Katie Holmes, I’m Here For You

People Magazine just broke the story yesterday.  You’ve dumped your husband after only six years of marriage.  It was your first go-around with legal matrimony, his third.  According to TMZ, you’re very concerned about your adorable young daughter’s possible indoctrination into Scientology, your husband’s “religion”, hence your decision to file for sole custody of 6-year-old Suri.  Considering all the horror stories in the media about L. Ron Hubbard’s phony philosophy, I don’t blame you at all.  In fact, I’m wondering why you didn’t come to this conclusion sooner.

You’re doing the right thing getting as far away from that maniacal couch-jumper as humanly possible.  He’s out of his mind.  (Have you heard him laugh?  Even the Joker thinks he’s nuts.)  Honestly, you can do so much better than Mr. Mapother IV.

Katie Holmes, I’m here for you.  Sure, I’m built like a rake and dance like a spaz, but I’m also an atheist who could care less about religions both nutty and mainstream.  (I prefer thinking for myself.)  Besides, considering how contentious your divorce proceedings are likely to be, maybe a fun fling with a silly Canadian is exactly what you need right now.

We’d certainly have lots to talk about.  First off, I’d love to know about all your film experiences.  I was particularly impressed with your small role in Wonder Boys, one of the best films of the last decade.  You played a college student named Hannah who’s got it bad for her deeply troubled professor Michael Douglas.  He’s having an affair with the married Frances McDormand, he accidentally killed her dog, he’s trying to nurture the writing talent of the offbeat Tobey Maguire and he’s struggling with the manuscript for his second novel (it’s well over 2000 pages long and late for delivery to the publisher).

In a key scene late in the picture, after begging Douglas over and over again to allow you the chance to read his work in progress, you offer him a memorable line of criticism that completely changes his life:  “You didn’t make any choices.”.  It’s so perfectly simple and correct that only a completely stressed and distracted middle-aged professional deeply afraid of all his own personal turmoil would not think of it himself.

I also enjoyed your supporting performance in Batman Begins, one of the best comic book movies I’ve ever seen.  I never understood the criticism you received for playing Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s love interest in the film.  You held your own with the always intense Christian Bale.  Why didn’t you return for The Dark Knight?

I’ve also admired your appearances in The Ice Storm (the entertaining Ang Lee drama that marked your film debut), the gripping Phone Booth, and even that fun cameo with your Dawson’s Creek co-star and ex-boyfriend, Joshua Jackson, in the otherwise uneven Muppets From Space.  It’s cool that you have a good sense of humour.

What did you think of Abandon?  I felt the ending completely undermined the entire film.  It turned a so-so thriller into a ridiculous one.  Sadly, it’s your worst feature but I blame Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan’s preposterous script more than anything else.  It marked a steep decline from the writing he did for Traffic, a much stronger project.

I love the story of how you got the part of Joey on Dawson’s Creek, the TV show that made you a star 15 years ago.  Because you were previously committed to performing in your high school production of Damn Yankees (you played Lola) and didn’t want to let anyone down by dropping out, you had to decline an invitation to audition for creator Kevin Williamson in person.  So, they allowed you the chance to submit a video audition instead.  Was it all done in one take?

Speaking of TV, what did the Kennedy family think of your portrayal of Jackie O in The Kennedys miniseries?  What preparation did you undertake to play a Slutty Pumpkin on How I Met Your Mother?  And what were you going to do for three episodes of Friends?

You’ve mentioned that you’re a painter.  How often do you get the chance to do that?  What do you like to paint and how would you describe your approach?  Any other non-acting creative ventures you like to pursue?

I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you in your marriage and hope that your divorce will be swift and amicable.  Whatever you decide to do with your love life and career, I wish you well.  And with that, I offer you this:

When you’re looking for shelter from the public zoo
Katie Holmes, I’m here for you.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, June 30, 2012
4:29 p.m.

