American Idol: Where's Simon when we need him?

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We miss you, dude

Well, we don't get far into the show before Ryan Seacrest reminds us all that Jennifer Lopez has just been named the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. Go, J-Lo. Tonight, however, she looks rather odd in a dress that included a big pink fluffy thing in her lap, as if she'd just given birth to a sea anenome.

The theme is "songs of the cinema," which the contenders seem to take as "any song that's evr been used in any movie anywhere," which leaves a lot of room. Paul opens with Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll," and it's awful, a perfomance that should mark the end of his tenure on the show. Except that Lauren tries to sing that bad syrupy song from the Hannah Montana movie and can't even hit all the notes. The Big Cringe. Two down.

Here's the problem (and the reason I miss Simon Cowell, despite all the annoyance he brought): The three judges were all sunshine and roses, talking about how great those two performances were. Embarassing. Simon would never have tolerated this level of weak and worthless junk.

Then along comes Stefano, who has to be shaken up about what happened last week, but he's a step up from the other two. Scotty's next, and, as usual, far outclasses the rest of the field.

Casey. Whoa. He turns down a Phil Collins tune and does Nat King Cole. Really fine performance, something totally different -- but I fear it's way too weird for America. We shall see.

Haley: Blondie, "Call me." She's got the same problem as when she tried to sing Janis Joplin; she smiles too much. You need attitude for this shit, and she doesn't have it.

Jacob, after a bit of flailing around, decides on "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," and it's a knockout. Not my favorite Paul Simon song, but perfect for Jacob, who I still don't like as much as my kids do.

And then James, the show closer, the show stopper. He takes a risk, too, and does ... Metal. Real Metal, the theme song from the "Heavy Metal" movie, complete with Zakk Wylde on guitar. Give metal a chance, he says -- and it's the peformance of the night, an Idol moment, and it better not cost him in the votes.

If there's an Idol God, then Paul, Lauren and Stefano are the bottom three and Paul is going home. I voted.