ARCHIVES: American Juniors
Who will be in the youngest pop group in America?

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After two seasons of older contestants, it's the tweens' turn to take the stage. This show is a bit different than its big brother, as America will vote to put one person in a five-man group each round. One person gets "One Step Closer" to stardom, while the others must wait until next week.

Recaps by Gordon Pepper (and a few friends), GSNN

May-August 2003, Fox
Ryan Seacrest
Judges: Deborah Gibson, Gladys Knight
Creator: Simon Fuller
EP: Nigel Lythgoe, Ken Warwick
Packager: 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America

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June 3, 2003

(Heard in the FOX board room)
Since the New AI doesn't start until January, and people are making money off of our ideas we need something to keep us going and to get some credibility after that All-American Girl Debacle...I know! Let's create a talent show for kids! That has to work, doesn't it?

We'll soon find out....It's time for American Juniors! it could be entertaining to see Simon Cowell savage the kiddies - but I somehow don't see FOX stooping that low for ratings to see SImon make 8 year old Timmy weep on TV.

Fortunately for the kids, there's no Simon. Fortunately for the little female fans (and unfortunately for people who like our hosts with talent and a skill of reading off the right numbers from their notes and teleprompters), Ryan Seacrest is back.

Here's how this off-shoot of AI goes - instead of one winner, 5 winners will be selected into a band. Not the most original idea in the world (See S Club 7, S Club 7 Juniors, Popstars, and the awful awful O Town), but it's good summer filler, and heck, the kiddie boppers will be watching.

We start at 4am in Pasadena, where cars got turned away but 500 kids auditioned. We have lots of clips where the adults are far more competitive than the kids. And the dads are singing for the camera over the kids. This is exactly what I was afraid of when I saw this - I am really hoping that we see more kids and less parents later on.

The kids are graded on singing, dancing and charisma. The top people advance. If they advance, they get tickets, but if they don't, then they cry and the parents make themselves look like buffoons on national television.

Kelvin Woods starts it off - and the parents are hooked on him. Now is this really fair for me to grade kids? Of course not, but I will. He was terrible. But mom was singing along. Everyone else was snapping along to Canyon Grove (no I am not making the name up) as he was on pitch and he had a nice voice. The parents just tell him to be himself, and they will not interfere. Now those are parents that I like - and those kids who I would like to see to.

Janzia Pillman was next - and they couldn't get her off the stage. Dad says that she talks too much - like her saying that the parents don't pay her taxes. Oops.

Next up is the battling sisters - Tori Thompson and Taylor Thompson. How cruel would it be for one of them to make it and the other one to not make it? Well, this is American Juniors, so I would count on it. Tori is the girl that usually wins everything and Taylor considers herself the 'Ugly' Stepsister.

Next up is Aaron Albert, who had the personality, but not the talent. His mom was caring, and you did feel sorry for her - but you also liked the kid. Awwwwwwbarf.

We'll be showing you parents that you will not feel sorry for - but first, here come the L.A. Dancers - Chauncey Matthews is next - and he sings very well. So does Brennan Hilliard and Lyndsey Maertens and Ashley Hargrove. There is one voice that knocked me out of the box - Chantel Kohl. She has a great voice and there should be no way that she doesn't advance.

But what could turn out to be people's undoing is the 'No Parents Zone' - kids can be themselves - much to the parents chagrin. We see happy kids, and sad kids, and pissed off parents. Many pissed off parents. Ashley Hopkins is the proud parent of Rylee Hopkins - and she sang very well outside in the interview. She didn't sing nearly as well inside - but she wasn't awful and she could have gotten in. She didn't, and mom let them have it. I think that she does have a point, but I'm not a judge, so I can't intervene. Oh well.

But their loss is Tori and Taylor, Canyon, Chauncey, Chantel, Brennan, Janzia and 18 other kids gain, as they advance.

Next stop? Chattanooga, home of the choo-choo, and the bad dancing and singing of the parents. The kids are embarrassed for the parents, but the kids don't need to be embarrassed about their voices. Kaetlin Tarver does a nice 'You Can't Hurry Love', while Alex Catalani in the No Parents Zone, harps on mom for not being Italian. Huh? her mom has an out-of-body experience when she hears her sing. Huh? Anyways, voodoo kid makes it to the next round.

After hearing some rotten kids, we hear some good ones - like Morgan Burke (well, they say that he's good, though I beg to differ - just not my style of music). He can dance very very well though, and that should get him into the next round. Samantha Lacsam also gets in with a nice song of 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough.' all of the profiled kids, to no one's surprise, get in.

How will the crooners fare in Chicago? According to Ryan, not too well. Sam Daub wasn't too exciting on the booth, but he excited everyone in the No Parents Zone with him bashing Britney (she needs to get more clothing) and Eminem (he needs to be extinct). Lots of forgetting lines and mangling words.

Did I mention that we had twins? Samantha and Sasha Nelson both have nice voices, and they should get in. Ciara Farrow can sing as an 8 year old - and she had the moves. Most of the kids could dance - but not the vocal chops. Only 7 of them get in - and Ciara is not one of them - but the Nelson twins get in.

My take? Yes, it's AI Junior. A much tamer version of the show, which is not a bad thing. And the nicest thing about this? We won't be seeing any Smoking Gun reports of them holding up a liquor store. At least I hope not...

June 10, 2003

On our last episode, we hit three cities. This time around, we one more city before the finals. Before we see that, Ryan Seacrest shows us what the stage is going to look like, and we also find out that the first 10 finalists will be seen next week.

But it's on to the cities - and we conclude the opening round in New York City. The parents were competitive - but not as competitive as the kids. Jamell Hudson calls out Michael Jackson - and his moves were certainly worthy of the King of Pop's notice. Amanda Rittweger's vocals were also noteworthy - in a good way. Nicole Spiritto also seemed to have the total package in terms of performing - but would the ten year old see the west coast?

Delaney Jordan is a sweet 6 year old who was cute and quick. Much slower is 11 year old Barry Harris, who sang his own material (which isn't that bad) and then talked for a good 8 years.

Speaking of dads, they get to perform (if you call them gyrating for the cameras performing) before we get to see New Hampshire's Julie Dubella, who belts a sweet rendition of 'You're No Good'. She gets in her singing - but this competition is also about dancing, and A.J. Melendez looks like he'll get in with his feet. Going back to the voices, Casey Schuber does a nice 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'.

Then we get a montage of the lip synching dads, and dads who complain that they get robbed - but Amanda, AJ, Jamell, Julie, Nicole, Casey and 10 other people advance to the semi-finals.

And speaking of which, we're off to Carson, California for the semi-finals. Here's how it works - there's a new song called 'One Step Closer to Heaven'. The kids have to learn the song and a dance routine as well - all in one day. 'This determines who is serious and who is not.' says Ryan.

