‘American Idol’ Recap: Deep-Dish Disappointment In Chicago

Tuesday night’s “American Idol” felt like one of those “in between” episodes of “Mad Men.” You know, the ones where it takes Don Draper 40 minutes to pour himself a glass of water but you just know that something epic will happen next week? Coming off last week’s “Pants On The Ground” lovefest in Atlanta, Chicago felt like a deep-dish letdown.

Okay, I take that back. There were a few bright spots, and I’m not just talking about orange hair highlights on the girl who deadpanned, “I believe I have what it takes to become America’s next top model. I mean Idol!” (Ironically, she appeared as though she was lying. Regarding both shows.)

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Shania Twain took time out of her busy schedule of breathing in order to sit in Paula’s empty chair and play with the strings on her blouse. There weren’t many “Shania Moments” worth talking about, per se. She did admit that she once peed her pants because of nerves, so that’s got to be worth something. At the very least her hit song should be renamed “Man, I Feel Like a Woman (With Bladder Control Issues).”

Shania also inadvertently dictated fan-fiction when she told college student John Park that she liked his “bottom end,” “nice lips” and “good head.” Don’t make Kara jealous, Shania! DioGuardi’s usually the one making failed, awkward, pervy advances on contestants. (Right, Matt Giraud?)

The first audition of the night was Katelyn Epperly, who looked like Ke$ha after a blast with a hose. All “Idol” audition episodes come with sob stories, and Katelyn’s troubled past was no exception. Her parents are (gasp!) getting divorced! This was high drama for “Idol” producers, who apparently think it’s still 1958. On a side note, I look forward to the potential audience shot awkwardness between her mom and dad during the live shows. Do you think they’ll have joint custody over the cheesy “Vote for Katelyn” signs? (“You get to hold them on Tuesdays, I get to hold them on Wednesdays. Why don’t you love me anymore?”)

Katelyn performed Duffy‘s “Syrup and Honey,” to which Miss Twain responded with “Mmmm!” (Don’t laugh. That’s how Canadians automatically react to those words. Just be thankful Katelyn didn’t perform an Anne Murray song. Shania would have lost control of some, if not all, bodily functions. Again.)

It was a formidable audition, but Kara thought Katelyn should have picked a “perkier” song. And so begins the talking point surrounding Katelyn Epperly all season long (provided she makes it to the Top 24): “Be more perky!” “Pick an uptempo song!” “Too much doom and gloom!” “What’s with those hideous boots?” (Admittedly, that last comment was my own.)

There were other Hollywood-bound contestants with forced human-interest angles, too. Paige Dechausse suffered from serious asthma attacks. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much about her “A Change Is Gonna Come” because I was too distracted by the inhaler she was clutching. Seriously. The other shrug-worthy singer with a story was precocious 16-year-old Charity Vance, whose family owns a hair salon in the house and whose “Summertime” was as thin and pale as she was.

I was more stoked to see the return of Angela Martin, the girl who shares a name with the cat-obsessed ice queen from “The Office” but who shares an origin story with a character out of a Greek tragedy. She has made it to Hollywood twice before, but each time had to drop out due to unfortunate life events (ranging from court appearances to her father’s murder). Despite all this, Angela kept trucking on, saying, “I’ve seen a lot of dreams die, but I will never give up.” (Kleenex alert!)

The only thing more perfect than Angela’s song choice (Mary J. Blige‘s “Just Fine”) was her pitch. Angela’s segment ended with the triumphant singer standing next to her beaming mother as she happily sighed, “The storm is over. The storm is over.” Unfortunately, the storm wasn’t over. Angela’s mom reportedly went missing shortly after Christmas. The show hasn’t addressed this recent horrific development yet, and I dread when it does.

This episode also made me dread the impending departure of Simon Cowell. No one on reality TV has the ability to deliver one-liners without sounding scripted (like his giggly “Do you find that when you sing at home that a lot of animals turn up?” reaction to Curley Newbern‘s “This Woman’s Work” falsetto fail). And could you imagine anyone else having the following exchange with an angry contestant’s mom?

Sassy Mom: Simon, how could you say such awful things about my daughter?
Cowell: So you’re not happy with me?
SM: HELL TO THE NAW!
Cowell: I was giving your daughter good advice.
SM: I do not agree with you. I’ve always liked you but now I don’t like you anymore!
Cowell: You know you still like me.
Me: (Claps like a seal while eating Chinese takeout on couch.)

Simon, you will be missed.

I wish the producers would figure out a way to streamline these audition episodes. If only 13 Golden Tickets were handed out in Chicago, I suppose it’s fair to expect a focus on the “bad” auditions. But when those bad auditions include a girl who can’t find the right key (the horror!), an army vet who is either faking being a wackadoodle or is actually a wackadoodle and a grown man who hangs his head like Charlie Brown when his “Idol” (and steak-eating) dreams are dashed, it might be time to go back to the drawing board. Why force uninteresting, subpar auditions on us when you have talented singers in the wings?

The night’s one semi-entertaining failure came from Amy Lang (or, as she put it, “Amy Lang Amy Lang Amy Lang Amy Lang The MUSICAL”), a drama queen with a hearty crush on Seacrest who pretended to pass out before screeching through “Dr. Feelgood” (the Aretha Franklin song, not the Mötley Crüe tune of the same name). She thought she would impress the judges by showing off her patented “boob flex” maneuver, but Simon simply quipped, “They’re not going to Hollywood.”

Even Amy’s attempts weren’t as intriguing to me as a brief snippet of a dude named Keith Semple, relegated to one of those infuriating “good montage” moments towards the end of the episode. The dude looked like the lovechild between Eric Bana and Muse frontman Matt Bellamy and sounded like Bryan Adams after a Sam Adams (or eight). Sorry, Keith! I guess the only interesting thing about you is your singing ability. Call us back when your cat gets stuck in a tree or your sister becomes a professional wrestler. Until then, this is “American Idol: The Search for a Story Angle.”

What did you guys think of Chi-Town’s paltry offerings? Did the Windy City deserve its own 60-minute episode or should the producers have squeezed a couple good auditions in with another city, similar to last year’s New York/San Juan episode? Who was your fave contestant from Tuesday night? And does John Park remind you more of Adam Lambert or Paul Kim, the sixth season’s similarly husky-voiced Asian-American contestant who ruined his “Idol” chances when he performed on a semi-final show barefoot? Talk about it in the comments or tweet us @mtvnews or @jambajim.