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Thursday, July 20, 2006

"The One" is one bad "Idol" rip-off

Partially for lack of anything else to watch and partially out of curiosity, I watched ABC’s “The One: Making a Music Star.”

Oh my, where to start.

The first question is, is it an “American Idol” rip-off? Absolutely, (although that’s slightly insulting to “Idol” to even mention them in the same sentence) but just for fun, they’ve thrown in a “Big Brother” element. The eleven contestants live together at The One Academy where they have a trainer, a stylist and the mentoring of the “experts”: Mark Hudson, a producer/songwriter who co-wrote Aerosmith’s “Livin’ on the Edge;” Andre Harrell, the former head of Motown who mentored P Diddy; and Kara DioGuardi, a singer/songwriter who has worked with Christina Aguilera and is the lead singer of Platinum Weird with Dave Stewart (The Eurythmics). Every Tuesday, the contestants perform and America votes. Then on Wednesday, the bottom three vote getters perform again. The experts vote to save one, while the contestants decide between the final two.

The show got off to a horrid start with a group performance of “Feels Like the First Time” that for some of them sounded like it was the first time they’ve ever performed anywhere. It didn’t get much better. There were plenty of audio issues (The show is live.), the arrangements were bad, the band was cheesy and the singing was never quite right. Or course, you would never have known that from listening to the experts who seemed to be watching another show—although they did make critical comments of the performances that were totally awful (They would lose all credibility if they hadn’t.). Sometimes it’s hard to hear any of their comments, though, because they’re always talking over each other. And taking notes? I guess that’s because they’re actually teaching them and not just judging them. Which reminds me. They’re not judges—as we’re told after every single contestant. They’re “experts.”

And, of course, there’s a host, George Stroumboulopoulos (It’s not nearly as hard to pronounce as it is to spell.). The way he stands on stage with his legs spread apart and his pointing to the camera, he looks like he’s doing a “Body By Jake” infomercial rather than host this show. Plus, he has no chemistry with the experts. In order to keep the show moving (and to keep them from talking over each other), he is sometimes kind of rude. He is adequate, but he could spare a little personality.

The show tried to add a little controversy with one of the contestants, Michael Cole. First, he didn’t like the judges’ song choice for him, “Drift Away” and changed it to “Devil With a Blue Dress” (Clearly he didn’t like “Drift Away” because it would’ve forced him to actually sing.). Then, Andre had to lecture him about staying up all night drinking, which only added to his bad boy vibe that the girls love.

Then, we got a look at a possible romance brewing in the house between Nick and Aubrey, who has a boyfriend. After the clip was shown, Aubrey didn’t appear to be too pleased. Did she honestly think the show wouldn’t exploit that? Interestingly, Nick sang “Let’s Get It On” but he was so wrapped up in trying to play the guitar that he totally missed it.
So the next question is, is there actually any talent on this show? I didn’t really think so, until I heard the voice of Austin Carroll. It’s Austin’s flamboyant personality that has probably kept him from being discovered up until now (He is better with makeup than I could ever hope to be.); but his voice is amazing. He reminds you of Taylor Hicks with his old soul approach. If the show does something for his career then it will have been worth the airtime.

More than anything, “The One” confirms the place of “American Idol” at the top of the talent reality shows. As bad as some of the “Idol” finalists can be, “The One” shows us they could be a whole lot worse.

“The One” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m., with the results airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.