Alexis Catalani and her mom is living through her - but so far so good, as she sounds very good. Nicholas Belcher walked right out of the spotlight, while Camille forgot her lyrics - and she ran into her moms arms. That's sad. Nicole Spirito was very good though - and Jadzia, who still doesn't know when to shut up, was also very good. Lucy Hale was also strong - as was Grace Leer.

But not before we hear some more from the parents - including a return from this lady - 'If anybody is out there looking to hire, Actresses, reporters, anybody, Christine Catalani, Tampa, Florida - look me up.' Thank you, mom.

Now we go to Morgan Burke - who is very talented - but is he a group person? The feeling is no. He seems to over-perform, and that spells trouble, especially when he forgets the lyrics in the audition. Oops. Also not helping himself is Jamell, who is just not there from a lyrical standpoint.

Canyon Grove did a much better job than the guys with a solid, if not spectacular, effort. The Thompson twins (Tori and Taylor) both did well - but how cruel would it be for one of them to advance and the other one not to? And if it was the case, then it looks like Taylor would be the one going on and the beautiful Tori would be the one going home.

The kids get phone calls from Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard to calm their nerves. Of course, the shrieking bundles of energy react like you would think that they would. AwwwwwwBarf. They don't plan out any such stress relief for the adults, so they just hang out and stay, well, stressed out.

The first cuts come - and good-bye Michelle, Kyle, Miranda, Casey, Jamell and Nicholas. There are now 33 people left in the competition, including the twins, Alex, Canyon and Jadzia.

And Ryan comes out and announcer the final 20, without any segway. Huh? Here are your finalists for Week 1 - Kristina DeBarge, Grace Leer, Chauncey Matthews, Morgan Burke, Cara Lieberman, Caitlin Tarver, and Danielle White, Tyler Farrell, Julie Dubella and A.J. Melendez.

The finalists for Week 2 are the following - Mercedez Ruiz, Jordan McCoy, Quinton Caruthers, Lucy Hale, Canyon Grove, Brennan Hilliard, Lauren Klana, Chantel Kohl, Tori Thompson and Taylor Thompson.
Here's where you, the audience, comes in starting next week, the voting begins, and it's up to you to determine which kids get in - and which ones don't. Will you be getting your jollies by possibly destroying the psyche of a 10-13 year old? Sure, why not, it could be fun. The first week of ego-mutilation starts on Tuesday.

June 17, 2003

Welcome to round 1 of the finals! Ryan gives us the mini-montage of how we got here, then he gives us the rules - we have 10 finalists sing tonight, and tomorrow, 5 of them advance. Guiding them on will be American Junior's own set of judges - Gladys Knight, Justin Guarini, and Deborah Gibson! Deborah Gibson? Uhhhh....ok.

We start this shindig off with Morgan Burke, who sings 'Why Do Fools Fall in Love.' This is one of the reasons why I would love Ryan Vickers to be doing this commentary instead of me right now. Ryan and I have talked about this before - he has the nice way of being nice to people who are, shall we say, 'talent impaired', and I...well...simply don't. I pretty much savage the performances, so he is the friendly Canadian, while I am the 'ugly' American. There is no reason to be ugly in this case - he was very good, and the judges agree.

We get to see the happy parents on the side - just like we did on Most Talented Kid. Like the performance, Morgan's parents seem sweet enough, so there's no reason to dig on them....yet....

Our first female singer is Kara Lieberman, and she sings 'Hopelessly Devoted to You'. She is a little shaky pitch-wise, but she's not too bad on the ears. Deborah tells her that she needs to work on her pitch and to focus. Ok - now I understand why they brought Kara on - she is very analytical and she may be the best judge that they have. She could be a good judge on American Idol. Gladys Knight tells her to move her microphone so that it doesn't cover her face, and Justin tells her that she needs to harness her energy. We actually have three smart judges here - now where is this on the regular American Idol?

Kristinia DeBarge is up next and she sings 'Reflections'. That was a very pretty rendition of the song, and she has a very nice, blendable voice. The judges thought so too - as they thought she was shaky at first, but picked it up as she went along. Maybe it's Ryan who's nervous - he keeps sticking 'American Idol' in there instead of American Juniors.

I did not have a problem with the shuffling feet of A.J. Melendez, but what was coming out of his mouth was a shuffling mess of pitches during the original auditions. Fortunately, he picked up his game, big-time when he sang and the choreography, although less prevalent here, is still very well done. He may be the most improved idoler that bounced from the start to now. The only drawback? A.J. looks eerily related to Justin Guarini, who thinks that A.J. could be a distant cousin. EEEEEEEEEK!

Grace Leer doesn't look like anyone in particular as she sings 'To Sir With Love'. I have noticed 2 things with the junior singers which I like better than their adult counter-parts - 1. The sound better this early in the competition vs. how the adults sounded at this point, and 2. They are more sophisticated in terms of picking songs, as they pick earlier material. I mean, 'To Sir With Love'???? Which adult is going to pick that??? AND, she pulls it off very nicely, to boot.

Danielle White starts the second half of the finalists, and she sings 'Colors of the Wind'. That was a beautiful effort, too, and you voters have your work cut out for you tonight. Justin thought that it was the best performance of the night, and Gladys gives Danielle a standing ovation. I have to agree with her, it was that good.

Chauncey Matthews wants to be a Super star - or a lawyer. Super star could be a good term, as he sings 'A Whole New World' his ending at the end was ghastly, but everything up to there was smooth and blendy. Another very good effort. We haven't had any klunkers tonight.

Julie Dubella is up next, and she croons 'Rainy Days and Mondays'. She's a little shaky throughout her effort, but when she was on, she was very good. The judges likes the pure quality of her voice, and Justin says that with work, she will be better. I think the potential is there, but can she get out of this round to show it?

Tyler Scott Foehr, the guy who cartwheeled all over the place earlier, is ready to show it with 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.' His mom is into it, and he does very good, but I have to stick him in the same category with Julie and Kara in terms of people who were very good, but not as good as the others. Deborah says that FOX should give him his own sitcom if he doesn't get into it, because he has a lot of energy. Well, he does, but what is the audience thinking of?

The last performer of the evening is Katelyn Tarver. She sings 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough.' She has that soft twangy voice, and she picked a very good song to showcase it. She looks like she is having fun up there too, which helps in this song. The judges agree - and they love her high register.

So who advances? As always in this part, i have no clue. I would say that Katelyn, Morgan, A.J., Kristina and Danielle advance - but I am never good in this part (see my beginning picks at AI2 for proof of that), and it wouldn't surprise me if I don't get any of them right. We'll see how many I do get right tomorrow.

June 18, 2003

Ryan shows up telling us that the five people who get into the next round get all the toys that they want, while the five people who don't get in will never get to visit the toy store again. That's classy. But that's not as bad as Justin threatening to sing his new song. Please, mommy, make the bad singer stop.

