Idol: Top 13 Guys

The first live show is finally upon us! It was filled with useless banter and irresponsible praise from the judges (not that we expected anything more) but the show itself was actually pretty great, with a couple of exceptions.

First, say hi to my dear friend Anna who will be making appearances on my AI posts. Our Idol journey together began from almost the very beginning, during the tail end of the first season in the fall of 2002. We even road tripped to Cleveland to see the first American Idol Live Tour (we got lost and missed half the show). Who knew that after fate brought us together as college roommates, we'd still be sharing notes on this show?

But I digress. Let's start with the duds.

  • Chase Likens ("Storm Warning")
    I feel bad. Is this the first time we've really heard this guy sing? I'm afraid it might be the only time we hear him sing. Was he really the best male country singer they saw during auditions? Or did they want to make sure they would have someone other than a Scotty McCreery clone win this year?

    "This is where I started taking notes. Did you notice that double-stomp twist move he did at the end of his song? I laughed out loud and wondered if he choreographed that. It was awkward and endearing at the same time. I don't think he has a chance of getting through." -- Anna

  • Eben Franckewitz ("Set Fire To The Rain")
    Umm, yikes. The good news is, this was the only truly awful performance of the night. The bad news is, I wish I could be more sure that this is the end of Eben's Idol run. I didn't think he deserved to be in the Top 13 before, and his performance most definitely did not change my mind. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that the youth of America won't send him through. Sigh.
  • Deandre Brackensick ("Reasons")
    He has a very cool voice and that high note was impressive (as was his early '90s Mariah hair) and his different-ness makes him interesting- but his different-ness might also keep him from moving on. Deandre is one to keep an eye on, but I think his best shot at continuing on in the competition will be via a wild card spot.


  • Adam Brock ("Think")
    Speaking of personal grudges... there was only one thing wrong with Adam's performance: the Terrible Towel in his back pocket. That does it for me. Not a fan.
  • Aaron Marcellus ("Never Can Say Goodbye")
    I really enjoyed Aaron's performance (and consequently had this song stuck in my head for the rest of the night) but I think the combination of his lack of screen time and being stuck in the middle of the group is going to end his Idol run. His best chance of making it in is if J-Lo makes him her wild card selection, but I don't see that happening.
  • Creighton Fraker ("True Colors")
    I always end up liking Creighton more than I expect to. While he showed tendencies to over-sing in the earlier rounds, he proved that he could show restraint at times as well. I would really to hear more from him, but Anna and I don't see America connecting with him and doubt he'll get the opportunity to continue.

  • Heejun Han ("Angels")
    Fist, an example of how personality (and lots of camera time) can guarantee a good run on the show. This wasn't Heejun's best performance, and he's not one of the strongest vocalists of the group either- but he's good enough. I expect he'll have a pretty decent run on the show, outlasting some better vocalists, but perhaps for the first time in Idol history, I won't care.
  • Reed Grimm ("Moves Like Jagger")
    Next, an example of how personality can be a total turn-off. We get it, judges. He's jazzy like Casey and can play instruments like Casey... but I'm just not finding him anywhere near as likeable as Casey. In fact, I texted Anna after his performance to see if I was the only one irritated by his apparent cockiness. Her response:

  • Jermaine Jones ("Dance With My Father")
    YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. How am I not writing about Johnny Keyser in this space? My utter disappointment may keep me from fairly critiquing his performance. I'm not saying the guy isn't a great singer- he is- but he's never going to win this show, and that's why I just don't understand why they'd bring him back the way they did. I think the judges have to waste a wild card spot on him just to save face.

