Monday, 26 March 2012

'Make It or Break It' Finally Returns!

In case you weren't aware (and why would you be with ABC Family's lax advertising budget for this show?), Make It or Break It is returning to our TVs tonight.

According to Josie Loren (who plays Kaylie Cruz), the show's had a huge makeover this season, too. The girls are training at the Olympic Training Center now, which means Sasha and probably the parents drama are gone. Chelsea Hobbs's Emily is still unfortunately gone, as well.

I hope the changes are for the better, though. The network really kept MIOBI on the back-burner for a long time, and this season is its last, so soak it up, teen drama fans!

This Week's Random TV Thoughts

Re: Idol. Agree with this 100%.

Ringer has gotten A LOT better. Has anyone else been watching this? It was one of the worst new pilots this season, but it has wiggled its way into priority viewing for me each week. It's a show defies intelligent commentary (not that I do that here anyway!), but is a blast in a One Tree Hill kind of way. Sarah Michelle Geller has finally figured out what she's doing with these characters, and I'm also loving the addition of Sean Patrick Thomas to the cast. Unexpected, but fabulous. One question, though: how could Kristoffer Polaha be so wonderful on Life Unexpected yet so horrible on this? They need to figure out what they're doing with that character.

Speaking of One Tree Hill, I've been enjoying most of OTH's swan song. [SPOILERS!] Nathan's kidnapping and Dan's mission to spring him have been excellently OTT in the way that I like from OTH. You may disagree with me on this, but I actually think Sophia Bush and Bethany Joy Galeotti have emerged from this show as pretty good actors. They both offer the most compelling subplots because of how well they carry them. I cannot say the same for Clay and Quinn. Wow, I so don't care about his quest to rediscover his son!

It's a little post-hype, but I totally saw the Pretty Little Liars reveal coming! [SPOILERS!] I mean, duh, Mona was involved! I loved how they handled the big revelation of A (well, one of the A's), but kept the stakes high for next season. Regarding Maya's death, I've been reading message boards, and apparently some people are/were actually fans of Emily and Maya. I thought most PLL fans were unanimous on two points: 1) That Spencer would be a really good friend; 2) That Maya was crazy-cakes. Very strange.

NBC's Awake is freaking fantastic! Have you guys been watching this? Jason Isaacs is the perfect actor to take on this character, and he's extremely compelling in this psychological mind-twister. Loving everything about it so far.

This almost made me pee in my pants.

The episode of Once Upon a Time entitled "Heart of Darkness" (how many times did you have to read that book in college, btw? For me, it was a least three.) featured several really great ACTING! moments from Ginnifer Goodwin, but especially in the scene in which she [SPOILERS!] tries to shoot the Queen, but hits James/David instead and then remembers love. The way she played that scene reminded me of why I loved her so much Big Love. That single tear was devastating. Still really enjoying OUAT, btw.

Happy Endings is getting funnier and funnier, if that's even possible. If you're not watching it, you're missing out!

Not loving this new subplot about Grayson having a kid on Cougar Town. The same thing pretty much ruined Luke on Gilmore Girls for me.

'Idol''s Top 9 and EVP Rage

Let's start with the EVP rage. I don't have to tell you that Erika Van Pelt's elimination last week was a travesty, another disturbing example of collective Idol voter lady-hating. But we're used to this by now, aren't we? The last FOUR winners of this show have been "cute" (even in my teen years, I would not have found Scotty cute), straight white guys with guitars. Voters always pick off the women early on, and Erika was just too awesome with her perfect vocals and fearless last minute makeover for the voters to relate. Erika ended her Idol run with a great swan song performance (in spite of Randy's awkward "nah" response to Ryan's obligatory question about whether they were going to save Erika), a rad haircut, and a spot on the Idol tour.

EVP, I salute you, and since your votes will likely transfer over to Team Elise, know that your sacrifice is not in vain.

Here's a really good recap of the results show injustice, along with a hilarious screen shot of J-Lo caught mid-mean girl. I wished he had mentioned the infamous women-with-tattoos Idol conspira-theory, though. It's a real thing, and it's ruining the record industry.