There was no bad singing from the 10 kids from yesterday, and we get a snippet to show us of the singers. Before we get to the results, we get our first kiddie group number - 'Kids in America'. This allows the kids to be themselves - and is it just me, or do they sound much better when they do their own songs? The sound seemed not nearly as sharp, but I don't blame the kids - I blame the sounding equipment, because it sounds very muffled, like only half of them are singing (ok Chico, I officially will go with the they mute the mikes of the eliminated theory).

Ryan says that we'll come back when we find out who's the best. Uhhh....mome to Ryan...there is not 'best' - this is supposed to be a GROUP competition. The top 5 get in, remember? But they can apparently all sing better than the people in the 'From Kelly to Justin' movie. That looks like a big dog with fleas, doesn't it?

We get rewarded by having to sit through the insidious movie clip by starting to find out who advances. Unlike the regular Idol, Ryan does a recap of all of the singers first, then he starts announcing names. After counting the votes of millions of votes, the first winner is - A.J. Melendez! He goes nuts, as does his family. Next up is...Danielle White (and her lucky little Ruben Teddy Bear). Morgan Burke is next, followed by Katelyn Tarver. The last singer is...well, we won't see that next, because of course, we get a commercial break.

And now back from the break, we find out that the winner is - well we don't find that out either, because we hear from the judges, who all give the traditional 'You all did an amazing job' garbage. And now the winner is...well, we're all losers, because instead of finding out the final person, we are stuck listening to Justin Guarini's new single - 'Sorry'. And I'm sorry that I have to hear it. I'm not going to be a happy person when I am stuck having to be a captive audience - especially when the song sounds like a mish-mash between 2 styles.

Ok - with that monstrosity out of the way, we will FINALLY get to hear the last person selected - and that person, who had the highest vote total - is CHAUNCEY MATTHEWS!

So I'm 4 for 5 - but I miss the person who had the most amount of votes. D'oh. Well, hopefully next week, the next ten singers will be just as good as the first ten - and hopefully we will be spared from listening to the rest of Justin's album.

June 24, 2003

We saw the first ten finalists this past week. Now we will get the next ten this week. America will get to pick 5 of them to advance to the Final Ten. Ryan were explaining how everyone was in tears after the first show. We should expect more of the same. I won't be shedding any tears until Wednesday, when I have to experience Fame again.

Back again with us are Gladys Knight and Deborah Gibson. We don't get Justin Guarini this week (Yay!) but from the Backstreet Boys, we get Nick Carter! (Boo.). We also see the return of Jordan McCoy, Lucy Hale, Quinton Caruthers, Lauren Klena, Chantel Kohl, Brennan Hillard, Mercedez Ruiz, Taylor Thompson, Canyon Grove, and Tori Thompson.

First up for the second set is Jordan McCoy. She sings 'Stupid Cupid' from 1958, and my first reaction is 'How do these kids pick these songs?' The producers have to be hand-feeding the kids these songs, because I can't imagine a kid wanting to sing this stuff. To her credit, Jordan sings it very well, but the song itself isn't something I would recommend to sing as a one-shot song to impress the audience. The judges liked her performance, and she was good - but is good enough?

It won't be good enough if the rest of the singers of a caliber like Lucy Hale, who singe Oleta Adam's 'Get Here'. Her voice is a very mature one, and she just cranked that song. A very nice job - and much better than her Fame counterpart. All of the judges thought that she was powerful, and they think that she can be a solo singer. She has to be one of the top 5.

Quinton Carruthers is next with 'You are the Sunshine of My Life.' Quentin grooves with the moves, and although his voice isn't as strong as the other 2, his choreography is much better as he does show a lot of charisma. The problem is that he could pale if he runs into 4 other powerhouses like Lucy Hale.

Speaking of 4, singe number 4 is Lauren Klena, who sings 'L-O-V-E'. She is the second strongest voice the I have heard (second to Hale), and unlike Jordan's song, this song choice was almost perfect for her vocal range. The judges disagree with me, and they say that her voice isn't mature enough yet. We'll see if the audience agrees with me or the judges.

Here is one of those powerhouses - Chantel Kohl. She blew me away in the preliminaries, and I expect nothing less from her. Chantel sings Journey's 'Open Arms' - and she does not disappoint. She powers that song out there, and I would be shocked if she didn't make the top 5 either. The judges agree with me, and we are back into unison thinking.

Brennan Hillard marks the second half of the second show. He sings 'That Thing You Do.' His voice isn't bad, but it's not as powerful as the rest of the kids. He could get in if the audience votes at least one guy into the group. He better hope that the audience votes at least one guy in - or that Canyon Grove has a bad night. If not, he's in trouble.

Mercedes Ruiz wants to go to Disneyland with Clay AIken. Uhhhhhh....ok, keep dreaming. She sings 'Can't Fight the Moonlight.' She has my same reaction as Brennan - nice voice, but she is just being outclassed by Lucy and Chantel, with Canyon and the Thompson Twins still having yet to sing. The judges like the outfit, and they think that she has the charisma - but they also think that she chose the wrong song and she is looking like a dark horse to advance.

Here comes one of the Thompson Siblings - Taylor sings 'The Shoop Shoop Song'. Her voice is not as strong as the 2 forerunners (and honestly, who is?), but she is a solid third, and she can make love to the camera a la Clay Aiken. She has the oozing charisma, and she should be in the Top 5. 'You were meant to be up there' says Gladys - and I have to agree.

Canyon Grove is described as the only natural blond in Hollywood - and he gets into trouble for constantly talking. He sings 'You've got a Friend', and he is far and away the best male talent for the evening. The vocals are a little shaky, but the girls love him, and he should move on to the next round.

Our last contestant is Tori Thompson - and yes, she's the sister of Taylor. She sings 'Let 'er Rip' from the Dixie Chicks. I can see why she gets the talent awards. Wow. That was sweet and she should be in the top three with Lucy and Chantel.

So ends the second group of 10. This one seems pretty simple in terms of Top 5. Your Top 5 should be Lucy, Chantel, Taylor, Tori and Canyon. All of them were good, but those 5 seemed to split the top up.

But I haven't been right in American Juniors - and I probably won't be right yet. Tune in tomorrow to see which ones that I screwed up miserably on.

June 26, 2003

We already have 5 safely into the Top Ten. In another 30 minutes, we will have the other 5. Joining us into inducting the other 5 people is... Gladys Knight? 'I am not Ryan Seacrest.' Thank goodness for that. That would have been real weird to explain. In addition to the 5 finalists, we will also be getting a performance from Ruben Studdard. If we get Ruben every week, Gladys can emcee the show every week.

After seeing the recap from yesterday's show, we hear the idolers do a little medley. now listen up, Fame people - THIS is how you should be running your medleys. The kiddies just trounced the Famers in terms of style and execution. And since, in the NY area, this runs at the exact time as Fame, well....bye-bye, Fame.

