bass player, btw, and we get no respect.) I thoroughly enjoyed my multiple viewings of his angry-but-working-it rendition of "I Put a Spell on You", a song that I've always found a little meh. I like that he growled [mostly] in tune, and that he's clearly got some musical ambitions for his Idol run. Still a fan!

2. Paul McDonald. My sister totally called this one. After the Nashville auditions, she told me to watch out for the "Maggie Mae" guy, and even though he was given about 8 seconds during that episode, he's emerged as a standout in the last couple of weeks. I LOVED his whispery, slightly drunken encore of "Maggie Mae". My only sadness is that we'll never get to see him and Kendra Chantelle duet on the Idol big stage, like in this video. (Amazing, right?)

3. Naima Adedapo. She reminds me of a late-nineties version of Lauryn Hill. In spite of, or perhaps because of, her [shall we say] eclectic wardrobe choices, I enjoy watching her perform. It was risky for her to sing "Summertime", as Fantasia OWNS "Summertime", but she didn't do anything with it to disrespect Lady Fantasia's history with that song. Her sing-for-your-life song, though, Donnie Hathaway's "For All We Know", was magical. She didn't over-sing it, and she was feeling it. It was an unexpectedly beautiful moment. There's only a few people in this competition that I think are actually artists, and she's one of them.

4. Stefano Langone. Speaking of unexpected Idol moments, how about his lovely and emotional "I Need You Now" during the wild card round? That Bruno Mars cover during the performance round was forgettable and too self-conscious, but I really liked what he brought to his sing-for-your-life performance. I like my favorite contestants to be capable of having these kinds of emotional, slightly over the top, but still heartbreaking performances. Don't know about you, but I find Stefano really likable.

5. Lauren Alaina. Any ill-will I harbor towards Lauren is a direct result of the producers forcing her on us as "the next big thing". That said, it's hard not to like her when she's on stage or doing cartwheels in her clip package. She's a little bit of a spitfire, perhaps too precocious, but a darn good singer at the end of the day, and really quite charming. Her Reba McIntire cover was fine, if not particularly memorable, but she sauntered onto that stage with more confidence than most contestants at this point, and brought a presence that most underage contestants never have during their Idol runs (Jordin Sparks and Allison Iraheta are, of course, the exceptions). If she chooses songs wisely and stops sucking up to Steven Tyler, she'll make the top three.

6. Thia Megia. I liked her unusual showtunes selection for the performance show, and admire the fact that she went the minimalist route with it, since bandzilla and the backup singers can really make contestants with smaller voices disappear on that stage. I also think she's got nice pitch and an artist streak that we haven't fully seen yet (which is why her Bill Cosby sweaters are actually awesome). My sister is an astute reality TV critic, and she loves her, so I'm giving Thia the benefit of the doubt.

7. Pia Toscano. Yeah, she's alright. Judging by the people on the interwebs, though, I may be the only person not awed by her performance of "I'll Stand By You". It's a great song, but she sang a fairly uninteresting cover, which only made me want to listen to Chrissie Hynde singing it instead. After reading all about it online, I watched her performance again to see if I remembered it wrong, but no. Pia can sing well enough, but is she an artist?

8. Karen Rodriguez. Unlike a lot of skeptics out there, I think she's really quite good, and I like that she sings in Spanish on the big stage. "Hero" is a super-predictable, overdone Idol song, but she sang it fine. There's more in the tank with her, and I hope she's able to convey it to us before she gets voted off.

9. Jacob Lusk. This guy falls so far outside of my Idol boxes, that I forgot about him when I was thinking about this post. The jury's still out about him for me. I like that he managed to restrain himself enough to deliver a pretty good performance on Tuesday's show, but I just don't see him as a contemporary artist. He could be a great Gospel singer, but not a top 10 contemporary pop singer, even with a great song. That said, though, I still think he's bursting with raw talent, and I look forward to seeing what he does with theme weeks.

