It's a real testament to this season that, going into this episode, I did not want to lose any of the final six designers. Not only are all of them talented, but all of them are LIKABLE. I cannot for the life of me remember the last time that happened on this show.
The challenge this time was to design a baby outfit for Heidi Klum's toddler clothing line. That Heidi has no qualms about whoring out her labels, does she? This is at least the third or fourth challenge in series history that related to one of her clothing lines (we've had at least two in which the designers had to create for her athletic line, and I believe in Season 2 there was one for her lingerie collection). I'm always on Team Get Money Bitch, but this is extreme.
That said, the challenge itself was interesting. Each designer was assigned a mother and a toddler -- I guess they were each around 14 months -- and tasked with using the fabrics and notions from Heidi's line to create a head-to-toe look for the babies. There would be two winners: one for the girl outfits, one for the boy outfits. The winning looks will be sold as part of Heidi's line. (Hope the designers get some kind of compensation for that.) Melissa, Elena, and Christopher got girl models, while Fabio, Sonjia, and Dmitry got boy models. And of course, because this show loves a twist, halfway through the challenge Heidi informed the designers that they had to design a look for the moms as well.
I was fine with that, and I suspect most of the designers at least had an inkling it was coming. But the other twist was totally ridiculous. When the designers went to the workroom in Parsons they found that they had each been assigned one of those terrifying real-baby dolls they dole out in high school (to stop teenagers from having sex, TM Dmitry), which started screaming when they needed to be fed, changed, or rocked. The designers had to take care of their "babies" while they worked on the challenge AND after they went home that night, and it was ridiculous. It's so beneath this show, so corny. (Although it did provide some hilarious moments, like Elena introducing her baby to everyone by saying his name was "Asshole.")
The baby looks that came down the runway were generally good or better, and of course the kids were adorable. I personally loved Dmitry's borderline-costume jumpsuit with a hood that unzipped into a cape (I would have loved that as a kid), the adorable vest on Melissa's little girl, and Fabio's entire throwback look. I actually did not like Christopher's winning dress, which was festooned with cut-out fabric leaves and flowers held on by snaps. The idea was cute, but the execution was sloppy and fussy.
Ultimately it was my beloved Insane the in Ukraine, Elena, who got cut. I thought her jacket for the little girl was cute, if overly frilly (I would point out that Heidi point-blank encouraged her to go with that jacket in the workroom, without any reservations). Unlike the judges, I had no issues with the colors of the other pieces she made. And she made THREE PIECES. One of them a really elaborate jacket. Christopher made a simple dress and a jacket he's made at least once or twice before. I also thought Elena had one of the chicest looking moms on that runway -- I wish we'd gotten a closer look at the outfit Elena made for her.
It was a tough call, because nobody really failed the assignment, and all of these guys are genuinely talented. But I hated to see Elena go. She's kooky, her style isn't for everyone, but her work is SO interesting. Photos from her decoy collection for Fashion Week are on the interwebs, and I strongly encourage you to look at them. Her final collection was, in my opinion, head and shoulders above anything else put out by this season's finalists. (Yes, the lipstick/styling is bananas, but that's Elena.) It's a shame that she didn't make it to the end, because I honestly think that was a winning collection.
Also, I will miss her hilarious talking heads. Go Elena!
Next week: the final challenge gets us down to the Final 4, and Tim tells Melissa point blank that she's not living up to her potential as a designer. Yikes!
What a way to kick off the back half of South Park's 16th season.
I'll admit I was a little worried. The preview had it all set up to be about football, and frankly, there are few things in life I know less about than professional sports. But, "South Park"'s previous entries into the sporting world, including one of my favorite episodes, the baseball classic "The Losing Edge" from Season 9, have still been enjoyable for a non-sports person like myself. This episode was no different.
The episode started off with South Park Elementary getting rid of kick-offs for the football team, which infuriated Randy. At the next PTA meeting Randy suggested that they might as well just make a sport where all the boys wear tin hats and bras and are nice to each other and hug and play with balloons.
Of course, the school thinks this is a great idea, and Sarcastaball is born. The craze soon sweeps the state, with Randy becoming the new head coach for the Denver Broncos Sarcastaball team. Seeing both the boys and the NFL teams dressed up in tin hats and bras and running around was quite the sight gag, especially as Randy continued to be more and more sarcastic about how happy he was that the country was starting to remove violence from football.
I got the point of the sarcasm bit, at least on some levels, but it would probably work better for someone more versed in the NFL. Is everyone in football really that sarcastic? Are they really in that much denial that football can cause head trauma? (Interestingly enough, I was in the U of R's recent football head-injury study as a non-football-playing control). It wasn't until the end of the episode, when Randy and his doctor exchanged, sarcastically, that putting money that should be used to research real diseases into researching something that people chose to do to themselves is a good idea that the real point of the whole thing came out, and even then it seemed like a lot of build up to a no-brainer conclusion that didn't really come down all that hard on anybody. (But maybe that was the point, we are talking concussions here after all.)
Luckily, Matt Stone and Trey Parker had a real comedic ace in the hole. Which of the kids, who would probably normally suck at sports, would excel in a game all based on being nice and hugging ?
Butters. Butters tends to steal episodes, and this was no exception, with most of the laughs and shock humor coming from the loveable (and clueless) straight man himself. Butters becomes the star of the South Park Sarcastaball team, inspiring his fellow students with speeches about finding that gooey and happy place inside of yourself and sharing it with others in a nice and positive way and using it to get to victory.
And while the sarcasm and football commentary droned on, it was Butters' and his creamy goo that saved the day, and gave the episode it's best (or perhaps worst) moments. See, the happy nice center that Butters was talking about was none other than the 'happy goo' that was escaping from his body at night during 'happy dreams,' and even if you did see that joke well, coming, just how far the show took it was a mix of gross-out humor and comedic gold. From Butters opening his closest to a whole collection of cum containers that he had been saving, to Cartman then eating it to try to get better at Sarcastaball, to the fake energy drink ad (filled with everything an athlete needs: Commitment, Compassion, and Camaraderie!), it was hilarious, classic "South Park." What other show is going to start with football and end up at a whole bunch of people eating spunk?