Let's shift the focus from Fame to Idol - and I like Gladys Knight's style. After the traditional judge's recap, we find out that the first person to go in is...Tori Thompson! No surprise there - she was outstanding. Next up - Jordan McCoy! Well, there goes my chance at a perfect record quickly - but she was ok. Chantel Kohl (no surprise) was number three - and number 4 was Lucy Hale (also no surprise). And Number 5 is....well, we know that we won't know who that is until after the break. Ha ha ha ha.

While we see Ruben reprise 'Flying Without Wings' (and man, does that toy piano and the fake drum set make that sound extroadinarily karaoke), one of 2 things is going to happen - either Taylor and Tori get separated very early in the contest, or we will have an all-girl final five.

I'll let Gladys Knight handle this one - 'Will Taylor Thompson be joining her sister Tori into the finals? Well...the answer is....yes!' Taylor is jumping up and down, the parents are jumping up and down, Tori is bawling, and chaos is reigning.

We have our final ten people, as Gladys leaves us with the following words - 'The boy Ryan will be back in these shoes...I haven't been Ryan Seacrest...I'm much better.' Goofy, but accurate, Gladys.

So that's our ten people. We'll see how we select people who get into the group - or who get knocked out from consideration - next week.

July 1, 2003

Last week, we went from 20 to 10. This week, we go from 10 to 1 - sort of. There will only be one winner tonight - and that person wins the first spot in the group of 5. The Top 10 will get 5 shots to be in the Top 5. It sounds pretty fair, doesn't it?

So how big will the group be? 'Even bigger than the tighty whities that Ruben left in his dressing room last week...anybody want them?' Yes, Ryan shows them, and yes, he gives them out. Wayyyy too much information.

We are introduced to our ten finalists - and returning judge Deborah Gibson. We have two new judges this week - one of them is Lamont Dosier, and the other one is Mary Wilson.

The music will be themed based on years. The first year is 1969. The regular Idols weren't remotely close to being born yet, let alone the junior idolers. That was the year of Woodstock, and Stevie Wonder's 'My Cherie Amour' - which today will be sung by A.J. Melendez. He does look like Just Guarini's cousin - and fortunately, he sings better than Justin. Unfortunately, they are only taking one singer tonight, and I doubt it will be him - he's good, but not blow me out of my seat sort of good.

Next up is Katelyn Tarver, and she sings 'I'll never Fall in Love Again.' Katelyn is flat right off the bat, and that's not boding well for her getting the first spot. Nothing to really say from the judges, because they are all sugary and sweet, which wouldn't be surprising, since there are kids that we are talking about.

'I Love You More Today than Yesterday.' It would be cool if that's what you were thinking, but it's what Jordon McCoy is singing. She is also solid, but she's a little pitchy in the middle, and I think that will cost her. After three singers, I haven't heard that one killer voice yet.

Chantel Kohl is next up, and she sings 'You Make Me So Very Happy.'. She makes me sort of happy, but she's pitchy and she's not as strong as I've heard her before. Well, this changes things - I would have pegged her for the first person voted in - but that could open the door for Tori Thompson, Chauncey Matthews, Lucy Hale, or...AJ? Any way, she is not ranked as my number one singer tonight - and there are 6 more to go.

Chauncey Matthews is in love with you. Really, he is. That's what he's singing. Every single song is about love. It's almost the exact same thing, same theme, same style, etc. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. While I'm being put to sleep with lounge music, I can say that Chauncey is good, he's got nice stage presence, he can make love to the camera, and he's probably the best so far this evening.

Can we have a new style of song as we start the second half of the singer? Not only do we not, we get a Clay Aiken retread of 'Build Me Up, Buttercup' from Morgan Burke. Burke had a very good start, but a very shaky middle sticks him in the runner-up section for this week. Still, he has the nice stage presence, and I could see him squeaking in the top spot if his fans show up in droves.

Change that - I don't see him squeaking him into the top spot, because Lucy Hale has the best song so far. She sings 'I'm Gonna Make You Love Me', and she did make me love her performance. Very nice job from Lucy, who I see in the group, even if she doesn't get in this time around.

And she won't if one of the remaining three people beat her. We FINALLY get a song change with Tori Thompson singing 'Bad Moon Rising'. She was not as powerful as last week, and I thought that Lucy did a better job, but her performance was so good last week that last week's effort alone could move her into first.

And the variety continues with Danielle Wright, who sings 'Good Morning Sunshine'. She's good, but I thought that Lucy had the better performance. Still, I can see her getting in too.

Finally, we hear the other Thompson - Taylor. She sings 'Proud Mary' - and she does a better job than Shannon Bex does on Fame. She's the less talented Thompson? Not tonight. She nails the song, and I can see her taking over the top spot. A very good showing from both Thompsons this week.

So who wins first place this week? Taylor, Lucy Hale, and Tori are my top 3, with Danielle fourth and Chauncey rounding up the top 5. Will any of them be the first singer selected? Or will it be one of the other 5? I guess we'll just have to tune in tomorrow and see...

July 2, 2003

For one of the ten kids, this will be the best night of their young lives. For the other nine, they just get to shrug their shoulders, because they have 4 more chances to make it the best night of their lives.

We get to see last night's clips - and then we get to hear the juniors first group production, with one of my favorite songs from 1969 - or any other year. 'Make Your Own Kind of Music.' was the song of choice - and they made their own kind of noise. Ick. I'll credit that to the sound group, which sounded very tinny, but if this is supposed to be a group, they better sound more together than what I hear, or I'm not picking up a CD.

After the group discussion, we go to Ryan, and we go back to the preliminary format - Ryan will read out everyone's name, and the people who made the Top 3 will be selected. Chantel makes the Top 3 - and Danielle, Chauncey, Katelyn and Morgan do not. Tori is also in the Top 3, and she is carried over by Chantel to the happy sofa. AJ is not in the Top 3, and neither is Jordan - so either Lucy or Taylor gets the third spot. Lucy....does not make the top 3 - but Taylor did.

Any surprises from the judges? Debbie thought that Morgan would be there, and Lamont thought that both Morgan and Danilelle would be there. ONe person that will not be there for long is Tori Thompson, where she is sent back to the finalist couch.

And the finalist is....Tamyra Gray! Well, no it isn't, but we get to see Tamyra sing 'I heard it Through the Grapevine.' So this has turned into a weekly version of Senior Idol Spotlight. She does belt the song nicely and I am still wondering how those wacky public voters put her behind (ugh) Nikki McKibbin. This could stay a weekly round robin, and as long as we don't have to hear Nikki or Josh Graycin, I'll be happy, I guess...

So we say good-bye to Tamyra, and hello to the first person into the group - Taylor Thompson. So the 'lesser' talented Thompson gets in first, eh? Interesting....

I still think that Chantel will get into the group - but not next week, where with one Thompson out of the voting line, it should be real easy for the other one to get in now. Chantel should get in for week #3 - unless Lucy beats her to it. We'll find out next week if Tori really gets in by as large of a margin as I think that she will.