Never forget.

Moving on. I didn't post last week because I frankly had very little to rant about. I think we ended up with a Perfect Top Ten this year, which softens the blow of Erika's premature elimination a little bit for me. I don't think a top ten (now nine. Sigh) has been this full of legitimate talent since maybe season seven. And that year, we still had to endure this (bless her). Instead, then, of listing all of them in order by favorite this week, I've split them into three categories.


Colton Dixon: Colton has been quietly contending for the Idol crown since Hollywood Week. His skinny jeans and skunk hair may bug some people, but he came into the competition already packaged to be a certain kind of artist, and I think he has done an excellent job in the competition so far. His voice is radio-friendly; he writes his own music, which from the snippets we've heard sound pretty good; and he performs well. He has also, arguably, been the most consistent contestant in the competition this season. I don't see him going home any time soon/at all.

Skylar Laine: Skylar is such an exciting performer to watch, and she seems to have a great personality to match. The energy she brings to her performances seems genuine, and, like Philip, she seems unable to contain herself from feeling whatever she's singing. It's freaking mesmerizing! My favorite thing about her, though, is that, like all good country singers, she is masterful at telling stories through her songs. She made me believe that Whitney Houston's "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" was a country song about, well, a broken heart, even though of course I knew better! She's great, and the voters seem to be recognizing that, as well. It's hard to imagine her being in imminent elimination danger even with a bad performance.

Phillip Phillips: This might seem hypocritical, but even though I love Phillip's performances (in spite of the Dave Matthews-ness and the shouting), I don't want him to win the show because he's a cute white boy with a guitar. I want a woman to win the show to prove that it's still possible. Frankly, after his reluctance to take the advice of Jimmy, Puffy, and Tommy Hilfiger (not a bad thing! It was awkward advice!) it seems like Phillip would be miserable if he won the show and had to be marketed by 19 as a Pop Idol anyway. That said, I think he really could win this show. I love the authenticity of his performances and even the liberties he takes with melodies. Last week's "Movin' Out" almost seems like a song he could have written. No question that Phillips' got the potential to go all the way this season.

Jessica Sanchez: When the gospel choir came onstage this week during Jessica's performance of that random song about dreams (did that song only have, like, one lyric repeated to infinity?), I didn't even notice they were there for a while because she was singing so well. At no point has she ever let the music or background vocals overpower her singing (no small feat on the Idol stage), and when she's onstage, she displays such control over what she's doing that it's hard to believe she's only 16. Every week, I find myself shocked anew by the power in her voice and the strength in her lower register. I think she's the best out and out vocalist in this competition, and as long as she keeps making us believe that she believes what she's singing, I think she's the perennial favorite for this year's title.


Hollie Cavanagh: I love Hollie's what-the-what?! belter voice, her weird but cool (English plus North Texan minus British inflected) accent, and how she somehow resembles a Disney woodland creature, but the ballads are hurting her. Last week, I would have put her in the above category, but then she sang another ballad, and this time it wasn't as well executed as the others she's done. I think of all the contestants on the show, she has the best shot at experiencing a true "Idol journey. I don't think she can win, though, unless she proves she can sing something 1) up-tempo; and 2) contemporary. And at this point, she may be in the Pia zone.

Joshua Ledet: It pains me a little to put Joshua in this category, but unless he can choose better songs, I don't think he can win this. Do I even need to talk about how freaking fantastic his performance of "When a Man Loves a Woman" was two weeks ago? My roommate is a casual watcher/occasional hater at best, but we were both more than a little mesmerized/sent into a frenzy with that performance. I want more of Joshua showing that kind of insane charisma and less of last week's intrusive gospel choir in his performances. I think/hope he's got a real shot at getting to the top three, but unless he can be a little more consistent with song choices, I don't see him winning.