  • Colton Dixon ("Decode")
    Anna's favorite was also one of my early faves going into tonight's episode, and I loved how his song started with just vocals and him on piano. I'm a little uncertain on his personality though and fear he may eventually move into James Durbin territory (that's not a compliment coming from me) but I am hoping for the best.
  • Jeremy Rosado ("Gravity")
    This performance was easily one of the best of the night, but I feel uneasy about his chances of moving on. He had a decent amount of TV time during the early rounds and was always shown extremely favorably- who couldn't love the guy who loves everyone else?- but his presence is so gentle and unassuming that I worry he will be overlooked by voters. 
  • Phillip Phillips ("In The Air Tonight")
    Phillip is the only lock for being voted on to the Top 13. My David Cook loving heart just can't get enough of this guy either. Hey, was anyone else amused that Phillip Phillips chose to sing another Phil's song? Not so much? Just me? But seriously: he's gotta win this whole thing. Love. 
  • Joshua Ledet ("You Pulled Me Through")
    Mantasia is an awful nickname and should never, ever be repeated again BECAUSE JOSH IS SO GOOD. So good. I suspect that his picking a Jennifer Hudson song is foreshadowing a similar fate- a too early departure over less deserving contestants- but we'll surely be treated to several more weeks of his spectacular vocals.

  1. Phillip Phillips
  2. Joshua Ledet
  3. Colton Dixon
  4. Creighton Fraker
  5. Heejun Han (over Jeremy)

  1. Phillip Phillips
  2. Joshua Ledet
  3. Colton Dixon
  4. Heejun Han
  5. One of Eben/Chase/Jermaine because someone who shouldn't always makes it through. Jeremy and Deandre (and Jermaine?) are top contenders for a wild card selection.

Too Much Linsanity

Linsanity has finally gone too far.

First, there was the rookie card that sold for a mere $21,580.

I mean, OK. That is a lot of money. But it's not the first time someone has chosen to drop that kind of cash on a graded, autographed, jersey patch rookie card instead of trying really, really hard to find something else to spend it on.
But now, there's this.


Seriously, people? Have you no shame?!

The posting has THANKFULLY been removed, but apparently the seller explained in the description how he happened to obtain the undies (the grammatical errors are his, not mine):

"My brothers friend went to Harvard and was in the same dorm, got his boxers from the dryer on accident. Got them from him for $100 because hes stupid. Buy now and these could be worth alot in the future."


Handsome Men's Club

Jimmy Kimmel is funny. I know that, yet for some reason I have never been able to get into the habit of watching his late night show. Having said that, the one night I haven't missed is his post-Academy Awards special, complete with star-studded surprises.

Last night, Jimmy premiered a trailer for MOVIE: The Movie.

And last year, he revealed how Hollywood actresses stay in such great shape:

But those two clips are nothing compared to what he put together two years ago. This might not only be my ALL-TIME FAVORITE Jimmy Kimmel clip, but it just might be my ALL-TIME FAVORITE video clip of all-time.


But on a serious note... Josh Hartnett, where have you gone? I miss you.

Teen Blogger Scoops Everyone

Proving once again that it's not what you know but who you know, a 16-year-old blogger named Curt Hogg broke the news about Ryan Braun's PED case being mishandled nine- NINE- whole days before actual real life journalists who have dedicated their lives to covering baseball. 

This blows my mind. It's that classic tale of knowing someone who knew someone who might know something. And this isn't some run-of-the-mill, heard-it-before kind of story either. Not only is Ryan Braun winning his appeal the biggest story of this off-season, but it's arguably one of the biggest stories of the post-steroid era. It's kind of a big deal. 

Lucky break? Maybe, but Curt's blog is actually very well-written. One story doesn't make an entire career, but it seems that he's off to a pretty decent start.

American Idol's "Big Twist"

American Idol finally revealed its Top 24 yesterday... except, wowza!, it's actually going to be a Top 25! But who is Lucky Guy #13?

Could it be?

Is Johnny Keyser returning???

I find myself confused about whether I'm actually a big Johnny fan, or if I'm just so bewildered about his sudden, unexplained departure on the show that I'm finding myself obsessing over him like an unsolved mystery.

Through the process of elimination, I've decided this last spot has to go to Johnny. Nothing against Jermaine Jones, but I just don't see anyone other than his momma getting that excited about him making a surprise return (although I'd rather have him in the competition than say, Eben Franckewitz). Cowboy Guy is thrown into the mix just to piss us all off. It has to be between Johnny and David Leathers Jr., who isn't exactly my cup of tea but seems to be an early fan favorite and was the last contestant eliminated.