July 7, 2003

One person is in - and that person is Taylor Thompson. We have 9 kids going after 4 remaining slots. I still believe that this week is the coronation week for Tori Thompson, but we see all 9 of the contestants - and the three judges. Gladys is back, and the new judge this week is none other than Brian McKnight.

Ryan spends some quality time with Taylor Thompson - who's excited that her dreams are coming true. AwwwwwBarf. Her sister is up first, and I don't see how she is not getting in this week. 'Love the One You're With' is the song - and the audience is loving her, all right. So do the judges - and I think that the other 8 singers are playing for second.

Danielle is making a decent run at second - but she is pitchy and I thought that she was stronger last week. The judges like her better than I do - but I think the judges need to add some suspense into it to try to postpone the inevitable.

Morgan is next with 'Nobody Knows Like Me'. He does a very good job, and he's pushing to be member #4 or #5. The judges think that he can be the guy to hold it together - and I have to agree. If they accept any guys, he'd be one of them. But the way that the girls are singing, that could be a big if...

Chauncey is one of the other guys who's pushing to get in. He sings 'Hey There, Lonely Girl.' That may not have been a good luck of the draw (or producer's choice), because he's very similar in style to Morgan, but Morgan (for tonight anyways) simply outsang him. Chauncey is improving, but it seems like right now, he's in 6th or 7th.

Here's one of those women who would like to make it an all-female group. Chantel Kohl (who I think gets in) will sing 'Stony End' - ad she was not as strong as she was last week, either. Still, she could sneak in this week if Tori doesn't get the groundswell that I think she'd get.

By the way, if you want results tomorrow, you're not getting them (and it's not because I'm going to Vegas) - it's because the All-Star Game will knock out tomorrow and next Tuesday's show. The results will be announced next Wednesday.

Jordan McCoy knows her "A-B-C' - and she's much better this week. I still don't like her song selection, but it's definately better than last week's squealing. A few more good songs, and she could be a dark horse for the last spot. Even the judges were impressed - but she needs to get on a roll, because I think that she's on the outside looking in.

Katelyn goes back 30 years to sing 'We've Only Just Begun'. I put Katelyn in the same boat as Jordan - but she didn't have as strong of an effort. She was also pitchy - and although that's a very hard song to nail, that's not the right song for her. If she can get better material, she can hit it up with the big guns.

A.J. Melendez will be there - at least that's what he's singing (I'll Be There) from the Jackson 5's repertoire. He;s good - but I think the other guys are better and he hasn't gotten out of the third place spot. He does have the charisma factor - which I do think is stronger than the other 2 guys, so anything's possible.

Last up is Lucy Hale, who sings 'Breaking Up is Hard To Do'. I have the same critique as Katelyn - great voice, lousy song kills her and her pitch, She is a much better singer than what we heard from her tonight, and hopefully, she will bounce back next time.

The singers as a whole were very very good tonight. That being said, it's still Tori's to lose, and I don't think that she will lose it. Tori should be the second singer - and I'll see if I'm right in 2 weeks.

July 15, 2003

After a little over a week work of vacationing and an All-Star Baseball break, we get to see which of the nine singers hit a home run with the fans. Taylor Thompson is just hanging out on the happy couch, and the good news for her is that she will have someone to hang out with. I would be guessing that her sister will be that other person.

After the mandatory recap, we get to see the American Juniors do their group song - 'Together (United We Stand, Divided We Fall)' It's either a horrible tracking job (which it isn't) or it's an equally horrible lip synching job (which it blatantly is). Well, they can't sing live, but at least it sounds decent, which I guess is better than doing it live and sounding horrific (see FAME).

Without further ado, we'll start with the singers. Katelyn remains out of the top three, but AJ gets himsel into the top three. Danielle does not make it into the top three next week, but Tori, to no one's surprise, also makes into the top three.

Lucy, Morgan and Jordan also don't make the final three - so either Chauncey or Chantel takes the third spot. Chauncey gets that third spot, and before we see who wins, we are forced to see the same tacky videos that we saw in the American Idol series. This tacky video only features Taylor doing an MTV-Style video in a Fast Food Restaurant singing 'Cheeseburgers For Me'. No, I am not making this up. This is still better than Fame, but that's like saying that chicken feet tastes better than fruitcake - not bad to everyone's tastes, but sort of tacky.

And of course, we can't have our results answered without our special guest singer. Fortunately from us, we get Brian McKnight this week. Finally, a singer that I actually like. He sings a medley of his songs, but it's not bad. The sound system doesn't really help, as all I can hear is him and the electronic soundtrack behind him. I know that there should be background instrumental work behind him, but I can't hear it that well. Why aren't they using the same excellent audio system that they used in the American Idol series?

We are done hearing Brian McKnight, and AJ will be hearing more of him talking to him next week, as he gets sent back to the couch of contenders. Either Tori or Chauncey will be advancing with Taylor. That person is......TORI THOMPSON!!!! To NO one's surprise, Tori gets in and joins her sister, and she sings an encore to finish the show.

So who's the third member of the group? It seems obvious that a male will probably be the next person in, and it seems like the race for that spot will be between AJ and Chauncey. But let's not forget the chaos theory - there's a very good chance that those votes that will not be going to Tori will be going to a female singer. Let the crooning begin.

July 21, 2003

So the Thompson twin... I mean sisters are now in the group. We will be getting someone who isn't named Thompson in this week. Who will it be?

We will find out with Deborah, Gladys and this week's new guest judge - Jordan Knight (no, no relations to Gladys). The theme this week is music from 1962 (Wha? Don't tell me that we are actually getting history lessons now. Yikes).

A.J. Melendez starts with 'The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.' Maybe one of the reasons why the ratings are going into the septic tank is because these kids are singing songs that we never heard of. I'll give the kids credit though - they are coming off very well - better than the adults in Fame (but what's new there?). As for AJ? He sounded good, but nothing that would blast myself out of my seat.

Danielle is next, and she sings from the song book of Little Eva. Danielle is doing the locomotion - and it's cute, but I don't think it's powerful enough this week. I like her moves - and she would blow most of the Fame contestants out of the water. But is that good enough for tonight?

Chantel Kohl wants be good enough with the song 'Don't Make Me Over'. Now this is a nice song - but not a good song choice for Chantel. She is good with a powerful range - and for the past 2 weeks, she hasn't been going to her strength with her power ballad work. She is very close - a good power ballad will bring her over the top.

'Mooon Riveeeeerrrr' croons Chauncey Matthews. He's been the most solid tonight and the most emotional. He picks a very good song for his vocal range and this may be the night that he joins the group. The crowd goes nuts and he gets a standing ovation. That an excellent performance and I don't think that anyone is going to match it.

And the second that I say it, Lucy Hale almost proves me wrong. She does a slam-bang version of 'Breaking Up is Hard to Do.' Lucy also picks a song that's perfect for her range and she brings the house down. The judges agree. and it may be a head-to-head race between Lucy and Chauncey for spot #3.