Of course, only innocent, naive little Butters could pull this off, not understanding that his warm happy goo he is selling everyone is really semen, but that's part of the gag. When Randy tried to get Stan to stop playing Sarcastaball before his brain got stuck being sarcastic, the boys explained to Randy that they aren't actually being sarcastic and actually enjoyed playing a nice, fun game that isn't about hitting and destroying each other -- an idea that the adults couldn't seem to fathom. The boys tried to get Randy to cheer up by offering him Butters' goo, which he swallowed down, before finally revealing to everyone what they'd been drinking cum the whole time (nobody else knew what it tasted like, apparently?)
The show then cut and ended with the adults scolding Butters for taking the whole thing way too far. It was a brief moment of self-awareness for the show (for taking football too far, and bringing it back to jizz) and a great scene, as poor little Butters just didn't understand what he did, or what sarcasm or cum are. We got a great ending line from him and his dad ("My wiener's all stiff and pointy" "Well Butters, that's just the friendly compass...it's pointing up because Jesus is your friend"), bringing a very solid and strong episode to a close.
Observations: Line of the week goes to Cartman, for "Stan, hook up my bra." Or perhaps to Mr. Stotch for "Oh why don't we just drink each other's cum."
Not that continuity counts for much in South Park, but didn't all the boys learn about semen quite awhile ago when Catman became god of the seapeople? One of them must have realized what Butters was giving them to drink was really semen.
Oh, "How I Met Your Mother," how you are an eternal heart tease.
During the kick off to the show's eighth season, fans were treated with the closest glimpse of the mother we've ever seen, and the show finally has her and Ted (Josh Radnor) inches away from meeting after all this time.
But, as Ted would say, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Season 7 ended with two shocking revelations: first, that Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Quinn's (Becki Newton) just-announced engagement wouldn't work, and second, with Ted and Victoria reuniting and driving off into the sunset.
I can't be the only one who was taken aback. I hate, hate, h-a-t-e even the smell of the whiff of the chance of the idea of Ted and Victoria (Ashley Williams) ending up together, and bringing her back for a second time seemed too much. And, I was a huge fan of Barney and Quinn, the power-duo made in stripper hell. We've been down Barney-Robin (Cobie Smulders) Candyland before, and it didn't work.
This week picked up right where we left everybody, with Ted recounting to Robin (who, like Barney, was freaking out about the wedding) the story of how he had to climb in and out of that very room when he ran away with Victoria.Meanwhile, Marshall (Jason Segel), Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Barney, Robin, and Quinn were all celebrating Barney and Quinn's new engagement, with Marshall and Lily suffering heavily from being-too-tired baby syndrome. While babies tend to swoop in and ruin sitcoms, at least this was a different way of having the baby's presence known without him being around all the time. But it was a (wait for it...) tiresome joke to begin with, and a waste of both characters.
It was the duo's tiredness that kept things moving, though. They accidentally revealed to Quinn that Barney and Robin used to date (something he hadn't told her, leading to his funny retelling of the whole show up to this point in 60 seconds), forcing Robin to swoop in and prove she wasn't really that much kind-of-but-mostly-not-really into Barney anymore. Barney, after telling Robin that he had erased every picture and piece of evidence that they dated, gave Robin a key to a storage locker where he had all the memories of them saved and boxed away. It was a sweet moment and a gesture from someone about to marry another woman.
Back with Ted, he ran into Klaus (Thomas Lennon) who he found, ironically, also running away from Victoria and the wedding. In a saccharine moment, Klaus explained how Victoria was special but wasn't that special person (the moment nearly lost beneath the attempts at German-language jokes, mind you) while flashing to both the Erikson family and Barney and Robin both still thinking about each other.And then of course, the big moment! We finally know exactly where Ted meets his wife-to-be, at Farhampton, when it's raining, and we saw her legs walk out of the cab, before the scene panned out with her yellow umbrella still covering her face. It's a little sad that that one moment had me more excited than probably the whole episode did. But that just goes to show the power of keeping something from someone for so long.
But, this week managed to do what it needed to do. With it still unclear if this will be the show's last season, the writers have gotten Ted and the mother in the same place exactly where they need them so they can pull the trump card out at any moment. And we still don't know if Barney or Robin actually finish the wedding, as Ted did point out he was coming back from a pretty horrible wedding. Time will tell, time will tell. At least we're getting closer.
Oh, and also worth noting, the first soundtrack for the show, "How I Met Your Music," hit iTunes yesterday to coincide with the premiere and has some real gems on it. Check it.
Willie Clark was a noob to the world of HIMYM until last December when he magically found the strength to marathon all six and a half seasons in a few short weeks. Now, he knows his slap bets from his ducky ties, and is in love with the bang song. If you want to sing along, follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
I went into tonight's finale with mixed feelings. I didn't think any of these four would end up in the Top 4 at the start of the season. Some of them have grown on me, and I think ultimately deserve to be there, while others I think skated by on a largely confusing and underwhelming Season 9. Still, the finales had some absolutely incredible moments, and I wish we had gotten the chance to see more of those throughout the rest of this scatter-brained season.
The show was jam-packed with group routines, starting with one jointly choreographed by Sonya Tayeh and Christopher Scott. The number started with this season's top dancers -- the guys in trench coats, the girls in flowy navy blue and black dresses with slits up to there -- being blown, pushed, pulled and dragged through imaginary (and sometimes real) wind. Suddenly, everyone paired off, filling the stage and the guys began sharply, but succinctly, controlling the girls. It drifted toward ballet for a moment, when the girls were thrown to the floor, then simultaneously lifted them into the air and delicately set them back down on develepe. Cyrus and Cole nailed side-by-side backflips, which were followed by two other dancers (indistinguishable in the wide shot) doing side-by-side backwards grandjetes. Wonderful use of the stage, levels and cannons. I'd like to see these two pair up for choreography more often if this is the result!
Tonight also featured each of the six judges' favorite dances. On the panel tonight: Nigel and Mary, of course, as well as Lil C (damn, I thought we got rid of him), Adam Shankman, TyceDiOrio, and hot damn, the incomparable Debbie Allen!
Up first was Nigel's pick: Matthew and Audrey's "Titanic" routine. The way these two moved effortlessly on, off and around the chez lounge was incredible. The whole routine oozed chemistry. Not to mention Audrey's kicks and split-leap lifts hit the musical and emotional climaxes flawlessly. It gave me chills, same as last time. I think these two got booted from the competition too early.