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The Cruelty Of America’s Got Talent

Vegas Week on the seventh season of America’s Got Talent got off to an appalling start this past Monday.  Before anybody had a second opportunity to wow the judging panel during the middle phase of the competition, three acts were immediately summoned to the stage on day one.

In a manner of seconds they were collectively informed that not only would they not be auditioning again, they wouldn’t be advancing to the live shows in New York, either. 

Let’s put this into perspective.  Imagine you’re one of these performers who made an immediate impression during your first audition.  (Think the talented Iranian acrobats, The Bandbaz Brothers, as an example.)

As you do your thing in front of a live audience, the immediate reaction is unmistakably enthusiastic and uniformly supportive.  When your 90 seconds are up, many of them chant, “Vegas!  Vegas!  Vegas!”, hoping at least two of the judges agree with the sentiment.  Sure enough, the whole panel offers up nothing but positive feedback.  Three yesses commence this supposedly life-changing experience.

So, feeling very confident, you pack your bags for Sin City, eagerly anticipating what’s next.  But not long after you arrive, you’re informed that you’ve already been dropped from the show.  In an instant, you spiral into a state of confusion and disbelief.  An obvious question arises:  if they didn’t think I was good enough to merit a second audition, why the fuck am I here?

That’s what happened to The Bandbaz Brothers along with two musical acts, soloist Charlie C. and the all-female band Ivy Rose Monday night.  They were all completely misled by a phony talent competition that can’t be counted on to create actual superstars (Jackie Evancho, notwithstanding) out of both its winners and losers.

But the cruelty didn’t stop there.  Consider the touching, friendly rivalry on Wednesday’s show between two street dancers.  From the East Coast, there’s Stepz, the cool cat with the smooth, robotic moves and brown-eyed contact lenses, and from the west, there’s the singularly focused Turf, the sad, street kid with the freaky arm flexibility who you just want to hug.

Both guys already knew each other before getting to this stage of the show.  Both were well aware of each other’s strengths.  Both exhibited remarkable confidence in their abilities.  Yet, in spite of that, they have a very friendly rivalry that’s never personal.  Their mutual respect and kind support for each other made for some moving Television.

As the two-hour Wednesday show reached its end, there was only one spot, of the 48 up for grabs in the finals, left to take.  Based on their two auditions, neither deserved to be cut.  But in the end, only a tearful, extremely grateful Turf received the invite to New York.  Despite being ousted, the classy Stepz said he would be rooting for him.

Before that we got reacquainted with Big Barry, the short 70-year-old who sings like Bob Dylan having a hernia.  I’ll concede that Howie Mandel is right.  He’s hilarious but I don’t believe he’s trying to be.  Not once has the white-tuxedoed underdog claimed he’s a comedy singer.  As he absolutely massacred New York, New York, a shamelessly transparent ploy to convince the judges to advance him to the live shows (he wasn’t the only act who did something similiar, unfortunately) and despite laughing hysterically at his terrible non-singing style, it was painfully obvious that he had already made it too far in the competition.

If Mandel hadn’t convinced Sharon Osbourne to vote him through, there’s no doubt in my mind that Stepz would’ve taken his spot instead.  But “America’s Got Talent” and “common sense” are rarely found in the same sentence.

Which brings me to the kids.  One of my big issues with AGT is the lack of age restrictions for underage performers.  I don’t care how much talent any of them has, few of them are emotionally mature enough to handle the inevitable rejection (or overwhelming support, for that matter) they will receive either from the judges and/or the voting audience during the live phase.  Consider what happened on Wednesday.

Lil Starr, the adorable 6-year-old tap dancer who did a very good job in her second audition, got the go-ahead to prepare for New York.  She was ecstatic.  Lil Babywockee, another cute 6-year-old dancer who clearly wasn’t as talented, didn’t.  She was reduced to tears.  (She wasn’t the only rejected kid to feel so emotionally crushed after being cut.)  Why was either one allowed to try out in the first place?  Neither are ready for the big time.  (However, they would both benefit from acquiring a lot more experience over the next ten years out of the spotlight.)  Besides, they deserve happy childhoods free of all this show business nonsense.