Singer #6 is Morgan Burke with 'Can't Help Falling in Love.' He sounds very good, but to quote Ben Stein, he's up against a bunch of 'Buzzsaws.' He may have a shot at spot #5, but I don't see him taking the next 2 spots.

Up next is the song 'Sealed With a Kiss', and the singer is Jordan McCoy. I'll say the same thing about Jordan that I said about Morgan - very nice voice, and a very good song choice - but I don't feel the passion out of her or Morgan that I did tonight from Lucy and Chauncey. I want her to belt it out and I'm not feeling it. Don't hold back!

The last singer for the evening is Katelyn Tarver, who sings 'Tell Him'. She has the opposite problem - she has the passion, but she was not on vocally this evening. She has 2 more shots at it, but she needs to be more on-pitch to have a shot - there are too many young kids who are on pitch for her to afford to be off key.

So my top 3 tonight should be more of a top 2, since I think it's Chauncey vs. Lucy all the way. I'll give AJ the third slot, due to last week's voting patterns, but it's up to the audience pattern. If they want another girl in the group, Lucy gets in. If they decide that it's time for some male representation, the spot belongs to Chauncey. We'll see what representation the audience wants tomorrow.

July 22, 2003

'Welcome to a little show we call American Juniors.' say Ryan. Well, it's a little show, because we have little people on it. But one person gets a big opportunity to join Tori and Taylor into the group.

We get the recap, the review of the judges, and a revue of 'Do You Love Me' by the Contours. Another performance better than Fame. Yes, I will keep saying it. This is the difference between the shows. PLEASE take notes.

Here we go with the kidlets. Morgan did not get selected into the top three. Lucy is next and she should have gotten into the top three. She did - but Katelyn didn't, and neither did Jordan. Danielle didn't get in either - but all of these women can come back next week and try it again.

There are three people left, and Chauncey, by process of elimination, had to have made the top three. He did, which leaves us with AJ and Chantel. The third member of our group is...Chantel, which means that AJ went down from last week. Could this mean that the male voters gave Chauncey the boost that he needed to get into the group?

We'll find out about that after a video from Tori and Taylor Thompson called 'Bring the House Down'. It was cute, and i liked it better than Harlemm Lee's finale. I also like Kimberly Clarkson's song 'Miss Independent' better than Harlemm Lee's finale, and lo and behold, there she is to sing it. Now let's do a little sound comparison on the mikes - her's sound live. The kids (on both Tuesday and Wednesday) sound like it's been in the can. Coincidence? I don't think so....of course that being said, you can hear a Kelly Clarkson backup vocal singing in the background while she is singing. Oops.

But enough Milli Vanilli speculation. It's time to send Lucy Hale back to the bench. Wha? In that case, there's no way that Chauncey isn't into the group. The person who will be going into the third slot is...CHAUNCEY MATTHEWS!!!! Chauncey is bugging out and it looks like his eyes are going to pop out of his head. Chauncey does a reprise (which is live, since you can actually hear him over the microphone) and we're out of here.

Well, well, well - it looks like we have a male in the group after all. I don't see 2 males in a row though. We get to see Chantel Vs. Lucy for the 4th spot starting next Tuesday.

July 28, 2003

We have 2/3 of the group on the happy couch. For the other 7 kids who are trying to get in, it's not do or die yet, but it's now starting to get a little crunchy as we head down the stretch.

We see the remaining 7 - and the guest judge, who is Monica. Our guest year is 1980 - and we finally get to a year that most of the community may be familiar with. We'll see if we are familiar with any of the music.

I am familiar with the first song - 'On the Radio'. We are all familiar with the first singer - Katelyn Tarver. I am also familiar with the overbearing sound system - and that still is annoying. Katelyn's performance was not annoying though - it was very solid. The problem is that solid has not been good enough to make it into the group - will solid be enough this week?

Morgan Burke wants to 'Rock With You'. Really, he does. Finally, songs that we all know. Now where was this earlier in the series instead of getting years like the 1960's? Unfortunately, Morgan is not up to par with his earlier performances, and I think that his pitch problems will cost him for this week.

Jordan McCoy is next, and she takes a song that I loved to listen to - 'Magic' - and turns it into - well, I don't really know what she turns it into because she is overpowered by the sound system. I can hear the background vocals better than I can hear the singer, and that's too bad, because I would hate to think that this contest may be determined because of a faulty audio feed. Are the people who are producing this show actually watching the playback and listening to how unbalanced the audio is to th singer's voice?

The next 80's song is 'Daydream Believer'. Wha? That is a blatant 60's song, and it's being performed by Danielle White. She is fortunate enough to sing a song that does not have any overpowering background, and she sounds very good. The would be good enough to place her into first in my book - but we haven't heard any of the power singers yet, so this is a very tentative first place that I am putting her in.

If you wish to be a power singer, you can try out for American Idol 3 THIS SUNDAY August 3 at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. A.J. Melendez thinks that he is a power singer, and he tries to show it as he sings 'Still'. He proves himself worthy of it, as his voice cuts over the background and he gets a standing ovation. Danielle's stay in the #1 spot is very short lived.

Will AJ's stay be limited by Chantel Kohl? No. She takes a huge step backwards with 'Glass in Pocket'. She picks a song that was terrible for her to sing as she struggles to hit the low notes and she's off-pitch on the high notes. The audience likes it, but she needs to find whoever is picking her songs and stuff them in the nearest dumpster. If she's the person selecting the song, she needs to get someone else to do it and she needs to stick her preferences into the dumpster.

At the beginning of the hour, I thought that Chantel would be doing battle with this woman - Lucy Hale. She's up now and she sings 'Call Me'. Now lets contrast this with Chantel. Lucy picks the absolutely perfect song for her voice - a song that she can belt and easily make herself heard. The crowd loves her too - and this time I agree with them. A beautiful effort by Lucy.

We get a new video by the three people that did get into the group - 'Sundown'. It's cheese, but it's cute cheese, and the kids usually like to eat cheese up. We get the numbers recap for the competing singers, and that's that.

I still think that Lucy gets in this week - but I believe her top competitor is not Chantel - but AJ. AJ could surprise everyone and get in this week, but if he doesn't, he is the clear favorite to get into the group in the fifth and final week. We will see who indeed takes that fourth spot in around 24 hours.

July 29, 2003

How do you know that the attendance is down on this show? When you see than only 6 million people voted on this show. Now that ain't half bad, but it pales to the 28 million on average who were voting on the adult version.

We will be getting a concert from Monica - but it's still rock and roll to the singers, who sing 'It's Still Rock and Roll to Me' from Billy Joel. The sound system is much better this evening - now where has THAT been for the duration of the show?

We have our audition places for the adult version of American Idol, which will include NYC (of course), Houston, Atlanta, and Hawaii. Nice. What may not be nice from the kids standpoint is that Simon Cowell will be here for the kids. The last night of the qualifications, and the contestant killer may be here? It sounds like a theme brewing...