Lil' C's favorite was Witney and Twitch's "swag-ography" hip-hop routine set to "My Homies Still." I missed this one the first time around, so it was cool to actually see it. Wardrobe wasn't doing Witney any favors with those pants, but regardless, girl served it up big time. Twitch was right there on every move too, but Witney was undoubtedly the star of that routine. She hit the moves hard and perfectly in-sync with Twitch and the music.
Debbie Allen is back, bitches! And none too soon. I wish we'd seen more of her this season (I don't think any of her students were contestants this year. Perhaps she's got other stuff percolating). Debbie picked Tiffany and George's first piece they danced together. I got chills again when George hoisted Tiffany into the air while on releve. Debbie praised the dancers for performing the piece with reckless abandon (agreed). The flawless technique didn't hurt, either. George easily had one of the best centers in the competition for pirouettes (three of which he did while holding his leg in sort of a half-peake in this routine).
Adam Shankman was next, and picked my favorite routine of the season: Cole and Lindsay's Paso Doble. I think this may actually be my new favorite Paso routine on this show ever (sorry Sabra, Neil, Kathryn, and Legacy!). The choreography, steps, and performance exuded simultaneous strength and grace. Cole and Lindsay OWNED that routine, and that's not easy with this style. I was impressed (again) almost beyond words.
Tasty Oreo picked Will & Amelia's "Lovecats" routine, which was certainly cute and memorable. I didn't mind seeing it again, but it did make me realize just how un-hip-hop this routine was. I'd barely give this a "hip-hop lite" rating (sorry, Nappytabs). I enjoyed this one better the first time around. Tonight, it felt more sluggish. Perhaps those two needed a cat nap.
Mary was up next and -- no surprise -- she picked one of the routines that made her cry (although let's be honest, with Mary, there's always a handful of those to choose from). She picked the suitcase routine with Chehon and All-Star Kathryn. When she was introducing it, she referenced that the characters were from the Holocaust and told they only could bring one suitcase of belongings. I didn't realize that was the setting for this routine. Not sure if I just missed it or it was poorly explained the first time around (anyone?). Seeing it through that lens, I definitely felt more connected to the piece. Chehon soared on his leaps and both dancers gave me chills when they grasped their throats in desperation and let out silent screams. I was on the verge of tears by the time Kathryn went limp at the end. Very pleased to see that routine again. I forgot just how good Chehon was in it.
Then, since the show had to fill two hours, they let the finalists pick their favorite pieces to dance again. Eliana chose the "Bang Bang" piece with All-Star Alex Wong. Stacey Tookey utilized the talent of these two powerhouse ballet dancers to its fullest. This routine wasn't in-your-face or perhaps even the kind of routine the general public would fall in love with, but it made me melt. The way Eliana stretched on that arabesque while Alex held on to the very tip of her toe to keep her from falling was stunning. And moments later he lifted her straight up and down into the air. The pair of them have legs to die for. There were "wow" moments here, but that wasn't what did it for me. The beauty of this piece was in the subtleties and quiet moments in between, the grace with which these two dancers flowed from one movement seamlessly to the next.
Just so no one was left out, Cat got to pick her favorite routine. She went with Tiffany and All-Star Brandon's disco. I'm pretty sure the costumers mugged a couple of very fabulous drag queens for all the sequins there were on stage (seriously, my eyes still hurt). There were a ton of tricky sequences in this number, especially the lifts. The tricks in this routine were impressive, but I think overall it picked up and lost momentum too much. Doriana Sanchez didn't connect the dots between too well. When it was all said and done, Brandon looked beat. Can't blame him, though -- 11 lifts in about a minute and a half, and not a single one was simple. It's a minor miracle Tiffany's head wasn't spinning by the end, too.
Chehon chose his Argentine Tango with Anya. This number was on point. Precise, but smooth and sexy at the same time. Anya's a beast and Chehon paired her beautifully. I loved it when he lifted her into the air and held her there as she did stag lifts to the front, back and front again. She seemed to defy gravity. Great pick by him!
The next pick was seemingly random. Cat went on some spiel about how there was so much AMAZING hip-hop this season that they couldn't possibly pick just one routine to redo. Riiiight. When I think back to the best SYTYCD seasons based on hip-hop performances, I don't think this one would crack to Top 10 (and it's only season 9). Come to think of it, there was only ONE hip-hop dancer this season. So naturally, it was only fair to give him his own special routine! (You've picked up on my sarcasm by now, right?). Christopher Scott joined the "master animator" Cyrus along with Twitch and Comfort for a hip-hop/animation-inspired routine. My outright bitching and screaming aside, this was a pretty kick-ass number. The four started at a poker table – Christopher Scott versus Cyrus. Eventually they flipped the table and kept going in robotics mode. The hand-ography between Christopher Scott and Cyrus was pretty sick.
Still, I don't know who Nigel is trying to kid (besides himself) by fawning over Cyrus over and over. Either enough voters bought the bullshit this season (I call 'em like I see 'em) or there was some serious fixing going on here.
For her favorite routine, Tiffany picked a contemporary routine with Ade set to Celine Dion's "The Power of Love." This was a strong routine with solid technique, but I didn't find it particularly memorable. Mandy Moore numbers (this one had to be her - the bad 90's music is a dead giveaway) are hit or miss for me. I did love it when the two dancers leaped at one another then collapsed. And the routine climaxed perfectly with the music at the end with that helicopter spin.
Tonight's special guest dancers were ones that were near to the SYTYCD heart: the Dragon House dance crew, featuring Brian Gaynor, AKA the original robot guy. Brian was all decked out in gold, with the other three in silver, each with isolations more mind-boggling than the last. The group has such a musicality. My understanding is that Brian does a lot of the choreography and that is one of his greatest strengths (if you don't believe me, go back and watch his last two auditions. Brilliant).
For one week only, Nigel brought back the big musical guest for the finale: Carly Rae Jepson. She adequately performed her newest song, which might as well be called "Not Call Me Maybe." It wasn't that the performance was bad, just light and poppy, which is right up her alley. It was as if a "Tiger Beat" cover exploded on stage. Sugary and reasonably fun.