What, you think it's unfair if Johnny gets a free pass into the live shows without making it all the way through the Vegas rounds? Right, because these reality shows (and, well, reality) are always all about fairness. This is the only explanation for his sudden elimination after the constant replaying of J-Lo telling him, "you know you're gonna be a star, right?!"

I usually avoid American Idol spoilers like the plague, but if this result is leaked, I don't think I'll be able to resist this time. I NEED TO KNOW. 

Speaking of mysteries... why has the show been hiding the return of Hollie Cavanagh from us? They smothered us with talk of other contestants returning (Colton Dixon, Aaron Marcellus, Baylie Brown) but there isn't a single mention of Hollie Cavanagh till the very end of last night's show? 

Sigh. I don't get it. Uncle Nigel, why must you confuse me like this!

Anxiety Girl!

via Natalie Dee

Once upon a time, I was accused of being this girl by someone I respected. And you know what happened? I didn't question it. I accepted it as the truth. I became that girl.

Looking back, that was the point when everything changed for me. I wasn't Anxiety Girl before. This person, for some reason, turned me into her. And once you become Anxiety Girl, it's hard to turn back. It snowballs into something bigger, and before you know it, you lose your positive outlook on life. Instead of waking up each day and expecting greatness, you think to yourself, great, can't wait to see what goes wrong this time.

via Pippin + Pearl

I hate that I let a comment from someone who I now realize didn't understand me at all affect me so much. I hate it. But I have come to realize that I can either continue to beat myself up for it, continue to dwell on it, and continue to be Anxiety Girl- the first You illustrated above- or I can take a deep breath and just LET IT GO.

So I'm hanging up my Anxiety Girl cape. I'm going to let it go. 

I want to be the second You. That's who I used to be, and that's who I can and will be again.

Which You are you?

Taylor & Zac's Little Duet

I already Tweeted about this and posted it on my Facebook page, but it's not enough. I have to share this here too. I love it that much.

The only thing I like more than Zac Efron is Singing Zac Efron. This little video clip fills me with the kind of giddiness I got from the first season of Glee that sadly hasn't quite been there since then (but that's another story- and for the record, I still adore Glee, just not as much as I once did). Dating or not, Taylor and Zac actually sound pretty amazing together.

So, as the trailer for The Lucky One reveals, young Zefron is all grown up. I don't know if I could possibly like him more than I did in High School Musical Hairspray, but I kind of look forward to seeing him in his first mature role.

P.S. If you're wondering about T-Swift's hiding-in-the-bathroom reference, check out this video for a good laugh.

Take time to dream.

I told you about my new hobby. Here's another print I made for myself that features a quote I stumbled upon recently. 

I'm not usually a big quote person, but this one really spoke to me with where I am in my life right now. It reassures me that I made the right decision to walk away from an unhappy (yet financially stable) situation, and reminds me that it's OK to be spending my free time right now exploring different hobbies and figuring out what I really want to be doing day in and day out. 

We get swept up on a path, from high school to college to internships and jobs, that it's so easy to one day find yourself doing something- while it seemed like the right or even best idea at the time- that just isn't you.

I have this print hanging by my desk, where I'll see it every day. I'm determined to get it right this time.

My New Hobby

My new hobby- not that I needed another one- is creating my own artwork in Photoshop. I recently started taking a graphic design class and was feeling inspired.

I had found some similar pieces on Etsy, but they weren't necessarily exactly what I wanted. I was also convinced it was a project I could take on myself- especially since I've been wanting to work on my Photoshop skills. This is such a fun hobby for that very reason (and why I got into jewelry making, too)- if you're sick of not being able to find exactly what you want, just make it yourself! The possibilities are literally endless.

While I don't plan on selling my Notre Dame series since they aren't totally original ideas, I may test out some pieces inspired by pop culture soon.

What do you guys think?

I just can't help it.

I recently went on about how much I love American Idol and claimed that there was no way The Voice could win me over.

Well, I lied.

I just cannot resist The Voice. The blind auditions are exciting, scintillating, tantalizing. They are everything the first round of Idol auditions are not.