Now that we know the Top 48 heading into the nine weeks of New York live shows, once again AGT faces a credibility problem.  As funny as longtime stand-up Tom Cotter is, as clever as mind reader Eric Dittelman is and as extraordinarily athletic as the husband-and-wife acrobats are, who still doesn’t think a singer is once again going to win this dopey, pointless contest?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, June 28, 2012
10:51 p.m.

Published in: on June 28, 2012 at 10:51 pm  Comments (3)  

Euro 2012 Doppelgangers

Portugal striker Pepe

WWE wrestler Tyson Kidd

Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko

One Tree Hill star Chad Michael Murray

Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo

Pop star Ricky Martin

Portugal striker Xavi

Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett

France striker Franck Riberry

Dr. Evil

(Photos taken from MTNfootball.com, pwpix.net, TopNews, fondoswall.blogspot.ca, judyhalone.com, hispanicallyspeakingnews.com, Bleacher Report, Vegasplaydate.com, The Daily Mail, and chicagonow.com, respectively.)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, June 16, 2012
12:26 a.m.

Published in: on June 16, 2012 at 12:26 am  Comments (1)  

Getting Started

Are you thinking of something evocative to share?
Write a line of truth and proceed from there
Strip away the pretense and savoir faire
Let them squirm uncomfortably with your honesty laid bare

Don’t leave yourself open for interpretation
Don’t squander the chance to jolt your reputation
Always be focused on the elevation
Beware the lure of pointless desecration

Leave them all thoroughly astonished
Never be concerned about being admonished
You always run the risk of being demolished
By those who would prefer if you were perfectly polished

But being rough and ragged is far more suitable
As long as your point doesn’t become inscrutable
Evolution is the key, never be immutable
Your ascension to greatness will be irrefutable

Are you hoping you have something provocative to say?
Remove your emotional armour and throw it away
Expose your true self in an unguarded display
Invest in the black and white, don’t wallow in the grey

Leave no doubt where your course is charted
Disregard bad advice that will be imparted
As long as you commit to being open-hearted
Why worry so much about getting started?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, June 15, 2012
5:12 p.m.

Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Final Destination 5

Whenever I watch a bad horror movie I often wonder if the filmmakers responsible for it actually like people.  It’s a recurring thought that pops up again and again as one thinly written, poorly conceived character after another dies a routinely depraved death they didn’t deserve.  No matter their gender, no matter their personality, and regardless of their looks and social status, all of them only exist to be annihilated.

They’re usually the victims of a masked homicidal maniac who is so consumed with his work he has no other function.  But in the Final Destination movies, the killer is an invisible entity that defies the laws of science by causing “accidents” that result in massive casualties.

Unfortunately for “Death”, before its plan can be executed (forgive the pun), someone envisions the entire tragedy mere moments before it begins.  Waking up in a panic, they alert all those around them of the impending disaster but only manage to convince a small minority to join them as they flee ever so quickly from the scene.  Everybody else bites the big one as scheduled.

The original Final Destination involved an exploding airplane while numbers two through four centred on a highway catastrophe, a roller coaster mishap and an out-of-control stock car racing event, respectively.  Despite the third sequel being billed as The Final Destination, this ridiculous franchise continues with Final Destination 5.  May it be the real end of this nonsense.

If you’re expecting it to be any different from the earlier installments, put down that bong.  Once again, a character has a horrible premonition (this time it’s a bridge collapsing) but only seven other people follow him to safety.  Everybody else plunges into the unforgivably cold water below never to be seen again.

And just like before, “Death” hunts down the survivors one by one in the exact order they would’ve died had Nicholas D’Agosto not had that terrible dream and warned them.  Detective Courtney B. Vance interrogates him and two other survivors about the incident to the point of absurdity.  He dumbly theorizes that because he was upset about being dumped by his ex, Emma Bell, it’s possible he may have committed an act of terrorism to alleviate his anger.  (Come to think of it, I’d be mad, too, if I was named Sam, after the Patrick Swayze character in Ghost, one of the most overrated movies of the ’90s, and my ex was named Molly.)  Too bad Vance’s colleague interrupts the session to tell him the whole thing’s been officially ruled an accident.  Oops.