Finally, Cyrus picked his favorite routine -- he went with last week's robot routine with Twitch. How come he gets two routines, and the other dancers only got to pick one? Oh, that's right. Because Nigel has a dance hard-on for him and insists on over-praising Cyrus every time he does the same thing he did during auditions. Again, his robot style is impressive, but did anyone else notice the only routines he did during the finale were hip-hop and/or animation related (save for the two group routines that everyone did?). Just sayin'.
The last routine was a doozie: it was a Top 10/All Stars Rumble in the Jungle, y'all! The dance was a fusion of African tribal moves and hip-hop, which jived with the music (a remix of "Circle of Life" from "The Lion King"). A very appropriate ending too: all four finalists ended up conquering "Pride Rock."
Finally, it was time to crown our two winners. Unlike in past seasons, where there was just one winner regardless of gender, or where they picked a runner-up of the opposite gender, there was a guy's champion and a girl's champion.
During the montage of the two female finalists, I have to admit that although these two weren't my early favorites, I think we got the right ones. And the big reveal: Eliana the ballerina won! And then promptly collapsed in shock.She genuinely looked surprised and overwhelmed, which just made me like her even more. Good on her. She was brilliant this season and a very solid representation of ballet. I think she's our first ballerina winner on this show ever. Huzzah!
I didn't get the same sense that we ended up with the two strongest male dancers in the finale during Chehon's and Cyrus's montage. Both are talented dancers for sure, but I think there were stronger leaders in the pack this season. Ultimately, the win went to Chehon. I'm personally happy Cyrus didn't win (although it seemed he had a strong, unwavering fan base throughout the proceedings that I'm still not 100 percent convinced actually existed). Kudos for lasting so long, I suppose. He'll get an endorsement deal no doubt, and I'm sure by Nigel's constant glowing praise, a reoccurring spot on the All-Stars list for future seasons, Twitch-style. Ugh.
Overall, I think we ended up with two very deserving winners and some memorable, solid routines to add to the "So You Think You Can Dance" vault. Getting there was a bit of a hectic, disorienting challenge, but hopefully with no Olympic games to worry about next year, Nigel & Co. will be able to knock out a stronger, more cohesive 10th season.
For the second audition episode we were suddenly back in San Francisco (despite having gone to Providence at the end of the previous show). My best friend pointed out while watching the show last night that he likes "X Factor" because it really isn't about finding the best singer. It's about finding the next pop star. And if you turn on the radio right now, you know that pop stardom has absolutely nothing to do with singing ability. People like Rihanna and Katy Perry dominate the charts, but have you ever heard them sing without AutoTune? Yikes. And yet, they are undeniably stars.
Johnny Maxwell, 16, is potentially similar in nature. He did an original song called "All These People." Johnny's got a whole lot of confidence, I'll give him that. As for the vocal, I wasn't impressed -- he was seriously flat. He was a decent rapper, though, and he had the crowd and even L.A. Reid into his banal song, which was admittedly extremely commercial. L.A. said that Johnny is exactly what this show is about. Demi Lovato talked about the swagger that Johnny has in spades. Thankfully Simon Cowell brought up the fact that his singing was weak, but he appreciated the "steel in [Johnny's] eye." Four yesses, and Simon told him that this is "his time." He is very of-the-moment, that's for sure.
Lexa Berman, 22, is a dancer, and surely heartbroken that "Rock of Love Bus" is no longer on the air. Lexa needs a hug, and for someone to tell her to calm down and stop trying so hard. She is a walking poster for low self-esteem. Simon called her "Jersey Shore" meets the Kardashians, and Lexa took that as a compliment. I sure wouldn't. The vocal wasn't terrible, but it was very nasal and the song was d-u-l-l. Britney Spears said that it was all in one tone, and boring. Demi called her on the overconfidence and the fact that she is basically unlikable. Simon wanted to give her a second chance. The others said no. Demi and Simon had another good father/daughter moment when Simon commented on Lexa's luscious booty, and Demi rolled her eyes at the old pervert sitting next to her.
There was a whole montage of attractive people singing poorly, which brought the best moment of the night: some little twink coming out to sing Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," Britney raising her hand to stop him, and saying, "You can't destroy that song, sweetie."
Jason Brock, 34, is a flaming tech support guy who dresses like Liberace going to a funeral. Britney and Jason had a cute rapport, but Simon was clearly not having it at first. Jason regaled the crowd with his fever dream of what a Jason Brock concert would be like. I'm sure you will be shocked to hear that it ended with a glitter explosion. The good news is that Jason can actually sing, and like many of the gay men who try out for these shows, becomes possessed by the spirit of a large black woman when he performs. He's totally over the top - it's beyond cabaret. It's like cabaret at a New York City bathhouse in the 1970's. And his breath support is terrible. But that guy can sing. Demi loved him. Simon admitted to initially thinking he was delusional (jury's still out, Cowell), but then suddenly they were all "at his concert," and Simon loved it. L.A. called Jason a songwriter's best friend. The girls were all about him. Four yesses for Jason. He should be fun to watch.
Then we returned to Providence so that Pat Ford could terrorize poor Britney. Pat is a hardcore Britney Spears fan - he said meeting her was tantamount to meeting God (God: "That was actually me in the video for 'Toxic'") -- who seems...confused about what he's looking for in life. Britney looked deeply uncomfortable with Pat's entire spectacle, which involved coming out with a bouquet of flowers, being a weirdo, and then absolutely destroying "Circus." Pat was getting actually booed by the crowd. Pat needs better friends, because those girls who were waiting for him backstage really should have stopped him from humiliating himself on national television. That was vicious. Simon graciously took the flowers Pat brought for Britney, because Britney herself was obviously creeped out by the entire scene. This show is giving me a better sense of what it must like to be famous, and how shit like that would drive anybody to shave off their hair and attack cars with umbrellas.
Carly Rose Sonenclar is 13, and she has really sweet-seeming parents. Britney has an obvious affinity for children and pre-teens, which she showed again in her interactions with Carly. Carly did "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone, and she was effing incredible. Not only can she really sing, but she was telling the story and emoting believably. It was astonishing. Best vocalist of the season thus far. She's 13, and she had surprisingly strong stage presence, given the nerves she exhibited before going on set. Standing ovation from the judges, and rightly so. Britney called her a "little diva." L.A. said that her soul was much older than 13. Simon couldn't believe that Carly was actually the one singing that. Demi said she wanted to buy Carly's music right now. Not just four yesses, but according to Simon, "4,833 yesses," referring to the crowd.
