‘Idol’ goes to the kids in the Mile High City

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    “American Idol” finished its auditions with a trip to Denver, and the Mile High City did not disappoint. There were enough “Idol” hopefuls who brought along cute little kids that it was sometimes hard to tell whether this was a singing competition or the waiting area for “SuperNanny.”

    Being a single parent has always been a great strategy for getting airtime during the audition rounds, but this season has seen a record number of hopefuls with children waiting anxiously to hear whether Mom or Dad sang well enough to impress judges Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson and the celebrity guest. It worked like a charm in Denver before the trio and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, who was back as guest judge. Either those Mommy and Me singing classes are paying off, or 19 Entertainment is looking to expand its brand by opening a series of “American Idol” daycare centers.

    ‘Law & Order: Idol Victims Unit’
    Mark Labriola looked like a cross between actor Jack Black and former “Idol” finalist Chris Sligh, and had a backstory that turned the “Idol” set into a virtual courtroom. Labriola said that as a small boy he was taken by his mother against his father’s wishes and was on the run for years, which caused Simon to grill him about the experience as if he were auditioning for Dick Wolf’s next “Law & Order” spinoff.

    Though he looked like a contestant brought on strictly for the humor value, Labriola sang well enough to earn an easy ticket to Hollywood despite the misleading first impression.

    “When you walked in, at first I got a little bit angry because I thought you were going to do something quite jokey,” Beckham said, but since she learned from the little children in the audience not to judge a book by its cover, she joined in the chorus to send him onward.

    Any child will do
    At 16, Tori Kelly didn’t have any kids of her own, so she brought in some neighbors’ kids instead to serve as her cheering section in the hallway. That and a solid vocal performance was good enough to send her to Hollywood, and it didn’t hurt that one of the girls she brought had drawn pictures of all the judges. Even a famous Hollywood reality TV star needs something to hang on their stainless steel refrigerator.

    Saved from corporations by … the corporation
    With its constant marketing muscle and product placement skills, there aren’t many shows that are more corporate than “Idol.” Maybe you think that would make Danielle Hayes an unsympathetic candidate, since she was in tears at the mere thought that she could escape her current fate of hosting karaoke and singing for corporate audiences.

    Instead Simon praised her by saying, “You’re almost broken. You may have come here just in time for us to rescue you from corporate hell.”

    Um … if she’s really looking to escape the insidious influence of corporations, perhaps the jewel of the Fox and 19 Entertainment portfolios is the last place she should be escaping to.

    Long snapper comes up short
    Beckham knows all about athletes — she’s married to one of the best, soccer star David Beckham. So you would think she’d be sympathetic to the quest of the University of Colorado long snapper, Austin Paul, in his quest to advance to the Hollywood round on “Idol.” Alas, that was not the case. The Spice Girl turned down Paul’s request to fulfill task No. 42 on his list of things to do before he dies. Maybe he should take up soccer instead and try again next year.

     

    Frequent flier
    Nicci Nix flew 14 hours from Florence, Italy, for the auditions, and when she opened her mouth for the first time, her high-pitched squeak made it seem like the effort would be wasted. But though she talked like someone with a helium addiction, she sang in a deeper voice and received a golden ticket to Hollywood. The good news is that she earned enough miles on the trip from Florence that she would have gotten a free ticket to Hollywood anyway.

    Equal opportunity offenders
    “Idol” may have been criticized for the whole Bikini Girl saga a year ago, but proved in Denver that it could be sexist toward men as well. First, Casey James was given a ticket to Hollywood only after DioGuardi and Beckham ordered him to let his hair down and take off his shirt. Then, Ty Hemmerling got a good 60 seconds of airtime dressed up as Bikini Boy. Isn’t equality grand?

    Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.