And the judges? Love them. Their critiques actually make sense, their constructive criticism is exactly that, and they are funny. They make me literally laugh out loud (in fact, I'm pretty sure I laughed more in the first half-hour of the first episode than I have during the entire season of The Office thus far). Most of all, they seem to be having so much fun. I get a kick out of that.

This audition and its subsequent judge-squabbling, in a nutshell, sums up why I can no longer feign disinterest in The Voice.

Last year, I lost interest in the competition as the season went on, so we'll see how my second attempt at this relationship goes. I probably will still rely on my DVR or OnDemand to watch this show, but I definitely raise my white flag. I have to keep watching.

On a semi-related note, I have two other topics to discuss:
  1. Simon Cowell wants the champs from American Idol, The X-Factor, and The Voice to have a little competition of their own to crown an ultimate champion. I love the idea, but I can't imagine it would ever actually happen. Hey, does anyone remember World Idol?

  2. American Idol's Top 42: What the heck happened to Johnny Keyser? I thought he was the closest thing to a lock for the live shows. During the last round in Vegas, instead of his group's performance, all we saw was them lounging in the hot tub talking about how confident they were... and that should probably tell me everything I need to know, but since it never crossed my mind that he would be eliminated already, I'm having trouble letting go! I just can't imagine that the likes of "Cowboy Guy" Richie Law (who, if he lasts much longer, is going to be a serious contender for my all-time Bottom 5) or the Bieber-wannabe Eben Franckewicz were seriously better than Johnny. Right!?
Oh well. Maybe we'll see Johnny on the third season of The Voice?

TV You Should Be Watching: Shameless

I almost missed the boat on Shameless. In fact, I didn't know anything about it until Showtime started promoting the show surrounding new episodes of its shining star, Dexter. It looked funny enough, the entire first season was available OnDemand, and with Dexter and Homeland reaching their season finales, I was prepared to embark on a new show.

And I'm so glad I did.

Sundays at 9PM on Showtime

Here are three reasons why I love this show and why you should be watching too.

The Gallaghers
Maybe it's because I'm an only child, but I can't get enough of this family dynamic. Thanks to their absent mother and perma-drunk father Frank, eldest daughter Fiona is left with no choice but to take on the responsibility of caring for her five siblings, each with very distinct personalities and quirks. There's the extremely intelligent but misguided Lip; Ian, who may have a few secrets; Debbie, who is 12-going-on-40; young troublemaker Carl; and 2-year-old Liam, who may or may not really be Frank's. No matter what kind of trouble they find themselves in, they always have each others' backs- and I find that fascinating.

It's brilliantly acted
William H. Macy, who somehow keeps the truly despicable Frank from becoming completely unlikeable, Emmy Rossum as Fiona, and Joan Cusack as an agoraphobic housewife lead a talented group of actors. With something like 11 regulars, it would be easy for someone to get lost amongst this widespread ensemble cast, but somehow it all works out. As far as I'm concerned, Emma Kenney's Debbie steals every scene she is in. These cast members are committed to their characters and make for a believable family, which is the only reason why we can put up with their antics.

It's shamelessly outrageous
I love a good play on words, but this show has some truly off-the-wall moments. I don't know how many times I've shaken my head at their shenanigans. "Borrowing" a woman with dementia to act as their great-aunt who owns their house (who actually overdosed on cocaine and is buried in their yard)? Dealing weed and booze to kids out of an old ice cream truck? Proposing to a dying woman in hopes of receiving her pension, going as far as blocking a heart transplant? Some may feel that these stunts are cheap laughs, but within the narrative, as ridiculous as it is, it's still believable. So their moral compass is a little off- they're just doing what it takes to survive in their world.

Sold? You should be. Catch up and tune in, Sundays at 9PM on Showtime. What else would you be doing during Dexter's vacated time slot anyway?

Gadget I Love: My Keurig

This past Black Friday, after mulling over the decision for at least the previous year, I finally pulled the trigger and purchased my own Keurig brewer.

My Keurig in action

Best. Purchase. Ever.