Previously on "The X Factor": some people nobody cared about sang, a person nobody remembers won, and half the on-air talent got fired. But they want you to forget pretty much all of that. Seriously, there was not a single mention of anything to do with Season 1 in the S2 premiere. Not one. They referenced that the show existed prior to this, but this very much felt like a new start for the series, which it needed. It's not like the first season bombed in the ratings, but given the relentless hype there's no doubt that it failed to live up to expectations in numerous ways. The question is, will the changes for this season make a difference? (I predict yes.)
Speaking of changes, note that there was no host for this premiere episode, and so far as I know the show has yet to announce one. (I am sorry they fired that scorching hot Steve Jones. I don't care if he was terrible. I just wanted to look at him.)
Throughout tryouts most of the typical hosting duties seemed to fall to new judge Demi Lovato, who asked the contestants their names, ages, etc. from the judging table. I initially balked at Lovato on the panel – she's only 19, and at the time she was hired she was best known as a Disney Channel star with very little name recognition outside the tween demographic. But Simon Cowell has once again proven that he's an evil genius, because Demi is currently breaking through in her solo career with "Give Your Heart a Break," which is all over the radio right now. I also think her argument for why she deserves her spot -- that she knows what her generation is listening to -- is pretty smart. I was going to give her a provisional pass, but by the end of the episode I found her to be charming and refreshing. The father/daughter vibe between her and Simon was the best part of the panel and made me like both of them more.
As for the really big get for the panel, Britney Spears, I frankly think she needs this show right now as much as it needs her. Yes, she has rebounded substantially from her dark period a few years back. But she needs a forum where America can fall in love with her personality again, and this show could do that for her. Britney's current issue is, people think she's a puppet at best, an idiot at worst. Being a judge here will allow her to speak directly to the people, albeit in a highly regularized format. (And as tonight's episode proved, she's not all sweetness and giggles and y'all. She's got a bite to her, and I loved it.) There's no question she's benefiting the series. I'm basically only watching because she's here. Part of me wants her to be a trainwreck, but the bigger part of me really wants to see her succeed, be awesome, and say, "Suck it, America! There's a reason I've been a pop-culture icon for the past decade and a half."
The auditions started off in Austin, Texas, with Britney and Demi joining the returning judges, Simon and L.A. Reid. I immediately enjoyed the chemistry between Britney and Demi, and between Simon and the two of them. L.A. is a bit of a stick in the mud compared to the three of them. I also enjoyed Britney's hot pink boob-window dress. I am always on Team Boob Window.
First up was Paige Thomas, a gorgeous, funky 21-year-old mom from San Antonio. Britney was totally adorable while interacting with Paige's 3-year-old kid, who was off to the side of the stage. Paige has been going to school for nursing, but of course she really wants to be a star. She picked "I'm Going Down" by Mary J. Blige. Paige's vocal wasn't great -- she was off pitch in parts, but she's got some soul, and she sold the performance. I think the song was actually too high for her, as she was frequently flat (although that may have also been a product of singing in a stadium). Britney called her bright, beautiful, and flawless. Well, that's not accurate, but it's sweet. L.A. told Paige to stop delaying the inevitable, because she's a star, and then compared her to Rihanna. Demi commented on the stage presence, which I think is what Paige had going for her the most. Simon said that she looked and sounded like a pop star, and also she's got a great sob story that he can milk (my words, not his), calling her "commercial with a capital-C." She was put through to Boot Camp.
Kaci Newton, 22, is a total Heather, a stealth bitch who describes herself as Carrie Underwood mixed with Adele. Well, that sounds just awful. The show totally turned her into a villain, airing clips of her talking huge shit about basically every woman in the holding pen, while simultaneously talking herself up. I cannot with Kaci's pantsuit, which reminded me of very rare roast beef. Simon said Kaci reminded him of Britney, which is a terrible insult to his new coworker. Kaci picked Katy Perry's "Firework," which was appropriate, because the girl set fire to her reputation and career on national television. She did a cutesy version of the song and was almost constantly off pitch, and she got worse as it went on. It was the very definition of Simon's old "Idol" chestnut, "a ghastly lunch." Simon told Kaci that it sounded like she was dying. Kaci argued that she was nervous and broke into Duffy's "Mercy," which was marginally less awful, but still not good. Simon, L.A., and Demi all told her no, Simon called her annoying, and she was just cast as an untalented, hateful bitch on national TV. THIS! Is "X Factor"!
Shawn Armenta is a 50-year-old airline worker who is a rapper/singer. He performed an original song called "Candy Girl," and he came off as a pervert. And embarrassing. The look on Britney's face -- when she wasn't chewing her gum like a cow chews cud --was priceless. Shawn was very shouty and intense, and just thoroughly mortifying. Simon called him "a mouse trying to be an elephant," and called the performance "just wrong." Shawn got all uppity, saying he spent way too much time writing and rehearsing for this kind of treatment, and then threw some shade at Demi using AutoTune. And then! Britney gave some Grade-A side eye and told Shawn that he made her uncomfortable, and that she wondered who let him on stage. This began the Bitchy Britney montage, which was amazing to behold. Britney was dismissive, haughty, blunt, and occasionally creative in her critiques and I LOVED IT. She's not the new Paula at all! Our Lady of Cheetos is not playing. This is what happens when you're raised by Baptists and show-biz homosexuals. Heaven.
Reed Deming is 13, a seventh-grader, and a Justin Bieber lookalike. Lord, help us. Are children really that relentless for fame at that age now? Is that a good thing? He picked "It Will Rain" by Bruno Mars, which is song that was way too mature for a kid who hasn't even hit puberty yet. Simon stopped him about 12 bars in -- it was pretty tortured -- and told the kid to pick another song where he didn't have to try so hard. Instead Reed switched to a stripped-down version of "Grenade," and it was much improved. He still tries way too hard and basically copied moves and vocal tricks from other music acts (of course -- he's 13, he has no idea what he's doing). Simon told Reed that he needs better vocals,Demi thought he was adorable, and L.A. mentioned the Bieber thing, at which the kid bristled. You know what, child? You don't want to be compared to Justin Bieber, don't walk out on stage looking like his clone. Come on. Anyway, they all way overpraised him and unanimously put him through. I'll say this: I already like Reed more than that Eben kid "Idol" tried to force down our throats last season.