The spectre of Simon may be around some of the kids - like Jordan McCoy, who doesn't make the top 3. AJ is next - and he makes the top three. Will we have 2 guys in the top 3? No - Morgan Burke does not make the top three. Katelyn doesn't make it either - but Lucy Hale does. Rounding out the Top three is Chantel.

We will find out who makes it into the group - but not before the obligatory music performance. This one is from Monica, as she sings 'So Gone' which is what I think the song should be. What an awful, awful song. The background vocals, like the vinyl scratching, are way too loud and outshadow what I can figure out to be some sort of melody line. If anyone can figure out what the melody line is of this song, please let me know. This song is the musical version of scrapple - take some elements, mash them up, and see what you come up with.

Fortunately, we will be sending someone with a better sense of song - but it will not be AJ Melendez. Whoa. I figured he was a lock for second. That seems to me like Lucy would be a lock for first, because I think that she blew Chantel away last night. America...agrees with me, as Lucy Hale takes the fourth spot into the group!

Sure, there are 6 kids left, but the final spot seems to be between AJ and Chantel. Who will grab that last spot - or will someone else come out of the woodwork to take it? We'll find out on Tuesday.

August 5, 2003

We have the last spot left - and sure enough, FOX will be milking it for all it's worth. There will be a few 'special' highlights on this show. First of all, the singer will have the other 4 people who are already into the group (Taylor, Tori, Chauncey and Lucy) singing backup (albeit synced backup). In addition, all of the songs that they are singing will be on their CD, which will hit stores on September 9. Finally, the special judge is none other than Dionne Warwick. Now THAT is a legend, along with Gladys Knight, who is also there.

Morgan Burke sings 'Bring the House Down'. Does it sound familiar? It should - the kidlets who were in the band crooned it a few weeks ago. This was usual Morgan - solid - but solid is not going to get you into the group. After getting the usual comments from the judges, Ryan talks to his brother, Alexander, who decides that he wants a piece of the action and sings 'A Deeper Love' - he has much more emotion than Morgan (which Morgan surely needs) and less pitch accuracy (which Morgan certainly doesn't need). Could he be a contestant for next year? If he works on his vocals, he could be...

The second of the 6 kidlets is Danielle White. She sings 'Never Had a Dream Come True.' This is by S Club 7 - which is another group that was created by 19 Entertainment in Britain. Anyone sensing a pattern here? It's a very nice song, and Danielle sings it nicely, with a lot of passion behind it. Now where was this weeks ago? This is the best that I've seen her, as she finally demonstrates the total package. Will it be enough? (And don't forget to buy the American Junior CD when it comes on sale on September 9).

Here comes part 1 of AJ Vs. Chantel. AJ Melendez will be singing 'Alive', ANOTHER song by blah blah blah.... If he gets in, it will be because of his charisma - not of this performance. This is not as good as his prior efforts and Danielle easily out sang him tonight. The moves are good - but I think that if it's based on just this, then he may be in third behind Danielle and Chantel.

3 down, 3 to go. Jordan McCoy sings 'You're the One.' No she isn't. Don't get me wrong - she's very good, but she is just stuck in a buzz saw of heavyweights. She is nice and sugary and sweet - and unfortunately, this is not about that. This is about standing out, and she just doesn't do it.

Chantel Kohl sings 'Sundown', which, of course, we saw a few weeks ago. Chantel was strong, but I have to say that she also finishes second tonight to Danielle. She did outperform AJ, so I still think that she is the favorite - but could she be upset by Danielle?

Our last singer to have a shot to get into the group is Katelyn Tarver, who croons out 'Have You Ever'. This is a very tough spot for her to be in - and her pitch problems is not helping her right now. She was good - but like Jordan, good is not going to cut it tonight. Like Morgan, Katelyn's sister decides to sing out 'Rock and Roll'. She sounds better than Morgan's brother, and she could be someone to look out for in the future.

What do we do with extra time? SPACE FILLER!!! We start with a montage of the Juniors at the Kid's Choice Awards. This is light, harmless fluff.

What isn't light or harmless? Our first glimpse into American Idol 3. We have singing policemen, people in strange pink outfits - and really bad singers. We won't see the really good singers until later. For the record, here are the other cities - Houston on August 13th, Atlanta on August 20th, NYC on August 25th, and Honolulu in late September (although I'm sure you Hawaiians out there who want to try out will get plenty of notice.

But we can't have American Idol without the next guest - SIMON COWELL!!! He comes out to mixed applause. Ryan - 'Who should come out to audition?' Simon 'Not the people that I've seen in that clip... each time that I run this competition, I want something better'. Simon denies any thought of him and Paula in a relationship, and he says of Pop Idol 3 'They're dreadful.'

Way to pump up your talent, Simon. We get the final list of phone numbers to call, and then we're out of here. This seems like a very easy call this week. Danielle, AJ and Chantel should be your top three, and Danielle and Chantel should be fighting for the final spot. We get to see this dragged out for 2 weeks - so we'll see you in 2 weeks for the final results.

August 12, 2003

This isn't the final episode of the season - but it's the final episode that matters. It especially matters to Morgan, AJ, Danielle, Chantel, Jordan and Katelyn - as one of them will be the last person in the group.

We open with a group piece - with the children singing 'Kids in America.' (Well, it's better than doing Prince's 'America'). Ryan recaps the obvious - and we see that we will be getting a lot of space-filler.

We start the space filler with each kid singing a track from the American Juniors CD. Morgan Burke sings 'Build Me Up, Buttercup' - and this is the most passionate that I've heard him - and the sound is much better (read - non-lip-synched). Now why didn't we get this at the beginning of the show? That question is asked to both the sound people at American Juniors and to Morgan, who does a great version of the song.

Next up - Katelyn Tarver with 'I'll Never Fall in Love Again.' Not the best that I've heard her, but like all of the kids, she does a good version of it. That reminds me - unlike the American Idol version, I haven't heard a really rotten performance from any of the kids - and I'm not saying that to be nice to the kids. they should be commended on that.

Chantel Kohl continues with 'Open Arms'. An unrestrained Chantel is a beautiful Chantel, as she gets to belt and we get to hear her strong point. If she does not make it into the group - she needs to realize that she didn't sing songs like that - and she needs to focus more on those types of songs.

Someone that we don't need to hear more of is Josh Gracin - but he is in the audience with a microphone. He said that he wouldn't have done too well on the junior show. I'm surprised that you did that well on the senior show. He gives the kids their props, and it's nice enough fluff.

We have more American Idol dates for you - Houston is August 13, Atlanta is August 20, NYC is August 25th and Hawaii is September 30th at Aloha Stadium. I wonder what 'You are the worst singer in Hawaii' sounds like in Hawaiian.

Back to the kids - Jordan McCoy croons 'I Love You More Today than Yesterday.' I give her the same comments that I have said to all of the kids - where has this sound system and the live vocals been?