What was D’Agosto doing on that bridge in the first place?  He was on a bus with his fellow Presage Paper employees (including Bell who dumps him just before the trip begins) that was en route to a work retreat.  But with most of the office employees now deceased and no company plans to replenish the staff, most of the survivors will eventually have to find new jobs elsewhere.  D’Agosto lands on his feet in a French restaurant where the chef is the complete opposite of Gordon Ramsay.

In the meantime, “Death” starts plotting.  The bespectacled Megan Fox look-a-like picks the wrong day to get corrective laser eye surgery.  The annoying nerd who thinks he’s a player shouldn’t have stolen that massage coupon from a dead colleague.  And the high school gymnast who interns at Presage Paper needs work on her landing.

Thankfully, there is a way to avoid an early demise, a loophole, if you will.  As coroner Tony Todd (who’s made appearances in every one of these terrible movies) helpfully points out, your life will be spared if someone else can take your place.  That proves easier said than done.  As one character finds out the hard way, Todd meant a healthy person.

At their core, the Final Destination movies are powered by a ruthless fundamentalism that is so dogmatic and inflexible, silly loophole or not, it’s impossible for any character to escape the appalling fate that awaits them, no matter what they do.  The idea that your end is a non-negotiable contract with an unseen, almighty entity that gets royally pissed if you try to “cheat” it is as depressing as the franchise itself.  It’s also not very believable.

Contrast that dreadful idea with the essence of the first two Terminators, particularly the second one.  Despite the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, the characters have legitimate options in order to prevent it from happening which they wisely take.  Not all disasters and tragedies are inevitable, a hopeful theme that was sadly discontinued beginning with the third film in that series.

To be fair, the first Final Destination (a so-so affair) at least attempted to be different than the usual horror movie fare even if it established the unpersuasive blueprint that’s been considerably dumbed down in four successive sequels.  None has been worse than The Final Destination, the fourth one, but FD5 isn’t that much better.  In fact, it’s just as bad as 2 and 3.

Although I loved the opening title sequence (especially the accompanying music), enjoyed the occasionally funny quips and even appreciated David Koechner’s performance as D’Agosto’s clueless and jerky boss (I like his character name, too), FD5 is indistinguishable from its predecessors with the exception of its twist ending which is more lame than stunning.

With no real, fully developed characters to care about and a routine story lacking in genuine suspense and legitimate scares, let this truly be the end of “Death”.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
8:23 p.m.

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm  Comments (2)  

Prometheus (2012)

Although it’s named after a spacecraft filled with deviousness and curiosity, Prometheus could’ve easily been titled Alien: Evolution.  Those who have followed this uneven franchise from the beginning and have often pondered the origins of these dark, phallic-headed, acid-hissing, double-mouthed predators will have to wait for the final scene to discover just how easy it is for one dominating species to merge with another.  It’s some freaky shit, I tell ya.

About two hours before that cool moment arrives, though, we meet a handful of geologists who make a peculiar discovery.  Not far from the entrance of a Scottish cave in 2089, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (lovely Swedish actress Noomi Rapace) excitedly summons her colleague/boyfriend, Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), through an intermediary, to check out a 5000-year-old drawing that is eeriely similiar to five other cave drawings they’ve found on previous expeditions in other parts of the world.  All six of these artifacts have been made from people of six different ancient cultures who couldn’t have possibly known about each other which makes for a baffling coincidence.

Two years later, after being in hyper-sleep that entire time (and magically, not aging a day; too bad about the vomiting, though), the scientists and their team are awoken just in time for another important mission.  The Prometheus is about to land on an alien moon that might elicit some compelling answers not only about those mysterious drawings but perhaps about the origins of man, as well.  Maybe a creator other than humanity itself or even an invisible entity is the start of it all.