Then the auditions moved to San Francisco, which of course included a segment on transvestites/transsexuals. Sigh. But it had a happy ending (get your mind out of the gutter). Quattro Da'an Smith is a 21-year-old trans cake decorator who came in dressed as a bride, because she was here to marry "X Factor." Bless her heart. Predictably, Quattro sang "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga, but at first she mostly just scampered around the stage. When Quattro started singing, it wasn't awful! It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. Britney found Quattro charming, Demi loved her, Simon called Quattro the child of Madonna, Dracula, and Bobby Brown, but he liked it in a weird way. L.A. said no, but the other three sent Quattro through. Simon told L.A. to embrace the madness. A victory for that elegant sugar flower and transgendered people everywhere!
Vincent Thomas, 22, is an actor from Los Angeles. He's a former boy bander -- a European boy bander, which is the worst kind -- and he needs to be careful when he says things like, "I've done group stuff." Because that could very easily get misinterpreted. He picked "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" by Elton John. It was decent, although he went flat, and there's a...delicateness to his voice. And to him, too. Simon told Vincent that in a boy band, he would be the one who wouldn't sing. L.A. called him "dull and boring" and Vincent was promptly shuffled stage. I didn't think he was as bad as the judges made him out to be.
Our first group audition of the season: Emblem 3, featuring three teenage skater boys who annoy the living shit out of me already. The three them made a lot of noise about not being "manufactured," but were totally ignorant as to how cookie-cutter they already are. Zero self-awareness. They did an original song called "Sunset Boulevard," which was terrible, and riddled with cliches, but the three of them can sing/perform. It's a rap/pop hybrid, and the crowd and judges were getting into the song. L.A. loved them, Britney liked the funky vibe and smooth voices, Demi was a smitten kitten (Simon immediately told her no, no, no), and Simon loved the whole audition. Unanimously put through.
Don Philip, 32, from the Bronx, did a duet with Britney a decade ago, but his personal showbiz career failed to take off. Britney recognized him immediately, and Don broke down while trying to talk about his lack of success in the recording industry. Britney was initially very supportive, and you could see in her eyes how empathetic she was with this guy. He went with Beyonce's "Halo." There was something weird going on with Don's voice -- it sounded strained, like he was getting over being sick. It seemed to me that he knows the techniques required to sing, but the voice wasn't there, and his diction is terrible (I'm just going to put this out there: I think Don has been through some physical stuff since Britney first knew him, as he looks visibly different). Don got progressively worse as the song went on. The performance was also odd and off-putting, and Britney got visibly uncomfortable as it went on. Simon told Don full on that he doesn't have a good singing voice. Britney paused for a second, commented on some vague personal struggles, and told Don truthfully but kindly that his voice is not at a level that they're looking for with "X Factor." I found that really brave of her, a true test of whether or not she's suited for this gig. Don was shocked and hurt, tried to sing a second song, and the look of betrayal on his face when all four judges said no was brutal. Backstage he started sobbing, wondering if he hurt Britney. She was upset by it, but Simon comforted her. That was a difficult segment to watch, and manipulative on multiple levels for multiple people. But it served its purpose: it humanized Britney, showed us that she's capable of doing this in the hardest of circumstances, and further established the bond between the new judging panel (again, minus L.A., who is the worst).
Then the auditions moved to, of all places, Providence, Rhode Island. Janelle Garcia, 18, is adorable as can be, even if she called Pat Benatar "old rock." Child. She went with "Paris (Ooh La La)" by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. She's got some soul and blues in her pipes and she really took to the stage. I liked this girl more than any other audition of the night. She needs to tone down the hair flipping and is desperately overdue for a makeover. I was getting an Allison Iraheta vibe from her, and that is a good thing. The judges loved her, with Demi commenting on how she's so cute and unassuming...until she opens her mouth and howls. Simon said that she's what is missing from pop music right now. They all sent her through.
Jillian Jensen is a 19-year-old piano teacher from Rochester, Massachusetts. From the stage she spoke to Demi about their shared experiences with bullying -- which is a platform that Demi has spoken about publicly -- and I'm going to be really honest with you. At first I was interested in the segment, and then she said something about how people were mean to her and it "was not fair" and I just rolled my eyes. Excuse me white, middle-class American who seems to have all of her parts intact and is in at least decent health. Please go to other areas of the world where people live in poverty, famine, and war, or talk to kids born blind or with AIDS, and then tell them how unfair life is that some bitches in your school were mean to you. Perspective, folks. The song she picked was way, way too low for her in the beginning. But she did get markedly better, and really emoted -- I would argue too much. She became unhinged at one point. It was like watching a therapy session set to music. Jillian is talented, but she needs to lock her shit down, focus her issues into her craft, and go for it. I'm very torn on her. Demi got up on stage and hugged her, and the two of them had a moment. Demi should also go and hug whoever was responsible for getting her onto this show, because this is what is going to take her career to the next level. She came off better than Britney tonight, and I was NOT expecting that. The judges lavished Jillian with praise and unanimously put her through. Simon even got teary eyed. He does have human feelings!
In a press conference today, Apple revealed its much anticipated new phone, the iPhone 5.
The phone will support LTE wireless technology, as well as come packed with myriad new features, including a new slimmer and faster 'Lightning' connector, upgraded map and turn-by-turn direction technology (as well as updates to Siri), Passbook, and a photo share feature that allows you to share photo streams with circles of friends.
Spec wise, the phone comes in at 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the previous model, the iPhone 4S.
Preorders for the phone open on September 14, with the device launching September 21 in both a black and white color option. The models are priced (with a contract) at $199 (16 gig), $299 (32 gig), and $399 (64 gig). Also, the iPhone 4 is now free on contract, and the iPhone 4S has dropped to $99.
What do you all think of the new phone? Will you be preordering one on Friday? Make sure to keep an eye on City's entertainment blog, as we'll have more on the iPhone 5, as well as hands-on impressions as we get closer to launch.
