"Idol" has homecoming week

This is homecoming night for the final three "American Idol" contestant. We'll see Danny Gokey in Milwaukee and Kris Allen in Arkansas; chances are, crowds will go ga-ga.

And we'll see Adam Lambert in Los Angeles or San Diego. Hopefully, someone will notice.

Being from California sometimes seems like not having a home town at all. We sort of noticed that when Katherine McPhee returned to LA in 2006; it was the exact opposite of the civic glee that greeted Taylor Hicks in Alabama.

Maybe that's the one good thing about Allison Iraheta being undeservedly dumped last week: Had she survived, there would have been two California homecomings.

Anyway, here's the story I wrote after interviewing Iraheta, the day after she was dropped:

Allison Iraheta's final "American Idol" week was surrounded by chaos.
"That day was not going well," Iraheta said of the Tuesday events. "A lot of things were not going the way they should."
The most serious came when stage manager Debbie Williams fell from near the top of the set's massive stairs, about two hours before show time. The contestants worried -- "Deb is a friend of ours," Iraheta said -- but eventually got word that she was recovering.
After that fall, part of a stage tower collapsed and there was no chance for a final run-through. Still, Iraheta doubts performances were affected.
For her, this was a typical time. "I've been in the bottom ... so may times," she said. "I was really prepared for anything."
On Wednesday, she learned that she was through. She finished fourth for the season -- the same spot Chris Daughtry finished three years ago, before launching a string of hits. "Which is really cool for me," Iraheta said. "I'm like, 'Yeah ... maybe something will happen for me.'"
Daughtry was a guest star Wednesday. A few minutes later, Iraheta was ousted and got to sing one more time. "It was funny, because I was crying and singing a song called 'Cry Baby.'"
This strange week did bring some good for her. She was mentored by Slash, one of her guitar heroes; she also formed an alliance with Adam Lambert.
The singers got to choose their duet pairings, Iraheta said. She paired with Lambert (whose hair stylist she also borrowed) on a powerhouse song. "We're even planning on doing it on the 'Idol' tour."
With rehearsals -- for the May 20 finale and then the tour -- coming soon, Iraheta plans to stay close to the show. "I really like the classes at the 'Idol' school," she said.
Iraheta had been home-schooled and expects to take her GED exam. Then comes her career, including recording in Spanish and English; she had already won a national contest on Telemundo, a Spanish-language cable channel.
"Idol" judges praised Iraheta's singing, but one (Simon Cowell) criticized her lack of personality. There is, apparently, lots of personality to unveil. "From the minute we wake up, she makes me laugh," Megan Joy, her "Idol" roommate, said after being ousted.
Now they'll be back together on the tour, along with Lambert and seven others. The laughter can resume.


Yo, what a show

I very rarely take guidance from Megan Joy.

This, however, was a worthy exception. I watched "Yo Gabba Gabba" and kind of agreed with her.

"The second the show came out, I fell in love with it," Joy said, the day after being ousted by "American Idol" viewers. "It's just pure genius."

Well, maybe not genius, but it is pure kinda-clever-and-original.

A man strolls in with a case and pulls little figures out. They soon become people in odd costumes, bouncing aroud. This might seem way too much like "Barney" and such, except that it has a redeeming sense of irony and wit.

It also has lots of sub-categories, all of which Joy and her 2-year-old son have apparently memorized. She said she'd like to do anything on the show.

"I'd do 'Cool Tricks' or 'Super Music Friends,'" he said. "I'd do anything. I'd do the 'Dancey Dance,' anything they want me to do, I would do it. I think they're brilliant."

Someone who reached the "Idol" top-10 really should aspire to more than "Dancey Dance," of course. Still, we have to credit Joy's taste. Watching he show with a 4-year-old who provided narration and explanation, we found the whole thing to be oddly, almost perversely entertaining.

Allison is still a rock star

Allison Iraheta is an amazing show-business package. Look past the surface -- the big hair, the bigger voice and the leather jackets -- and you have someone who just turned 17, by way of 13. She's the kewpie doll of rock, Shirley Temple gone punk. And she has the voice to match the flash and flair.

Now, inexplicably, she's gone. Allison never seemed to engage the little girls with telephones. She spent a lot of time in the bottom two or three, then was bounced tonight.

Here are a few of my comments; please add yours:

1) That puts Allison at fourth, which is, of course, an honored spot. It's been the spot of Chris Daughtry and LaToya London and Tamyra Gray and LaKisha Jones and now Allison.

2) Daughtry was terrific, as usual, in his guest spot tonight. No Doubt was fine, too.

3) And Paula Abdul? She said it all with one line from the song: "I'm only here to dance." She did a dandy dance routine -- much better than most people can expect to do at age 46; we also heard some singing that she may have recorded herself, sometime previously.

4) Danny Gokey should have gone tonight, but we can't help liking the guy. There he was, mocking his own primal scream from the night before: "My own aunt muted the TV." He's a good guy, just not one of the three best singers.

5) Kris Allen? Every time we have doubts, he seems to have them, too. He flashes that wonderfully apologetic smile; little girls run to the phone.

6) Adam Lambert? This guy needs no doubts. He is THE talent of this or any season.

7) These make-up people have immense skill. One clever touch with Allison is to give her clear lipstick, contrasting perfectly with the bright hair. It's all part of her fascinating look.

