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'Idol' Surviving Its Own Melodrama (and Kids Who Don't Know the Beatles)

For One Moment, 'Idol' of Old Was Back

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Judann Pollack
Judann Pollack

The integration in this week's "American Idol" was with Cirque du Soleil's "The Beatles Love," but the producers don't ascribe to the theory that love is all you need to revive a hit -- apparently it takes melodrama and vaudeville.

The grand plan is to supercharge the tiring "Idol" brand formula to appeal to young media multitaskers, but the plot twists are coming so fast and furious that epileptics might have to sit this season out. For one thing, the final 24 were winnowed down quicker than you can say "nuts of wonder." (The season's catchphrase, based on a botched lyric by 17-year-old Scotty McCreery.)

On Wednesday, there was Jimmy Iovine as Beatles Boot Camp instructor, which made me long for the comparatively sweet disposition of Simon Cowell. Then there was the contestants themselves, who were pretty much clueless about the Beatles because the competition's minimum age has been lowered to 15. (Note: I will personally call DCFS on any parent who does not teach their children Beatles songs, as it is clearly child abuse.)

Cirque du Soleil's 'The Beatles Love' integration on 'Idol'
Cirque du Soleil's 'The Beatles Love' integration on 'Idol' Credit: Fox

Several hopefuls tried to distract from their mangled lyrics with choreography that surely had John Lennon spinning in his grave -- I'll spare you the details beyond saying it involved chases around old English phone booths and leaping on a cast-iron bed. Amid the three rings was a wedding (the emotionally unstable Ashley Sullivan got hitched, threatening her soon-to-be husband with killing him in his sleep if he backed out), Coca-Cola's Red Room transported magically to Las Vegas and -- hyped mercilessly through what seemed like every promotional break -- a meltdown by J.Lo, who couldn't bear to let favorite Chris Medina go.

Then the contestants, after "singing for their life" -- their very life! -- were forced to walk a dramatically lit last mile worthy of Steven King to learn their fate. This device turned Thursday's show into a crazy contrast with Wednesday's wham-bam pace as the judges labored each decision in an effort to fool the contestants into thinking they didn't make it.

But just when the contrivances seem too tortured to take, along came Rachel Zevita. Rachel had auditioned before only to fail and, as she walked that lonely runway in shaking stilettos, her 83-year-old grandmother waited outside. When the judges finally told Rachel she'd made it, she first didn't believe it. Then, as realization dawned, pure joy, excitement and gratitude flowed along with genuine tears from Rachel, flooding me with that familiar chill I'd been missing.

For that moment, "American Idol" was back.

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