Elise Testone: Elise is my favorite contestant in this competition, and if my history with these things proves consistent, I will be downloading whatever records she releases in the future. I love everything about her smoky rasp, and I love love love the fact that she is a musician who has been working at this for a long time. Her performance this week of "Vienna" was so perfect, I can't believe more people aren't talking about it. She even started in the pit of destruction, and walked through the crowd to the stage without losing focus! No one ever does that successfully! I don't think she can win the show, though, because frankly she's a 28 year-old woman, and she's already been in the bottom three twice. If the triumphant top 3 march of Haley Reinhart taught us anything (LOVED Haley's results show performance last week, btw!), though, it's that sometimes the voters can actually surprise us. I hope they surprise us with Elise.


Deandre Brackensick: Deandre seems like such a sweetie, but I find the hairography and the bouncy bouncy stage presence odd and off-putting. His voice is so beautiful and even mature, but what is he trying to do onstage? He really doesn't have amazing stage presence, which is a shame because his voice is attention-grabbing on its own. He also falls into the questionable song choice category, even more so than everyone else. I really like him, but I think his Idol days are numbered.

Heejun Han: Last week's insane "I was just having fun" performance "My Life" was horrid, and takes me back to horrible Sanjaya places in my Idol memory that I thought I had locked away forever. It was a terrible vocal and performance in the grand tradition of Josh Gracin's "Jive Talkin'" and John Stevens' "Crocodile Rock". Ugh, Heejun. Just, ugh. It's so wrong that Erika went home last week. Love Heejun's tone, but he's out of his league.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

American Idol, Top 12!

You guys, I'm really excited about American Idol this season. There are about 10 contestants remaining that I actually like! In the last three or four seasons, I'd say that I have actively disliked at least half of each group. This year's crop for the most part seem to have what I like in an Idolestant: Vocal chops! Personality! Musical taste! The ones I don't like, well, they're pretty much of the season 9 mould (excluding Crystal Bowersox, who is AWESOME): Vocally unsteady. Overly confident. Not ready for primetime. I think, and you may disagree with me on this, that Whitney Houston/Stevie Wonder night was among one of the best openings to the finals that I can remember, and obviously with the Whitney juggernaut looming, it could have been a disaster. Going into it, I would have described last week's theme as the Hunger Games arena of theme weeks: only one or two will be left standing. Thankfully, that was not the case. I can't remember liking so many performances in one performance show since season 7. Let's just hope the contestants can build on previous performances and get creative with their songs from here on out. I'd love to have a crazy combination of vocal powerhouse Idol and song arrangement Idol smacking us in the face each week for once. Here's to early season hope!

Here's my list of favorites in descending order:

12. Jermaine Jones: Ugh, this guy. I know his initial pre-top 24 elimination was "emotional" for the judges, but they should have trusted their initial instinct about him. His voice is certainly interesting, but not necessarily in a good way. His performance last week was all over the place, and if I'm being honest, I don't like the sound of his voice anyway. Plus, his stank, entitled attitude during the elimination episode, coupled with Ryan's constant description of him as a "Gentle Giant" (do we need one of those?) have solidified his standing at the bottom of this season's talent.

11. Shannon Magrane: Poor, tall Shannon. Kid's just out of her league. She seems like a sweet girl, and I like the personality she's shown in the non-singing portions of the program, but her ill-advised attempt at "I Have Nothing" last week showed all her flaws. It was also a little troubling when she told the cameras backstage that apart from the one note, it was a good vocal. Mmm, girl: it was not.

10. Joshua Ledet: I think this is controversial. I can't deny that Joshua's voice is awesome. It's objectively great, in fact. Something about him, though, is not connecting for me. For one, I'm not crazy about his song choices, but at this point in the competition, that's not totally fair. In the Hollywood rounds, I was still suffering from PJLSD (you know, Post Jacob Lusk Stress Disorder), and it seemed like Joshua, as a gospel singer with an ability to go way over the top with his vocals, might be reviving horrible Lusky memories. Fortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case either. I'm optimistic about Joshua, but for right now, I'm going to need something more to draw me in.

9. Deandre Brackensick: He seems like such a sweetie! It was nice to finally see him come out of his shell a little bit when Ryan questioned him about his cry-reaction to making the finals, and it seems like he's finally gaining some confidence. I really liked his performance last week, even though I would never be able to tell you without cheating 1) the name of the song he performed; or 2) any of the words from it. I also liked that he put his hair back for the performance: a subtle, but significant styling choice that made all the difference. Like with Joshua, what could potentially push Deandre over the edge for me is song choice. I'm a fan, though!

8. Heejun Han: Ha! What a goober! I love this guy's personality and think he actually has a shockingly beautiful voice. I don't think it's as strong as Joshua's or Deandre's, but when he's in his pocket, it's lovely. My fear for Heejun is that he'll survive in this competition too long, at the expense of some people who are a bit more versatile as vocalists. Until he sings something up-tempo or even something that reflects his personality, Heejun is going to be a question mark. Love him, though!

7. Hollie Cavanagh: The adorable little woodland creature! Hollie is so good when she's confident. Of all the contestants on this show, I think she's got the greatest shot at having a true "Idol journey this season, and if she keeps singing solidly, revealing a little bit more personality (and her fantastically bizarro hybrid accent!), she's got a legitimate shot at the title this year. I'd love to see something like that!

6. Colton Dixon: Loved, loved, loved his performance of "Lately" last week. He David Cooked it a little bit with the arrangement, while managing to maintain the integrity of the melody. His vocal wasn't perfect, but the changes in that song are brutal and I thought he did an admirable job. If Colton could fix his hair, I'd probably consider myself a fangirl. I really like the way he sings. I think he's extremely radio-friendly right now.

5. Jessica Sanchez: Her vocal on the Whitney Houston (ahem, Dolly Parton) Beast last week was undeniable. Wowsers. I think that song requires more of a build than 90 seconds can give it, but no one has ever sung it that well on Idol before, and previous seasons are littered with the eliminations of those who have tried. My favorite part of the performance occurs in this video at about the 1:30 mark. In spite of how well she had sung up to that point, I was nervous about the final "And I-ee-I-ee-I..." bit. At that point in the song, however, she got this little smirk on her face that alerted us to the fact that she was in control of what she was doing. I've heard that she's been criticized for being too robotic/unemotional when she sings, but I'm not too bothered by that when she delivers a vocal like last week.

4. Elise Testone: I'm so sad she got turned into a punching bag this week. How quickly we forget that she was the Katniss in the Adele semi-final arena two weeks ago (y'all, I'm really excited for Hunger Games next week. NEXT WEEK! SQUEEEEEE!!!). Her vocal was still solid on the song she didn't choose to sing, but almost resulted in her elimination nonetheless. Last week, Elise had Carly Smithson syndrome: she tried to please, when she should have stayed true to her instincts. I think she'll win back voters, but I'm so sad that one of the most interesting vocalists in the competition almost got voted off in week one.

3. Phillip Phillips: What can I say about Phillip? That his voice sends me into a frenzy every week? That I find his spazzy performance antics adorable and I love them? You've heard all that before. I think I'm liking Phillip right now because of how much he seems to love the music that he plays, and the way it spills out of him in every performance. So glad he's doing well on this show, but I want the winner this year to be a lady, so I'll enjoy him in the meantime.

2. Skylar Laine: Skylar's the real deal. J-Lo's made the apt Reba comparison a few times, but I think Miranda Lambert needs to be thrown in there as well. There's something very un-Idol about a country girl singing with authenticity. I liked Lauren Alaina last year, but I didn't think she was ready to be a country star, and Skylar's performances show exactly why not. Country music is at its best when singers tell a story and you can believe that they're telling the truth. Skylar gets that in a way that neither Scotty (ugh) or Lauren did last season. To take Whitney Houston's "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" and to turn it into what sounded like an actual country song was genius. I believed the story she was telling. Actual vocal chops to go along with the whole package certainly help matters, as well!

1. Erika van Pelt: EVP! I'm such a fan! The restraint she shows every single time she sings is so refreshing on this show. I love her vocal power, but I love that she knows how to harness it for what the songs need. Her performance of "I Believe in You and Me" was my favorite of a very good night because of the vocal choices she made with it. Rather than the nervous fumbling that often characterizes Idolestants early in the season, I felt like I was watching a pro. She's fantastic! Now, if we could just get the Idol stylists to quit hating on her....