This season has been more of a whirlwind than usual (programming issues to blame there), and it feels that way, too. Between skipping weeks, the new elimination format, and multiple double eliminations, we've got some winners and some definite losers in the Final 6, and ultimately in the Final 4 - but we'll get to that in a sec.
Tonight's show started off with a dark Sonya Tayeh contemporary group number set to "Scream" by Kelis. Each girl and guy was paired up and cloaked in tattered black ballet-inspired costumes with masks a la Lady Gaga. The cannon of lifts was stunning, but overall I thought the routine gained and lost momentum. The psychedelic disco ballet segments popped in and out of the routine and didn't add much for me. Still, there were some great moments - especially when the girls flipped head-first over their partners' knees. Overall, inconsistent.
Christina Applegate was back again as a guest judge. Correct me if I'm wrong, but last time around she seemed like she had knocked back a few too many cocktails. Seems like they're struggling to book solid talent on that panel. I'd rather they bring back choreographers who actually have relevant critiques or comedians with witty retorts.
Tiffany (who I feel like I barely know) got paired with S2 winner Benji for a jive with Jean Mark Genereux. The rehearsal alone looked like a ton of fun, and the routine somehow managed to top it. Once these two got going, they never stopped moving. Their kicks were on point, bouncy, and full of energy They both nailed the tricks - Tiffany even lifted Benji up for a triple partnered cartwheel. I definitely remember her now. Nigel was impressed that Tiffany could keep up with Benji (me too). Tiffany certainly benefited from having an incredible partner here, but she more than held her own in the routine. Cat said these two could have powered the electricity in the entire studio. It was, indeed, an electric way to kick off the show.
Whitney performed her solo to "Malaguena." Ballroom solos can be tricky and don't always fare well on this show. I think the flowy cap skirt helped increase the drama, but distracted a bit from her footwork (not good).
Cole got paired up with reigning champ Melanie Moore for a Sonya Tayeh contemporary piece about a man trying to break free (I think). Sonya said she wanted to help show Cole's "softer" side, but I'm not sure this routine accomplished that. The routine, set to "Too Close" by Alex Clare, certainly showed off Cole's masterful technique, but I'm not sure it was more docile emotionally speaking. He and Melanie were throwing somewhat violently at times and then melting flawlessly into one another between flips. The contrast was interesting, but didn't do much for Cole's vulnerability push. Still, this was a partnership that really worked and made for a solid routine.
Chehon's solo routine was darker and futuristic (or at least that whackadoo vest he was wearing was). Boy got insane height on his leaps and spinning leaps. It made me sit up and say, OK, this kid's got something.
Eliana got paired with Twitch for a hip-hop routine that ultimately flopped. The premise was Eliana was in love with her postman (Twitch), and wrote him a love letter. Christopher Scott's choreography was totally disjointed. The number seemed bipolar - switching between cutesy, almost Broadway-ish moments to half-hearted hip-hop moves. Eliana was clearly trying, and fared alright with the footwork, but didn't hit it. It was more theatrics than swagger. The judges slammed her pretty hard.
Tiffany's solo had all the usual parts of a contemporary number: spins extensions, etc., but she managed to light up that stage. Her lines seemed to go on forever and her smile was full of joy. I could have lived without all the standing and reaching for the sky stuff though.
Chehon and all-star Kathryn did a Tyce DiOrio routine about how people cope with tragedy. The two were dancing around a suitcase, which I think was supposed to represent the pain we carry around with us. I loved this concept, but wasn't head over-heels for the routine itself. That said,Chehon and Kathryn absolutely killed it. It was masterfully danced, full of emotion and had some great moments. When Chehon flew - and I mean FLEW - across the stage at the suitcase, I actually got chills. Same when the two silently screamed side-by-side. Very powerful. But the moments in between were less that spectacular. The judges gave it a standing ovation. Mary even started to cry during her critique.
Cole's solo music a wolf howling, while he ticked and seemed to transform into this beast of martial arts and dance. He has such power when he moves. There was one moment where he seemed to levitate from the ground to his tippy toes. Incredible. This guy is a masterful dancer and artist.
Whitney got paired with Marko for a Ray Leeper jazz routine about a girl who gets second thoughts on her wedding day. I loved the way she pulled away from him, and then slowly fell away from him moments later, only to be pulled back in. Whitney has so much control of movement, and each seemed to flow perfectly into the next - whether that next move was smooth or sharp. Marko partnered her very well, too, throwing her around his hips like a swing dancer. Ray Leeper nailed the climax with the music and the lift. Mary said Whitney had masterful attack and control (agreed).
Eliana's solo was beautifully controlled and effortless at the same time. She went sans toe shoes this time (interesting choice). You can definitely see the joy and love of dance radiating from her smile.
Cyrus was last (suspicious) and he "randomly" picked a dupstep routine. With Comfort.On the final week. I call BULLSHIT! I feel like he's gotten completely babied this entire season. When he doesn't get his genre, the judges comment on his personality and when he does get hip-hop or something like it, they fawn all over him. Utter crap. That said, this was incredibly well choreographed by Christopher Scott. Comfort absolutely killed it. The handwork was insane. They did one sequence that looked like Jacob's ladder, but with their hands. Mind-boggling. Cyrus seemed to have trouble with the wicked fast footwork, but (as expected) nailed the robotics and hand work. While Comfort was throwing herself completely into the piece, Cyrus was only halfway there. And the guy got a standing ovation. I just do not understand. Christina even tried to disguise a critique - that the routine was "carved out for him" - as praise. Just does not make sense.
PHEW! Okay, then, if those routines weren't enough, the final 6 paired up with one another.
Whitney and Chehongot a cha-cha. Chehon noticeably struggled with the lifts and couldn't quite get his hips and feet in order at the same time. He all but botched the first lift. He picked it up pretty well with the footwork section, but it couldn't really save him. The judges slammed him on his technique, particularly his sloppy hips (that's not something any guy wants to hear). Whitney, not surprisingly, nailed it. Although the judges barely talked about her. Mary even accidentally called her "Lindsay" (not a good sign when the judges can't even remember the names of the finalists). The judges also picked on the choreography a bit - saying Jean Marc including more lifts than footwork and partnering because Chehon's cha-cha skills just weren't up to par.