8) Then why is she gone? In part, blame pageant syndrome: When people start performing so early, they never really develop a personality beyond the song. Allison was singing in public at 4, won a national Telemundo contest at 14. She has it all, except the personal backdrop to go with it.

9) But hey, the same thing was true of Diana DeGarmo and David Archuleta, both of whom made it to second place; Allison had to settle for fourth in a tough year.

10) Speaking of surprises, catch this one for a moment: This week, Constantine Maroulis received a Tony nomination for best leading actor in a musical. Yes, Constantine -- No. 6 back in the 2005 "Idol" -- is on a new Tony list that includes (in various categories) Jeff Daniels,Angela Lansbury, James Gandolfini, Jane Fonda and Stockard Channig. Life is full of odd twists. 


A fun night of ragged rock 'n' roll

This is what rock 'n' roll is supposed to be -- ragged, raw, rough and full of zest.

It was "American Idol" rock night, with an added element: Part of the set had almost crashed down before the show; as a result, no one had a run-through performance. You kind of expected it all to end with the phantom swinging down on a chandelier.

Hey, rock isn't about run-throughs. It's supposed to be fun and flawed. Here are a few of my comments, please add yours:

1) Allison Iraheta and Danny Gokey both chose shout songs. Those are ones that involve shouting the same phrase over and over. These are good songs, but they don't necessarily show off the singers.

2) Kris chose "Come Together" -- a great song for Beatles, but not one with a lot of vocal flourish.

3) Adam chose perfectly, as usual. He turned "Whole Lotta Love" into a powerhouse experience.

4) Maybe that was the world's most vibrant promo. In July, Fox has a reality show ("More to Love") that could use the song "Whole Lotta Love" as its theme. The show has a very heavy guy dating lots of heavy women. It might be the tacky side of TV reality; "Idol" is the good side.

5) Someone get me Adam's hair stylist. Adam has had a great (and different) look every week. This time, Allison borrowed that stylist and looked wonderful. Now it's my turn.

6) Oh, wait. I just looked in the mirror; I think it helps to be Allison-cute.

7) On this great-hair night, Kara DioGuardi chose to have stark, pulled-back hair. It was the wrong night to be Skeletor.

8) Still, I'll give her this: Kara actually disagreed with Randy on something. It's about time.

9) Kara also had the best observation. Kris and Danny singing "Renegade"? Actually, she said, "you're the guys who help little ladies across the street." Here were two guys who are church worship leaders, singing about renegades. It reminded me of the church picnic , a couple years ago, in which a neatly dressed, middle-aged gentleman sang "Born to Be Wild." It wasn't convincing.

10) And that brought the difference. The Kris-Danny duet was OK; the Adam-Allison one was powerhouse perfect.

11) For once, I agreed with Simon Cowell entirely: Adam lifted Allison to the safety zone.

12) I went into the night expecting that Kris and Allison would be in the bottom two, with Allison going home. Now I'm switching that: Danny will be in the bottom (for the first time) with Kris. Kris will go.

13) It will be a big night Wednesday, complete with Daughtry and No Doubt. It will be live and -- if we're lucky -- ragged. Rock 'n' roll should be.


"Wolverine": This, alas, is the start of the summer?

So at this point, Logan has fought in the Civil War, World War I, World War II and Vietnam. (He doesn't really age much; that happens sometimes in fantasy films.) He's been riddled with bullets on the beaches of D-Day and while charging a machine-gun nest. He's been executed by a firing squad. Despite it all, he's doing fine.

Now an official has a fresh offer: "I'm going to make you indestructible."

WHAT?!? Just what about this guy's history suggests fragility or destructibility.

That's one of many point when I shook my head in astonishment while watching "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which opened this weekend, billing itself as the start of the summer movie season.

Certainly, we fantasy fans can put up with lots of wild premises. We're fine with a character healing himself and living forever. What we don't like is a film that violates its own universe.

Logan (later named Wolverine) grabs a motorcycle and races away, while being blasted by zillion of bullets. Hint: Logan may be virtually unstoppable, but the motorcycle isn't. Why don't the bullets affect it?

Here are a few of my comments; please add yours:

1) Yes, the direction by Gavin Hood is slick, taut and exciting. Visually, this is a terrific movie. I just wish it had a story that made sense.

2) Hugh Jackman is an immensely talented actor. He's been superb in everything from Broadway musicals to the movie "Australia." Here, however, his character has been allowed an emotional range that goes from great anger to total rage.

3) At key times, characters swoop in to help Wolverine when least expected. One of the reasons that's unexpected is that it goes against everything we've seen about the characters so far.

4) Still, it is nice to see Taylor Kitsch, even  in a small role as Gambit. He's been terrific in "Friday Night Lights"; now he gets a flashier role.

5) Movie ratings tend to be obsessed with language and nudity, but to let violence go. Here is a brutally violent movie, one that has long, fierce fights by people with sharp claws. Still, it's only rated PG-13. Maybe that's because there's only one decapitation.

6) Recently, I was also disappointed in "Observe and Report," which starts well and then fades. But I was pleased with "Duplicity" and "Sunshine Cleaning."

7) And what about the claim that "Wolverine" is the start of the summer movie season?  That, I'm afraid, is probably true.