I used to love the audition shows. They had just the right mix of talent show and torture chamber that could make even a two hour episode flow rather quickly. But like Paula Abdul, this whole format has aged poorly. It is contrived, tedious and just plain boring. Maybe I’ve just matured and don’t revel in others' misery with my past glee. It could be I just can’t tell the actors from the real lunatics anymore. Whatever it is, I’m really looking forward to Hollywood Week because I’ve had enough auditions. But we can still find some entertaining nuggets in all the mess can’t we? Let’s try.

Tonight American Idol went to Hollywood looking for contestants which is kind of like saying the Pope shot over to the Vatican seeking a few good Catholics. 11,000 people packed into the Rose Bowl for their chance at the ever elusive Golden Ticket and a chance to sing in front of either a punk rocker wearing a devil hoodie or someone who looks like an Andy Warhol painting puked her out. (I liked one of them, can you guess who?)

Because it’s infinitely easier than trying to tie all my thoughts together from these episodes I’m just going to go bullet point crazy for the rest of this thing.

- Ryan Seacrest has developed into a true master of his craft. An artisan of subtlety. A rock of sarcasm. He has the unique ability to make fun of someone by doing very, very little. It’s almost as if he realizes the material, on Idol at least, just writes itself. Consider one, Mr. Neil Goldstein: IQ 168. After a long introduction where Neil does everything but dress up in Stormtrooper costume and sing A Chorus Line, Ryan needs only to stand there, shake his hand, and wish him good luck in order to get me laughing. I think I am just impressed Seacrest keeps a straight face.

- More on the Neil Goldstein audition. Idol hit a home run with this guy. From his face glistening with oil like a MickyDee’s hash brown, to Simon unintentionally hitting him with a door, to his parents insisting to Seacrest that their son handles adversity well, to Neil forgetting the words and freaking out, to his hair-forehead combination, to him running into something in the hallway, well the list just goes on. It’s no wonder Idol devoted the first ten minutes just to his audition. They probably had to cut out 20 minutes worth of footage.

- Avril posed an interesting question to Jim Ranger, the worship pastor with three kids. She wanted to know how he could handle life a musician and star with so many family responsibilities at home. This is a subject rarely explored on any of the seasons of Idol. They do a rather good job of playing up new found stardom as a dream come true (which is most certainly is), but little is mentioned about how it effects the contestant’s personal life afterwards. Should the judges be asking this question of everyone? Is it important? Should contestant’s baggage be part of the equation? I’m inclined to say no but Avril at least got me thinking. I never thought I would say that again after hearing “Sk8er Boi.”

- All that being said, Katy Perry was the far more entertaining judge tonight even if I thought her attitude was intentionally combative and dissenting. I got the feeling she was trying to be the “anti-“judge, but I didn’t care because she directed her attitude directly at Kara. That will always come up aces in my book.

- I always love a good rejection montage and tonight’s episode has a classic one full of American Idol bleep outs.

- My Danny Gokey Award for the night goes in a clean sweep to Andrew Garcia. His parents were ex-gang members. He wants to support his young son. His wife had some awesome looking hair that like 1 in 1000 people can pull off. His father cried at the thought of his son becoming famous. And then the guy just crushed his audition. I want him to win.

- Tomorrow night Neil Patrick Harris will be a judge. That alone is worth the watch.

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