If this sounds a little like the plot of Star Trek V, rest assured this is a much better film with far creepier overtones.  With Ridley Scott, the director of the original Alien, at the helm this is the best film in the series since James Cameron’s Aliens.  Trust me when I say that Prometheus is the furthest thing away from an empty-headed noisefest as you can get despite its occasional, unwelcome forays into excessive volume.  As good as it is, though, you wish it went even further with its intelligence.  Nonetheless, this is not the usual brain-dead action pic.

Like the first film, our band of heroes have no clue what they’re getting into.  Remember that wonderful scene in Alien when John Hurt gets a little too close to that pod that opens up?  Well, instead of looking like slimy cocoons, the pods in this prequel look like silver canisters.  But they still ooze menace in the form of black fluid that somehow escapes the apparently not firmly sealed steel incubators.

When two of the scientists correctly realize it’s a much better idea to go back to the ship than go any further into the dark recesses of this expectedly doomed mission, they get horribly lost walking around in circles.  If they had just stuck with the away team in the first place (who safely make it back on-board), these skeptical, skittish geologists would not have to come face to face with the concept of Darwinism itself.  A nice bit of irony, that.

Meanwhile, there are hidden agendas being kept close to the vest by two characters who don’t even trust each other.  A cold, deadpan Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron in a surprisingly effective performance), the mission’s restrictive leader, informs Dr. Shaw and Dr. Holloway that they mustn’t try to communicate or engage with any possible creatures they may find which disappoints the insatiable scientists who want to do that very thing.  That’s the whole point of their risky expedition.  Vickers counters that if it was their trillion dollars put into all of this, they’d get their way.  His suspicion aroused, Holloway smartly asks if Vickers is secretly plotting.  Her poker face gives nothing away.

Vickers’ servant, Dave (another great performance by Michael Fassbender), is a duplicitious, Aryan-looking android not unlike Ian Holm’s dark-haired character in the first Alien who we didn’t even realize wasn’t human at first.  While the crew sleeps, he becomes a sponge for knowledge as he learns numerous alien languages (which comes in handy later on), sinks a basketball while riding a bike and apparently has a fascination with Peter O’Toole movies.  (He quotes from Lawrence Of Arabia on occasion and apparently has modelled his look after him.  Imagine if Julian Sands replaced David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth and acted like HAL from 2001.)

Despite his permanently even demeanour, he’s constantly up to no good.  Blink and you’ll miss what he does to Dr. Holloway’s alcoholic beverage in the pool room.  During the initial foray on the alien moon, unbeknownst to anyone else, he scoops up one of the silver canisters.  And at one point, he has a secretive communication with someone Vickers knows very well.  When she forcefully demands to know what this mysterious person said to him, Dave simply replies, “Keep trying.”.

Like the first Alien, nothing is what it seems in Prometheus, if you’ll excuse the cliche.  The geologists are completely unprepared for what’s waiting for them on this distant moon, Vickers is more complicated than we realize, and the ancient founder of the self-interested Weyland Corporation might be the sneakiest bastard of them all.  Played by a completely unrecognizable Guy Pearce (who is heavily concealed in make-up that ages him considerably and made me mistake him for Michael Wincott), without giving anything away let’s just say his narcissism far outweighs his common sense.

Despite being loaded with first-rate special effects (more old-school than CGI) and featuring exquisite set designs (purposefully reminiscent of the original 1979 movie), Prometheus is really a film of simple pleasures:  the opening title sequence; Dave watching one of Dr. Shaw’s dreams; the superb, often breathtaking cinematography; the fascination the scientists have with the earth-shattering possibility of expanding the knowledge of humanity’s beginnings with the findings of their mission; Vickers’ cold looks; Fassbender’s masterful underplaying of Dave; Dr. Shaw’s agonizing dilemma; and the courage of numerous crew members to do what’s necessary in the heat of such scorching calamity.

