The end is near. Fox has to realize its "Idol" tryout formula quickly ran out of steam and has left fans begging for signs of talent. The San Antonio show did better than the others in featuring some quality singing and the bit about "the other door" had its moments, but the interminable rendition of "Amazing Grace" make one wonder if the producers haven't caved in from the pressure.

The end is near. Fox has to realize its “Idol” tryout formula quickly ran out of steam and has left fans begging for signs of talent. The San Antonio show did better than the others in featuring some quality singing and the bit about “the other door” had its moments, but the interminable rendition of “Amazing Grace” make one wonder if the producers haven’t caved in from the pressure.

Three interesting singers cropped up in the home of the Alamo, more than we have seen in the previous six episodes. There’s Ashlyn Carr who was given the rare opportunity to audition twice, strictly because her facial expression threw the judges for a loop. The woman deserves kudos if only for getting Nina Simone’s name on national TV. She has a distinct voice, a distinct look and, with serious, concentrated practice, could be a force in the competition. It won’t be easy.

The show produced another Pickler — Baylie Brown — who looks camera ready to play Hilary Duff’s bff in a Disney telepic. Spunky Jimmy McNeal reeled off a gorgeous reading of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid.”

It made one wonder:

  • Wouldn’t a Sam Cooke night be great? The rockers could do “Twisting the Night Away” and “Having a Party”; the balladeers could turn on the charm with “You Send Me” and “Only Sixteen”; and the gospel-trained singers could go to town on “Bring it on Home to Me,” “A Change is Gonna Come” and any of the Soul Stirrers hits.

  • Fox has to shorten the length of time between the first audition and the announcement of the final 12. Shows look too similar and there are only so many shots of Randy hiding his face while laughing that the audience can take.

  • Background stories have become ridiculously predictable — as long as the story seems similar to the life of a former contestant it is somehow worthy of airtime. Going through Baylie Brown’s closet was not riveting.

  • It was a small, but significant, music publishing announcement on Tuesday: Cherry Lane Music has taken over the Elvis Presley catalog. The Presley estate is owned by the same company that owns 19 Prods., which produces and owns “Idol.” Just as BMG gets more artists on the show than any other label group, perhaps Cherry Lane songwriters may hear their songs performed a little more often.

  • Randy Jackson has lightened up on the “dog” references, Paula Abdul has remained focus and Simon Cowell is the sharpest of the bunch — with one exception: denigrating a performer with the word “cabaret.” Cabaret singing is a skill and there are practitioners — Barbara Cook comes to mind immediately — who can sing rings around each of the “Idol” winners. Cabaret and Broadway are not synonymous with high school musical — yes, lower-cased — and that is what I believe he is trying to tell these over-emoters.

American Idol: Week Four

Fox, Tue., Feb. 7, 8 p.m.

Production

Taped in San Antonio, Texas, by 19 Prods. Executive producers, Nigel Lythgoe, Ken Warwick, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Simon Fuller; directors, Lythgoe.

Crew

Running time: 1 HOUR.

Cast

Judges: Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell.
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