'American Idol': It's Never Sunny in Portland

Last night's Portland auditions failed to inspire. 

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Let's just start with the Ryan Seacrest doughnut. After, what, twenty-five years? How long has this show been on? After thirty-two years of this show, we've finally gotten a Ryan Seacrest-themed baked good, or I guess fried good, and it is a doughnut and it looks like this (via AW friend Annie Barrett):

What even is that? How is that a Ryan Seacrest doughnut and not just a Guy in a Suit doughnut? My favorite thing about that is the stubble. What a weird thing to make the effort to do. Like, yes, maybe Ryan Seacrest has some stubble once in a while, but is that really what he's known for, enough to put on a doughnut that you made? I don't think "stubble" makes even the top ten list of ways to describe what Ryan Seacrest looks like. Not when you have "blonde" (yes, with the e), "shellacked," "dying Care Bear" and other far more accurate ways to describe what Ryan Seacrest looks like. The stubble on the Ryan Seacrest doughnut is really confusing. It's just such a weird little thing, so strange that that's how someone made their Ryan Seacrest doughnut. "Oh, better put the stubble on, as that's such a reliably Seacresty thing. The stubble." Weirdos all! If you're going to go on national television and say "I made a Ryan Seacrest doughnut, not just a regular man-shaped doughnut," then you need to make the doughnut look at least a little like Ryan Seacrest. Where was the sharp, brittle hair? Where was the blue electric flicker of sexual dismay in the eyes? Where is the curdled half grin that could be glee, could be remorse, could be a remembered dream about a murder at a beach house? Those are some pretty basic Seacrest attributes, far more basic, anyway, than stubble. Stubble! On a Ryan Seacrest doughnut-doll? Incorrect. Incorrect forever.

So that was the most important thing in the episode. The rest of it was a snoozemachine. We were in Portland, no not rocky brick Portland, ME, home of polar fleece-covered Subarus. We were in Portland, Oregon, beating rainy heart of a certain kind of boho dream. Portland is the kind of place where the farmers markets are as lush and verdant as the clientele's body hair. Haha, oh, god, that's an awful joke. First off, everyone has green hair? You make-a no sense. Second off, making jokes about "hippies" having lots of body hair has maybe not been funny since some crack Wayne Arnold made in 1971. Anyway, the point is that Portland is a city of abject weirdos, a terrible dreary place full of "ideas" and "thoughts" and "philosophies" that no true sour-blooded American cheeseburger-eater could ever live up to. It's a fictional place, not a utopia exactly, maybe a Dinotopia. Which means that for the purposes of Idol it should have, at least could have, been interesting. But! Twas not. Twas dull. Twas lame. Alas.

Who sang? A lady with blonde hair and a million kids, she had so many kids (she maybe had two?), sang a song about how her husband done up and left her for another woman and how that stank like turkey wine, and won't you please send her to Hollywood to help mend her broken heart. All the judges said yes and then the lady asked J.Lo how she does it, this career, while having kids? Does J.Lo ever see her kids? And J.Lo said yes, of course, they're right past that door, right there, and so is her mother, her whole family, everyone J.Lo has ever met, is just past that door, just that door right there, she promises. So the blonde lady was relieved to hear that, to hear that she could still have her family close by. Or if not her family, at least J.Lo's family. "Since winning Idol I've been on the road nonstop. It's pretty hard, but I'm thankful to have J.Lo's family close by for support." They're all there. Just past that door.

There was a sad/uplifting story about a nice woman whose nice boyfriend had a stroke and now she takes care of him. But Idol auditions were her time to take care of herself, so she let it blow in front of the judges and they all nodded their heads "Yuppp" even though she wasn't that good, was she? She was just a'ight. For me, for you. Just a'ight.

Oh, there was some girl who came in wearing a hat and glasses and Randy was like "A hat and glasses? Total nerd, will never work." But then she sang well and Randy was like "Wait, what? But she's wearing a hat. And glasess. What?" Incredulously, he asked the girl to take off her hat and glasses and when she did Randy was like "Ohhhhh OK." Remember in Jurassic Park how Sam Neill is all "The T-Rex can't see you if you don't move..." Well, that's like Randy. Randy can't see you, musically at least, if you're wearing a hat and glases. Just can't. Forget it. But once this gal took that off, hooftie, a whole musical kaleidoscope burst forth into Randy's vision and he went to his internal nice-nice place and he nodded his head and said "Yes, to Hollywood." So ol' Hatglasses is going to H-town! Will she wear her hat and glasses? There's only one way to find out. (No, not the internet. By watching the show. Sorry.)

There was a charming guy who was a refugee from Liberia, but despite his scary and tragic backstory he was all sunshiny and nice and smiley. He sang well and went through, but the judges were right, or at least I think J.Lo was right, in saying something about how they're not sure how he's going to fare when he has to sing other, more complicated things. Or something. Something along those lines. He's a charmer for sure, but I don't know that I see him doing major dino-damage in this competition. (Jurassic Park is a pretty important film, guys.)

There were a lot of failed auditions in this episode. Several nerdy guys tried and bellyflopped, their sad wheezing and sniffling filling the room with uncomfortable noise, their faces all greasy and shiny under the hot oil lamps. (Steven Tyler insists that all the lighting on the show be done with oil lamps. It's a witch thing.) And there were several girls who sang who we thought were going to be competent but then totally weren't, who all wailed in strange high-pitched ways that made the Steven Tyler witch's bones shiver and J.Lo's kids, somewhere beyond that wall, just through that door, cry with fear. Portland did indeed bring a few strangelings, weirdos who walked out of the mists of the coast to sing their watery wails and then disappear once more. Sometimes, if you're in Coos Bay late at night on a damp October night, you can hear them wailing away, singing their sad seagull songs to the rocks and the trees, to the fish hiding deep under the roiling ocean. Oregon!

And that's about it. Nothing else of note really happened. Well, of course, there was still the Ryan Seacrest doughnut to deal with. Ryan brought it back to his hotel room that night, sat on the edge of the bed with the doughnut on his lap, staring at it. Is that me? he thought. Is that me in that doughnut? He didn't have a chance to answer himself as his phone rang and it was Tim, his Tim Urban, back in Los Angeles, back in the mansion, waiting for him to come home, more desperate for Hollywood Week than maybe anyone else. "Hey," Ryan said as he answered the call. "I'm just here... About to eat myself." There was a low laugh, almost a purring sound, on the other end of the line. "Oh yeah?" Tim said. "I think you should start with the stubble."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.