10. Ashthon Jones. She's got some pipes and she's pretty enough for Tyra to give her the makeover of death on ANTM (e.g. infuriating bangs or bleached eyebrows), for sure, but that random Monica song she sang on Thursday's show had no discernible melody. And observing her behavior during the results show made me think she's got a stank attitude. Stank.

11. Haley Reinhart. Her Alicia Keys train wreck last week did nothing to convince me that she can sing, and coupled with her frighteningly "sexualized" performance style, I think we may have found season 10's resident Sanjaya (re: a polarizing and apparently vocally limited contestant who gets to the finals and bugs us until his/her inevitable ouster two to six weeks later).

12. Scotty McCreary. I hate to pick on a 17 year-old kid just because he's on my TV, but I really blame the judges and producers for allowing him to get here. I find him inauthentic, and I don't buy his "country boy" schtick, in spite of the kinds of songs he has been singing. Just because one can smirk and tilt one's body like a country star, does not mean one is a country star. Like most 17 year-olds, I don't think he has an understanding of who he is, and I definitely don't think he's an artist yet. Like with that pale little crying girl that J-Lo told to come back in 2-3 years, I think they should have let this guy grow up a little bit first. He can't be an artist if all he knows how to do is imitate Josh Turner.

13. James Durbin. To borrow a term from my seventh grade self, this guy's a total poser. Like with Scotty, he seems to be a guy that one day happened upon a crazy thing he can do with his voice, and decided to injudiciously make that thing his trademark. "Screamer 2.0", as he will heretofore be known, is a poor man's Adam Lambert, minus the vocal training, theatrical performance savvy, charisma, and self-knowledge. I am NOT pleased.

There you have it. What do you dis/agree with? Comment below!

The Revolt of the TiVo, March 2011 edition

Loyal blog readers, I have to be honest with you: it's been a tough TV quarter for me. I've gotten so snowballed with real work and trying to run a Boston marathon qualifier that my TV watching has fallen painfully by the wayside. As a result of these upsetting personal developments, my TiVo's "Now Playing" list filled to capacity a staggering 3 times in the last month, and deleted some backlogged episodes that I hadn't quite gotten to yet. I've downloaded the ones that were lost in TiVo's act of rebellion, but I haven't watched them yet, and probably won't for a little while. There are some shows that I like to watch in blocks of two or three episodes, but the backlog has meant that some shows are sitting there with four or five unwatched installments.

I tell you this, reader, because I want you to understand why you're about to see lots of blog posts about American Idol, but not so many about startlingly brilliant shows like Fringe.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "How can you sit there and call yourself a TV addict when your TiVo is in rebellion?", and you have every right to think that. But in my defense, "must watch TV" has been greatly limited this year. With the absence of LOST, this usually special winter TV time has felt a little shallow. There are a great crop of worthy shows on right now, but the loss of the one-two LOST + American Idol punch has made this time of year less urgent for me.

Currently, the shows I stay caught up on out of what feels like a compulsive need to watch them are American Idol, Parenthood, Southland, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Grey's Anatomy (don't think I can't see your judgment eyes. Put those away!), and Chuck. There are plenty of others I'll put on in the background while making dinner or something (House, One Tree Hill, Modern Family, Blue Bloods, V), and plenty of others that I think are straight up excellent and worth dedicating a distraction-less hour to (Fringe, Big Love, The Vampire Diaries, Cougar Town), but these are the shows that feel "must see" to me. Interestingly, I wouldn't call them all my "favorite" shows. That honor is reserved for excellent scripted TV like Friday Night Lights and my current obsession Parks and Recreation.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you can expect to read about the "must see" shows here a lot more in future weeks. I hope you can sympathize. I'm also interested to know, reader, what are your "must see" shows? It's okay to be honest. I admitted to watching Grey's Anatomy whenever it's on my TiVo. Post comments below!