Unlike the first Alien which was really a clever and scary creature feature, the unsettling Prometheus is more philosophical but not as deep as it should be.  It wisely minimizes the more traditional elements of action and horror movies (although those sequences are mostly well done) in favour of creeping you out with ideas.  Bad judgment is a running theme throughout as the unchecked selfishness of more than one character puts everybody in an unwelcome predicament.  Survival of the fittest, indeed.

Director Scott has smartly assembled a strong international cast here, some of whom admirably don’t even speak in their native accent.  Idris Elba, the British star of HBO’s The Wire, easily commands respect as the otherwise disinterested southern American Captain of the ship and provides one of the few moments of levity.  The Swedish Rapace plays Dr. Shaw with a British accent and a whole lot of pluck, it must be said.

After suffering through unnecessary sequels and those lousy Alien Vs. Predator movies, what a relief to discover that it is possible to return to a franchise that was created more than 30 years ago and see it revived in just a little over two hours.

(Special thanks to Dave Scacchi.)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, June 10, 2012
8:45 p.m.

Published in: on June 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm  Comments (4)  

Why It’s Easy To Be Cynical About America’s Got Talent

Tony Bennett is fond of saying that it takes ten years for a singer to master their technique on-stage in live concerts.  It’s not terribly difficult to understand why.  You need a considerable amount of time and energy to adjust to so many different factors while en route to possible stardom.

From working within the acoustics of a venue to overcoming any nerves or serious stagefright while performing to learning how to gauge the audience’s reaction to your singing, especially if you’re tanking, to building a reputation as a strong live performer so you can get booked in bigger venues to developing a smooth rapport while conversing with paying customers to putting together a killer setlist and impressing the hell out of attending talent scouts and record company bigwigs, there are so many variables that can make or break an aspiring performer.

With so much competition and adversity standing in one’s path to greatness, and no guarantees they can be overcome, nonetheless it makes sense that only those with the talent, the networking skills and the perseverance ultimately stand to have the best chance at a longterm singing career.  Dedication matters.

But what about those who try the contest route?  Why go through all that time-consuming hassle on the concert circuit when you can win over a TV audience over the course of five months and become an instant star?

Ever since American Idol’s debut season ten years ago, many aspiring pop stars have done just that.  And many have found out the hard way that doing the show is no replacement for old-fashioned hard work.  Even winning is no guarantee for longevity.

While the show can take legitimate credit for discovering Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, the two most successful contestants in AI history who continue to thrive long after their breakthrough victories, the vast majority of participants have failed to either generate or maintain the same momentum.

Which brings us to America’s Got Talent.  Now in its seventh season, this glorified Gong Show isn’t solely about warblers.  It’s also about jugglers and magicians, acrobats and freak shows, cloggers and jazz dancers, stand-up comics and impressionists, and any other Vaudevillian act you can think of.  Unlike Idol and The X Factor, the winner isn’t guaranteed a national platform like a big record deal.  Nope, they get a million bucks in prize money (really $30000 a year for each of the next 40 years or a lump sum far less than a million, depending on their age and preference, all before taxes) and a headlining gig in Las Vegas (not to mention a brief American tour with the nine runners-up).

In a lot of ways, AGT is like So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Next Top Model in terms of pop culture impact.  Unlike American Idol where the winner becomes a national celebrity and commences their recording career on a strong note (at least commercially), the champions of the other programs pretty much disappear from the spotlight and are rarely heard from again (Adrienne Curry, notwithstanding).  Quick, name any of the other winners of either of those three shows without thinking.

You can’t do it, can you?  And therein lies the problem with AGT.  Despite new judge Howard Stern’s insistence that he’s determined to help find a superstar this season (good luck with that), the show’s track record hasn’t been terribly inspiring on this front.  (Yes, season two winner, the singing ventriloquist Terry Fator, as my mom constantly reminds me, is still working in Vegas.  But how many people remember him?  Is he really a big draw in the land of CSI?  Is Wayne Newton worried?)

