« Previous Post | Show Tracker Home | Next Post »

'American Idol' recap: Chris Medina shakes us out of our stupor

League_Lirola_4308 Is it over yet?

“American Idol” blew into Milwaukee in search of new talent in Wednesday night’s audition show for what felt like the looooooongest episooooooode eeeeeveerrr. Note to “Idol” producers: Two hours is too long. Fine, we’ll grant you the double-length season premiere, take your time there, you’re just getting re-established, but after that, please keep it to a tidy hour and don’t wring every bit of goodwill out of your viewers.

Last night’s episode was like chewing gum that’s flavorful enough and snaps and pops at first, but then loses all its flavor. Except, come to think of it, it actually happened in reverse, with the burst of flavor coming at the end, in the form of Chris Medina, a 26-year-old from Chicago who struck the only deep emotional chord of the evening. (Yes, there were a few other keepers; we’ll get to them in a minute.)

Medina’s story is a heartbreaker of the first order: In love with a beautiful young woman named Juliana, he proposes (we see photos of the happy, smiling young couple, then what appears to be him, down on one knee, proposing to her in the Starbucks in which she worked). The couple look forward to a bright future together, busily planning their wedding. Then, two months before the big day, Juliana has an accident that leaves her with a traumatic brain injury. The doctors didn’t expect Juliana to live, Chris tells us, but he knew she would, and he was right. He has since dedicated himself to helping her mother care for his beloved. He was only months from taking vows to stick by her “through thick and thin, till death do us part, in sickness or health, for better or for worse,” he observes, "What kind of guy would I be if I walked out when she needed me the most?"

For reasons that aren’t exactly clear, but we’ll have to trust him on, Chris thinks that, were he to earn a golden ticket to Hollywood, it would mean the world to Juliana. So we’re very relieved to learn he can sing. He does a heartfelt rendition of the Script’s “Breakeven,” impressing the judges, who immediately (oh no!) ask him to bring in his girlfriend.

Juliana, accompanied by what we assume are family members, is wheeled in, and she appears to be in worse shape than the judges maybe expected. Randy and Jennifer shake her hand and introduce themselves, formally, awkwardly, bodies held at a distance, but then Steven Tyler, who has done nothing but annoy us all episode long (I know, but it’s a girl’s right to change her mind), moves in close.

“Hi, girl, I’m Steven Tyler, I just heard your fiancé sing, and he’s so good. You know because he sings to you all the time. I could tell,” he says, moving in to give her a close hug and whisper in her ear. “That’s why he sings so good, because he sings to you.” He gives her cheek a kiss and smooths her hair, sweetly, paternally.

Randy gets back to business, letting Chris (who is now a veritable Internet sensation) know he’s made it to Hollywood, prompting us to worry a bit about Juliana, who appears confused, but then there’s jumping up and down and celebrating and we too feel pleased, joyful even, because at last, and on a moving note, the show is over.

Other moments that shook us out of our stupor:

Scotty McCreery, a 16-year-old from Garner, N.C., reminded us a little of a young Elvis Presley with his down-home country twang and sideways delivery. His performance prompted Randy to proclaim that he had “hope for America yet” and elicited some random foul nonsense from Steven Tyler, whose bleep-baiting shtick is wearing thin fast, as is his penchant for punctuating the proceedings by abruptly singing a peculiarly high note, his habit of leering at comely young female auditioners and suggesting that they could be his daughters (now we have a “dawg” and a wolf at the judging table), and his fondness for the words “baby” and “beautiful.” (Must … remember … nice moment with the girl in the wheelchair.)

And while we’re on the topic of Steven, don’t call him Steve. Jennifer Lopez learned that the hard way.

Actually, you know what? If I don’t speed this up, reading this recap will take as long as watching the show. To prevent that, let me just say I really liked Naima Adedapo, who has spent years cleaning toilets at a concert hall and dreamed of being onstage; Jerome Bell, who apparently traveled all the way from New York to sing a Marvin Gaye song; and Thia Megia, who sang Adele’s “Chasing Pavements” and has reportedly competed on a TV talent show before (“America’s Got Talent,” in which she was a semifinalist). Tiwan Strong was probably my favorite of the evening, and we got a sense of what he was hoping to leave behind when one of the people he’d brought along with him totally stomped on his big moment by dramatically getting a leg cramp and leaning on a highly amused Ryan Seacrest for support. “We got a charley horse here,” he kept saying.

We’re sorry to admit that, though Harvard graduate and White House intern Molly DeWolf Swensen has a lovely, smoky voice and plenty of charm (post-audition smug smile notwithstanding), we do not wish her continued “Idol” success. Here is a young woman who clearly can have pretty much anything she wants. It would seem horribly unfair for her to snatch the “Idol” dream away from someone for whom a shot at “Idol,” and all that it brings, represents their only real hope to bust out of whatever life they’re stuck in. I know, it’s a talent contest. But as Chris Medina’s instant Internet fame attests, it’s also much more.

We’re posting a bunch of videos below so you can judge the performances for yourself. And let us know what you thought of the episode in the comments section: Too sad? Too strange (the civil war re-enactor with the dad who is NOT a hippie)? Too long? Should the producers have trimmed the radio-voice guy and the Packers fan segments to the size of the guy with the giant toothbrush? Weigh in.

-- Amy Reiter


Chris Medina:


Naima Adedapo:


Thia Megia:



Molly DeWolf Swensen:


Tiwan Strong


Thia Megia on "America’s Got Talent"

Photo: Megan Frazier, 20 from Green Bay, Wisc. performs in front of the judges on Wednesday, Jan. 26 on Fox's "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Fox.

Comments () | Archives (15)

Note to Amy, I believe it was videos, not photos, of him on his knee proposing. I thought they had it just right last night, all the way from the kooky stuff to the touching end-of-show story about Medina.

