Idol Beat: "Home Of Pirates, Drunks And Whores..."

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If you want to go to hell, you should take a trip
To the Sodom and Gomorrah on the Mississipp.
-- The Simpsons

I kid. I mean, I haven't always been the biggest fan of the Big Easy, but that's mostly because I used to routinely leave a third of my brain cells and most of the contents of my digestive tract in Bourbon Street's scenic gutters. As one gets older, however, one moves away from childish things like hand grenades and 64-oz. banana daiquiris and comes to appreciate the city's more subtle attractions.

Like this dude:

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Who dat? No, seriously.

He didn't make the final cut of those moving on to Hollywood. And he wasn't alone.

Hopefuls assembled in the Superdome, where the horrors of Hurricane Katrina appear to be a distant memory. And then I realized something: They didn't mention the storm at all. Given the parallels between the visuals: thousands of residents stranded with no hope of food or water juxtaposed with thousands of aspiring Idols with no hope of getting the ticket to the next round, this seemed odd.

It's even more curious because Seacrest talked about the last time the show was in town, which was Season 4. The auditions took place eight months before Katrina, for crying out loud, and yet no before/after comparison or perfunctory black-and-white stock-footage flashback. But I guess expecting introspection from a show that introduced Taylor Hicks to the world is probably a bit much to ask.

The drill is already depressingly familiar. The first half of the show introduces us to some a handful of talented contestants who seem like genuinely nice people. Jordan Dorsey, for example, is a musician who teaches piano and voice to neighborhood kids. Sarah Sellers from Richardson (TX) sings Dylan and has a set of lips that made even Steven Tyler take note.

I was disappointed no one made the obvious joke about him being her real father (didn't the Pump tour swing through New Orleans?). There was also Jovany Barreto, who followed up his performance by pulling a "Situation" and flashing his abs.

Then you had Brett Loewenstern. Nice kid. Even did a half-decent job with "Bohemian Rhapsody." It was his parents who really sold it, though: "Growing up is hard for anybody," Mama Loewenstern says. And that's doubly so for gingers.

The capper had to be Paris Tassin, mother of the five-year old hydrocephalic daughter. Hers was a powerful story, but at the end I couldn't help wondering how the show's producers rank the vignettes. Does Paris now trump the Kosovo refugees' daughter from the night before? What happens when some refugee from the Congo auditions? And of the 37 contestants from New Orleans who made it, how many are screwed down the road because they didn't have a Very Special Vignette accompanying their performance?

After all the uplift, the trainwreck footage was disappointingly sparse. I'm sure Gabriel Marks isn't the only guy who's going to butcher "Bad Romance" this season, but all in all N'Awlins was a disappointment for those tuning in strictly for the laughs.

Hopefully Milwaukee will deliver in that regard. Hell, how can it not?


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