Danielle White sings 'Colors of the Wind.' and she sounds great as well. This is a very interesting contrast between image and talent. Danielle outshines AJ on the singing, but AJ outpowers everyone who is left in terms of charisma.

Rounding it up is AJ Melendez singing 'I'll Be There'. AJ is a little shaky at the start, but he does recover for a solid effort. He is much better when he stays in the bottom register, and this song illustrates this. If he doesn't get in, that's why.

We wrap the singing up with a reprise of 'Kids in America' by all of the American Juniors. This is the last time that we will be seeing all of the kids together. This is also the last time that we will be seeing them all happy. We start picking off kids dreams - right after the break.

Ryan tells us that the 5 kids that don't get into the group will be getting a none-too-shabby consolation prize - a trip to Disneyland and then a 3 day trip to Las Vegas - the MGM Grand and a performance from Gladys Knight. Me thinks that the adults that will be happier than the kids will be.

We start the destruction of dreams with Morgan Burke - and he is the first person to not get in. He takes it very well. Danielle takes it very well that...she is in the Top Three! We get to see her journey in American Juniors - and then she sings another song with the group - this one is the reprise of what she sang last week - 'Never Had a Dream Come True'. Will she get her dream?

Jordan McCoy is next on the block - and she doesn't get in. She doesn't take it very well and she tears up, getting a hug from Morgan. The camera shies away from her until she composes herself, that's a tough position to be in. Chantel Kohl has no tears - yet. She is also in the top 3 and she reprises her song - 'Sundown.' Has the sun gone down on her?

The third spot goes to either AJ or Katelyn. I would be shocked if AJ, who was been in the top 3 for almost every week, does not get the last spot. I won't have to be shocked - he does get it, which means that Katelyn doesn't. We see AJ's profile while Katelyn is left twisting in the wind. It really sucks how they are not doing anything for the people who didn't get in in terms of consoling except for sticking a camera at them. AJ does his thing - which is 'Alive'. Does that describe his chances of being in the group?

We get a final thought from Deborah and Gladys - and we don't hear anything new from them except that they admire and respect them. AwwwwBarf. Ryan reads one of the people who will be going back to the not-so-happy couch - and that person is AJ Melendez. He reacts as he tries to hold back a frown. The audience gives him a big 'Awwwwwww' - and we get tears from Lucy and Chauncey.

We are now down to 2 - Danielle and Chantel. After a vote of 8.2 million people, the final person is....DANIELLE WHITE! Whoa. Danielle is jumping all over the place. Her family is stunned - and so is Chantel, who does manage a congratulations smile. Her family cries - and we have a river of tears from all around the studio.

But the show is not done yet - we get a special next week with the kids and performances by Gladys Knight, Deborah Gibson and Ruben Stoddard. We end this episode with the kids singing 'One Step Closer'. But one step to closer to what? We'll find out on the next - and last - episode.

August 19, 2003

We are here - for the musical concert of the masses!!! The performance of the decade!!! The...well, maybe not, but we are here for a cool concert to finish off the show.

We start with a silly Ryan opening (which is too stupid to go into here), and then we hear all 5 of them together in concert. They sound pretty good, actually, and from a musical standpoint, this is not a bad group. The choreography needs some work - but you're not going to buy the CD for that, so they should be ok.

A moment with the 5 finalists - Tori says that the food is better, and Chauncey is happy that he's the only guy. Taylor says that Tori bosses her around, and Danielle enjoyed the whole experience. AwwwwBarf. Speaking of Danielle, she sings 'Never Had a Dream Come True' as her reprise.

We hear a new song from the group 'Bring it All Back', which is ok, but it doesn't blow me out of my seat. We have Clay announcing his congratulations - from a screen - saying that he would be there if he wasn't on tour with everyone. That excuse sounds good now - but it wouldn't sound good in around 5 minutes.

For the first time in America, we get a duet between Chauncey and Reuben in a ridiculously hokey sequence of 'A Whole New World' - they get both of them together - although Reuben is touring with them in Florida. Right from the magic of television, we get to see this happen. Yes, it's super-cheesy, but this is the kind of cheese that the kids eat up, so it's acceptable cheese.

After Ryan gives you the audition schedule rundown for American Idol, Ryan introduces Deborah Gibson to the audience. Ryan insists that him and Deborah are an item - and Deborah rebuffs him - but she doesn't rebuff the audience as she sings her 1986 classic 'Lost in Your Eyes'. She sounds very good, and it's refreshing to see that she isn't using this to peddle a new album. She is playing the piano - and she gets all the kids around her to sing the background lyrics. That was pretty cool to see. It was nice - until Ryan JUST HAD to plug her album of Broadway hits in November. Argh.

More American Juniors videos - this one has them on a boat singing another new song from their album - 'You Are The One'. That's actually a nice song - kind of catchy. From group to solo artist - and Lucy Hale sings' Have You Ever', with the rest of the group doing background vocals. Like the last song, it's harmless enough.

Ryan introduces the other regular judge - Gladys Knight. She tells the kids to sing to their potential, then she sings 'If I Could'. Yes, she may be 783 years old, but she can still bring it. She has a nice voice and she displays it. After she sings, she performs a second song - and the kids provide the moves and singing backgrounds. 'Gladys Knight and the Pipsqueaks' jokes Ryan.

We get to see another video sequence - this time of the kidlets being interviewed on radio. They get to hear their premiere song, 'One Step Closer', on the radio. As we wrap the show - and season - to a close, the juniors sing that same song 'One Step Closer'. Ryan thanks everyone for auditioning - and he says that they will be back in January (I guess season 2 of American Juniors ain't happening this year). We end it with 'You've Got To Have Friends', as the kids bring their parents up to the stage with them to sing. AwwwwwwBleagh. We then get a video montage, and fade to black.

This show, on the coattails of American Idol, had 'Can't Miss' written all over it - so why did it? In my mind, it boils down to the fact that like Fame, the producers just didn't do their homework.

You can't blame the talent - the kids sang wonderfully - much better than their FAME counterparts. Their material did them in - the music, which was a the high point in AI, was a disaster here. The selling point should be kid songs, but instead they bring out songs that 95% of the general populace has never heard of. Add a rotten sound system to the singing, and that more than dampers any solid singing the kids bring and it's no wonder that the audience left the shoe in droves.

Is it me, or does it seem like the adults are making the kids try too hard on this with the choreography, etc.? AI worked because they let the adults be themselves and pick their own material - this seems like there are way too many adult fingerprints on this show.

Not only did other shows try - and fail - to get the premise over here, but the AI people didn't learn from their shortcomings. I tried very hard to like this show - and I'll give it a B- for the kids, who were excellent, but for a show that was a technical masterpiece with AI, it's shocking how bad and ill prepared the audio people were. Hopefully it's something that will be cleaned up once the adults are ready to reclaim the stage in 2004.


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