"Steven Tyler, who has done nothing but annoy us all episode long"

Speak for yourself, sister. He's the best thing on the show so far. He keeps me and my 11-year-old smiling and laughing; he's quite entertaining for us!

What is your problem? Relax and take a deep breath, it's just a tv show.
I have issue with you and Juliana with TBI because you have no idea what you are talking about. Some people with TBI have more commen sense and know what it going on around them then people who say they are normal.
My husband is deceased now but he also had TBI and was paralized.
If Chris does go further in the competetion I am sure it would mean a lot to her even more so for him. Why wouldn't it.?
Do a little reasearch before you write. Divorce rate is very high with couples who are in this situation. One person with TBI and the other ends up being the caregiver. Let him stay with her for as long as he wants to and not make him feel guilty for not staying because unless you have a great support system it won't work. It can be a very stressful situation to be in.
I don't think he is using her for sympathy votes perhaps it's simply true, he loves her, no matter what.

From where I sit, the singers featured in this piece are just more members of the dime-a-dozen club. But my biggest complaint by far is having to sit through the ad at the beginning of each clip. I turn my sound off and read something else for the length of each sponsor spot, but I detest having to do that.

My initial plan was to wait until the show gets to Hollywood to start watching, but now I'm thinking seriously of waiting all the way to the top 25 or whatever they call it. I've read that the judges have had trouble saying 'no' and have sent a lot of so-so singers through.

I loved the show last night!!!
I have a new love in my life, Steven Tyler! I think heis a great judge. He has a big heart and he knows all about the music. Randy is still Randy, which is a good thing. Jennifer is hanging in there. The talents were good, the show was great!

It's unfortunate that the Times couldn't find someone who actually enjoys American Idol to write the recaps.

the high point was juliana holding up the golden ticket.

Why do you have such a problem with Steven Tyler? I have always been an Aerosmith fan and think he has a ton of talent, but even I were not, he is very charming and obviously has a big heart to go along with it. I don't think he makes any more references to women than Simon ever did....and even if he does, he is a freaking Rock Star! hello? he has more groupies knocking at his door than Bill Gates has dollars. He doesn't need to get girls by judging a talent show.

I wasn't sure I was going to like the new American Idol and was considering not watching it, but it was surprisingly good with J-Lo and Steven as judges. Granted, some of the things they do are very predictable...like you always know who is getting a golden ticket because they give a lot of their backstory. But how original are they gonna be able to make it? It is what it is...

WOW....awesome. GREAT LUCK CHRIS ! I will be pulling for you!

"Steven Tyler, who has done nothing but annoy us all episode long"

Amy, Speak for Yourself! Tyler is a Hoot and has made the early rounds of Idol funny. I will agree he needs to resist leering at the under aged girls, but he isn't the first to leer at female contestants. Simon was leering His very first season. Remember Christina Christian?!? Simon needed a bib every time she sang in front of him. It was creepy. Bottom line, Steven Tyler's sayings and bleeping outbursts have been very entertaining. He may have to tone it down a little for the Live shows though, or force Fox to put him on a 5-second delay so they can bleep where necessary... but that will still be entertaining.

And I enjoyed the two hour show last night. They had plenty to fill it with, allowing us to see a few of the train wrecks and hear more of the great talent that auditioned in Milwaukee.

Quit being such a negative Nancy, girl! Did you make a bad prediction that the new season and judges were going to be a bust, so you need to prove it by writing negative reviews? Simply admit to your mistake and Enjoy the new season with the Rest of us!

Hmm. We totally disagree with Amy! The new judges (including Randy, who not only seems new, but provides much enhanced commentary) are intelligent, experienced, empathetic, and lots of fun. As for Steven Tyler, he brings good old rock'n'roll sensibility to the entire endeavor. He is very funny and, let's face it, an ICON. Jennifer is so beautiful in every way, that it is a pure pleasure to see and hear her.

Yikes! You are way off on the new judges. Steven Tyler is the best reason to watch the entire two hours! He is just great. I hope he stays himself and doesn't become too scripted in this thing. I actually think he is the surprise find of the season!!

I have to agree with everyone here, Steven Tyler is the best thing about Idol at the moment.

A lot of people will smirk at the exploitation of the tragedy of Juliana and Chris. It will get played for all it is worth, just like Danny from last year.

But the true tragedy of the situation is people will never realize the horror Juliana's family must go through to take care of her day after grinding day. I assume that she is being taken care of at home from the videos. You put up a brave face to the world, but the total pain and exhaustion you feel when you are alone can absolutely crush the human spirit. I will never understand how God can let something like this happen to decent people.

We are a silly world taking the wrong things too seriously and giving too attention to things not deserving,

If seeing something like this doesn't make you thankful for what you have, this world is in even bigger trouble then I think it is.

I hope that Juliana is not in pain and that life will get easier for her family and Chris.

I don't know who this Amy is, but I agree with most of the posters here: get someone who enjoys AI to review AI. I thought Weds. show was amazing, with lots of really good singers. Where have they all been? I guess the scouts really got out there to encourage not just the kooks and kinda good singers but REALLY good singers to come out and audition. At least five of the night's singers could have beaten anyone from last season, with the exception of Crystal when she was on her game. And that's just one night.

Re: Steven Tyler - I like how both he and Jennifer are really right on in their appraisals and honest with the singers, like with the young girls who were just not ready yet. But yeah, some of his leering comments are too much. "You look like one of my..." what? groupies? daughters? what? I think he'd better watch out because I see a contestant scandal in his future...

And I think Chris Medina's fiancee did enjoy the moment--she was holding up the ticket and pumping it, and must be so happy that he can have his moment.


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: