Technical problems, terrible singing plague first American Idol 8 live show

Last night’s episode may have been the first live show for American Idol 8, but it seemed like its first live show ever considering how much it dragged and was plagued by amateurish technical problems. For a show that’s usually so technically polished, it was mediocre–and I’m not even talking yet about the pretty abysmal singing by most of the contestants.

Ryan Seacrest demonstrated why he’s the best live show host on television today by rescuing the biggest fumble, when Brent Keith’s bio package didn’t come up, and the video cut back to the empty set. “It’s a tape problem. Brent, come with me,” Seacrest said, improvising until an off-camera director yelled at him to throw to the taped segment. Seacrest even kind of fought to keep improvising (“fine, we won’t recreate it, roll the tape”).

Early on, while Ricky Braddy was being judged , Kara’s mic was up way too high, making her sound as if she was screaming into the mic while eating it, and when he joined his parents and Ryan Seacrest in the Coca-Cola product placement room, his mic wasn’t working. Throughout the evening, the audio was terrible; Simon’s mic was often tinny and produced an echo.

And let’s just forget that the family member segments even happened, although I’m sure they’ll be back for the next two weeks. They were nearly universally dull and, as Simon Cowell likes to say, forgettable. Producers clearly were trying to give everyone equal time and introduce them as completely as possible, but what the flipping hell were family members going to say, my kid sucked as much as the judges just said? In addition, it was really weird to have Ryan start talking to a contestants’ family members as the contestant walked up the stairs, hugged others, and then sat down on the couch. The whole thing just didn’t flow.

The singing wasn’t much better than the presentation. So many bombed–due to both shitty song choice and weak vocals–that they seemed like different people than those who performed in the Hollywood round. It was painful, painful karaoke that demanded to be fast-forwarded.

The judges mostly agreed about the bad singing, although Simon Cowell was, as usual, the most abrasive, but even Paula couldn’t resist actual criticism. While he essentially said one singer had no chance, Kara said, “We don’t have to kill her now do we?” and both she and Paula reminded Simon, “America votes.” He said, “Yes, but they listen to me.” Later, when Simon Cowell told Michael Sarver that he hoped America gives him “another shot,” Simon put his hand up to his face and subtly gave Michael the finger, which I recognized thanks to the procedural drama Fox now pairs with American Idol, Lie to Me, which deconstructs nonverbal communication.

One person impressed the judges: Danny Gokey, who Kara called “the hero.” Besides him, the only people that rescued the episode were Neil Patrick Harris and Ted Danson, who were in the audience and looked ridiculously happy despite the crap happening on stage.

American Idol 8 semifinal live show: C-

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.