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January 16, 2008
Idol Chatter: What happens in Philly...


Opening night of "American Idol", Season 7, had the usual bag of tricks: freaks, geeks, overly confident bad singers and, hey, even a few melodic voices thrown in for good measure.

What I couldn't believe? That more than 100,000 hopefuls showed up in Philadelphia for a shot at the crown! Now, only a smattering of those got through to the three judges over the course of two days. But still, 100,000?

Despite the turnout, viewers didn't quite turn out as anticipated. According to the Associated Press, an estimated 33.2 million tuned in to Tuesday night's debut - 4 million less than last season. Nevertheless, juggernaut that it is, "American Idol" was still the most-watched show of the TV season -
excluding sports, of course.

The show played out pretty much like it always does, opening with a success story - Joey Catalano - who lost a ton of weight but gained a yellow ticket to Hollywood with a pretty good Maroon 5 cover.

After him, things got a little hairy, literally, and a little uncomfortable. For those who missed it - or just want to re-live it - here's my recap:

* Most embarrassing: Tour guide James Lewis, whose "Go Down Moses" was laughed off by judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. Simon Cowell managed to chew on a pen most of the time.

* Most sincere flop: Temptress Browne, 16, who auditioned while her sick mother waited outside the audition room with the rest of the family. Temptress couldn't handle her Jennifer Hudson song and was reduced to tears. In what seemed like a genuine act of kindness, the three judges dried her tears, gave her a group hug and walked her out to her family, telling them "what a beautiful daughter they had raised."

* Most wacky: Easy. Dubbed "Philly's scariest woman," Alexis Cohen, 23, was glittery and reeked of incense (according to host Ryan Seacrest). Other than being a lot left of center, Alexis got through her rendition of "Somebody To Love" and left with the suggestion that she join a '60s cover band. OK. But, somewhere between getting the boot and being shown the door, Alexis lost it - dropping F-bombs, flipping fingers, attempting an illegal mooning, and vowing to "go for actressing" after her failed attempt at singing.

* Most hair-raising: Hands - and hair - down, it was Ben Haar (pictured), who showed up in a fur cape with some sort of Princess Leia, sultan-like get-up underneath. Instead of just having him go home with some dignity, Paula suggested Ben leave, have his chest hair waxed and come back. So, of course, viewers had to see the hair removal (ouch!) and Ben's return, hairless, but with a body that was – shall we say? - a tad over-exposed to the American public.

* Most likely to win: There were several. I liked Kristy Lee Cook (horse trainer, martial arts guru) from Selma, Ore., and Chris Watson, 20, of Dover, Del. He sang "Follow Me" and easily could have been just as successful on that other reality show, "Make Me a Supermodel."

Out of the whole lot, only 29 contestants made it through to Hollywood, not including any of the "Star Wars" types. Next up? Tonight, "Idol" takes the audition bus to Dallas. I'm sure there will be plenty of bull to go around. Maybe even some more talent. Tune in at 8 on Channel 40.

Your thoughts? Send them to 21Q!

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