Cyrus's solo was all ticking and robotics, at which he is no doubt brilliant. Sometimes I wonder if he's even human, but it's all he can do. To me, that's not what this show is about. Being absolutely amazingly talented at whatever your given style is, but also being able to excel at other styles.
Eliana and Cole got a Mia Michaels routine about fighting, inspired by rams. You could definitely see the inspiration in the movements. The idea was very much contrasted by the slow, more classical music. Saying trust was essential to this piece is an absolute understatement. Eliana threw herself at Cole multiple times, and each time he caught her without breaking a sweat. He was throwing her everywhere. This is a routine that could have very easily ended with an injury (or two or three), but thankfully didn't (*knock on wood*). The couples' anger built to the end where they were silently screaming and then collapsed. Nigel compared the characters' relationship to Newton's cradle, in that they hated each other as much as they loved them and that can make for a volatile relationship. Mary called it mesmerizing. Christina finally had her first intelligent critique of the night, saying that Eliana finishes every move all the way through the tips of her fingers and toes (I agree).
Tiffany got paired with Cyrus for a Broadway routine by Spencer Liff. Described as a 50's TV show episode that never made air, the two were supposed to be a pair of horny teens left along to "do homework." Instead, they got into some serious hanky panky. The choreography was fun, but not overly complex. Cyrus mostly stood there. Tiffany really sold it. She leapt and frolicked and groped Cyrus left, right and center. Cyrus seemed too tight in the hips to really give any of the moves the full "oomph" they needed. And the judges fawned all over both of them. At one point, though, it seemed like Mary and Nigel seemed to be giving Cyrus's swan song. Their critiques basically said that no matter what happened, he was an "inspiration."
I didn't catch the names of tonight's guest performers, but they were absolutely incredible. The routine started with two dancers center stage: one in a regular chair, the other in a wheel chair. The dancer in the regular chair eventually danced his way to his feet, but every step of the way, the man in the wheelchair was right along side him. It was such a powerful piece. It shows that we truly have the power to anything no matter what our outward limitations appear to be. Once standing, the man picked the man in the wheelchair up (chair and all), then flipped over him and finally balanced on the titled wheelchair and the man sitting in it. I could not take my eyes off this routine so fascinating.
Finally, it was time to find out who was in the finale. Going into tonight, I thought Tiffany was expendable, but all three of these ladies really served it tonight. Losing any of them was going to be tough. Tiffany was the first to make it through, and then Eliana was named a finalist. Sad to see Whitney go. She is a killer ballroom dancer, and finalist or not, there's no doubt the girl is a star. Perhaps an all-star in the future (too soon?)
As Cat ran out of time, she hastily made the announcement that Chehon was also a finalist. But despite the earlier swan song from the judges, my hopes were dashed when Cole was ELIMINATED and Cyrus made it through to the finale. WHAT. THE. FUCK. AMERICA. He's got a cool trick, but he is a one-trick pony. Cole got robbed. Effing robbed. Even watching his "Green Mile" piece, I was reminded that some of my favorite routines were his. I cannot even fathom how Cyrus is still here. I swear will stop watching this show if he wins.
On quick side note, the finale show will be on Tuesday next week, not Wednesday. This season seems to be all over the place. I'm hoping for a little more consistency next season (assuming there is one) and hopefully, a better set of final contestants.
What an unusual and fun challenge! Last night's episode of "Face Off" was a good example of precisely what I like about this show. It's creative, it focuses more on the work than interpersonal drama, and the output of the contestants was so wild and imaginative that you will absolutely not see anything else like it anywhere else on television. I actually liked almost every look, and even the losing team's creation was far from a total disaster.
This was a team challenge, as the remaining 10 artists were split into duos and tasked with creating a modern interpretation of Chinese dancing dragons that also incorporated each of the designers' Chinese zodiac symbols. Beyond that, all of the looks had to participate in a choreographed dance number (I'd rather they did that now, instead of in the finale like in Season 2), so the make-ups had to stand up to heavy physical movements. Complicated, yes, but also really cool. Here's how the teams shook out:
Nicole and Rod, whose signs were snake and rat
Eric and Sarah, who were monkey and boar
Alana and Laura, goat/rat
Derek and Tommy, ox/monkey
Jason and Roy, rabbit/snake
Interestingly, almost every team had a really strong member, and a fairly weak member, the exception being Derek and Tommy, who at this point seem fairly evenly matched. Unlike the first team challenge with crazypants Joe, the drama was fairly minimal. If the designers had issues with one another they dealt with them professionally and I felt that every team put out some strong work.
The main bit of interest to come from the design phase was, again, freaking Alana, Queen of the Spazzes. She hurt herself AGAIN - third episode in a row, I think - by slicing her finger open so badly that she needed to go off campus to get stitches. This girl, I swear. My thoughts were best summed up by the following exchange:
Roy: "That girls an accident waiting to happen."
At presentation, we discovered that Rod and Nicole went in a different direction, integrating the birth signs into the make-up by having the animals on the face (I had a hard time making them out, to be honest). The judges liked it, and the fabric details around the head gave it movement. But New Judge didn't see dragon at all in the look.
Jason and Roy were praised for their concept and the fabrication, but Jason's red-and-black splotchy paint job was critiqued, as was their failure to really push the dragon aspect, which should have been a slam-dunk with the snake face.
Alana and Laura got props from head judge Glenn for their "persistence of vision," as the goat/rat look really held up from the sketches. It was creepy, moved well, but as Ve pointed out, did not read "dragon" in the slightest. It looked so different from everybody else's, but I loved it (minus the goofy teeth).
Eric and Sarah's creation reminded me powerfully of shitty Marvel Comics villain The Mandrill. There were issues with symmetry in the make-up, the flimsy and unnecessary horns, and the paint job. It was obviously the judges' least favorite.
Derek and Tommy's work was called "one of the strongest collaborations" in the show's history by Glenn. Glenn also really liked the Japanese aesthetic, brought in by Derek's tattoo background. It was a cool-looking creation.
Unsurprisingly, Tommy and Derek were the winning team, while the bottom team was Eric and Sarah, which was pretty clear based on the judging. While Derek got the individual win, his brother Eric was given the boot. My question was if Sarah, who won last week, had immunity to begin with. That was never addressed.
Next: "Alice in Wonderland" is attacked by zombies. Two great tastes that hopefully go great together.