Despite all the various acts who’ve auditioned, every winner has been a singer which, when you think about it, defeats the whole purpose of the show.  Why bother having all those unusual performers if the audience is always going to prefer a tunesmith?

Unlike Idol, AGT winners have failed to breakthrough with a big album or single.  Bianca Ryan, the 11-year-old cutie who was the first season winner, released her self-titled debut in the fall of 2006, just months after her victory on the show.  Domestically, the album has only sold roughly 100000 copies (another 200000 worldwide).  By comparison, Idol’s first winner, Kelly Clarkson, has sold almost 3 million copies of Thankful.  (The second album, Breakaway, has sold 6 million.  All her other albums have each gone at least Gold in the States.)

Since then, Ryan has released two Christmas albums which both failed to chart.  On the plus side, she had one hit single in Holland.  (Yes, Ryan is still relatively young (she’s 17 now) but that’s not a great start especially when you would expect a much bigger boost from a network TV show.)  Meanwhile, season three winner Neal E. Boyd, the opera singer, has only moved 6000 units of his only album, My American Dream, which was issued in 2009.

Season five winner Kevin Skinner, a country singer, hasn’t fared any better.  Both his studio debut and his live record were complete flops.  Neither charted on Billboard.  By comparison, that year’s runner-up, the astounding opera sensation Jackie Evancho has released four albums that have collectively sold close to 2 million domestically.  Half of those sales were for her first Christmas album, O Holy Night, her biggest seller.  So far, the 12-year-old prodigy has one platinum CD and one gold CD.  She remains the only singer in AGT history to become an actual success in terms of RIAA certification.

Finally, there’s last year’s winner, the loungy Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., whose first release has only sold close to 50000 copies.

After watching the first four weeks of audition shows this season, one would be extremely hardpressed at this point to pick a breakout act that would rival the few megastars who got a major push through Idol and continue to thrive today, not all of whom actually won in their respective years.  I mean who believes the old rapper with the Casio or the jackass who gets hit in the nuts or any of the singing acts (including the Goth kid who sounds like a castrato) are going to have the same kind of fulfilling, longterm careers as those performers who prefer the Tony Bennett approach?

Not helping matters are the judges who often fill these vulnerable, desperate people with inflated platitudes and tired cliches.  (How many times has Howie Mandel told someone they’re a star and it was actually true?)  I’ve long defended and praised Howard Stern in this space but he’s already used the “you blew the roof off the place” canard on three different occasions already.  He’s also been way too impressed at times with lousy performers.  (Honestly, what was so great about that bad impressionist who had cartoonish pictures of the judges on his iPad?  He sounded nothing like the people he was imitating.)

Yes, I’ll concede that Stern’s presence on the show has been welcome.  (I always enjoy seeing him on TV, flaws and all.)  He’s not a self-centred jerk like Piers Morgan and despite the sometimes overwrought praise and questionable decisions he makes, he’s generally spot-on with his views.  Plus, he’s very funny.  (Bringing his Dad on-stage to straighten out a bad singer was priceless.)

He also has a heart.  Even though he did absolutely nothing wrong regarding that terrible 7-year-old rapper, Mir Money, when the kid started crying he went on-stage, comforted him and made sure he was ok.  But voting “yes” just because he felt bad about what happened is a Paula Abdul move.  The sad truth is the kid wasn’t good enough for Vegas.

Let’s be honest.  There have been some very talented auditions this year as there have always been since the start of this pointless series.  A lot of good, decent people who live and breathe their crafts are quite thankful, I’m sure, for the opportunity to be seen on a high-profile American program.  Many of us root for them as they give their all.  But if the whole point is to give these hard-luck amateurs national exposure with the hope that any one of them, not just the winner, will establish worthy careers out of this whole exercise, then based on the entire history of this series, the delusional ones aren’t the contestants.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, June 7, 2012
7:58 p.m.

Published in: on June 7, 2012 at 7:58 pm  Comments (2)