Not to get all dramatic, but I honestly don't know how I ever lived without it. Like many of you, my morning coffee is my anchor. I need it before I can move on with the rest of my day. Without it, I'm a lost cause.

I am not terribly handy in the kitchen, and that extends to making coffee. For years I struggled with trying to brew my own pot, never able to get it just right. Some mornings, I would drag myself to the nearest coffee shop, spending way too much money over the long haul- and time, since of course I'd have to get ready before allowing myself to be visible to the outside world. On those rare occasions I actually succeeded in making a drinkable pot, part of it would go to waste, as I was the only one drinking it (and as much as I love my coffee, I know when to call it quits for the day).

But that's all in the past now. I can go to bed knowing that a perfectly brewed cup of coffee is just a press of a button away when I wake up in the morning. Sweet dreams, indeed.

Via Etsy (Gayana)

My only dilemma now is that Keurig just debuted a brand new product called the Vue. That just figures, doesn't it (you bought the wrong TV, sillyhead!). But it's OK- I am more than happy with the Keurig brewer I have, and along with my Green Mountain Iced Vanilla Coffee K-cup, we have a bright and happy future ahead of us.

So this is what I'm trying to tell you: if you agree with me that coffee is a necessity and the kitchen isn't exactly your favorite room in the house, get a Keurig. You won't regret it. 

I am not being paid for this post. I just really, really love my Keurig.

What Makes My Irish Eyes Smile

Yesterday, ESPN's Notre Dame Football Blog posted a compilation of responses to the question "What you love about Notre Dame." It got me thinking about my own reasons- and reminded me of this piece I wrote several years ago. 

This was written on June 23, 2004, the summer before my junior year at Notre Dame.

A written explanation doesn’t do the Notre Dame football experience justice, but I’m going to try anyway.

Much to my chagrin, even after two exultant years I still have people questioning my decision to attend the University of Notre Dame. This is not exactly the irreverence I may be making it sound like, as I do hail from an extremely liberal hometown, and perhaps more significantly, I am not religious. My school of choice? Definitely very conservative, and of course, very Catholic. Temporarily ignoring Notre Dame’s level of academic excellence (and let's say I could have gotten into another school at an equal level, had I applied), in my attempt to explain my devotion to my university, I credit one weekend in the fall that epitomizes one of its best qualities: the home-away-from-home family atmosphere.

Many events claim to be an experience unlike any other, but until you attend a Notre Dame football game, the magnitude of such a bold statement cannot possibly be understood. A single game held at Notre Dame Stadium lasts more than just four quarters; its magic withstands an entire weekend. During the season, the campus is in full football mode no later than early Friday morning, as we have to dodge past the hordes of visitors on our way to and from our last classes of the week. The pep rallies are at 6:00 on chaotic Friday evenings, complete with motivational and occasionally humorous speeches from the head coach and a senior captain. The festivities are completed with a joyous rendition of the Notre Dame Fight Song and Alma Mater along with- as we are always reminded- the oldest marching band in the country.

I remember my first pep rally just as vividly as the game itself. The JACC was filled to its brim, as it would be for each subsequent pep rally, with the upper bowl overflowing with parents and visitors while the student body dominated the rest of the arena. We were separated by residence halls, creating blocks of color around the circumference as we stood proudly in our dorm t-shirts. The leprechaun led the crowd through all of the cheers and motions in an attempt to make sure us freshmen would not embarrass the student section during the next day’s game, a match-up against an instate rival, the Purdue Boilermakers, in which we were going into following a 22-0 victory at Maryland the week before. Sleep came difficultly to me that night, as I could hardly contain my excitement- after all, I had never attended a non-high-school football game before. I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

The back of my dorm, Lewis Hall

By the time we were dragged out of bed at seven-o'clock Saturday morning by the upperclassmen who made us all go jump into a fountain, the school looked like Disneyland, but without all of the rides. The entire campus was crawling with action, with tailgating, people buying hot dogs from the multiple student-manned kiosk stations, and excited kids running around decked out in their Irish green from head to toe. By the time my friends and I successfully navigated our way to the stadium, I had probably exclaimed to them, “I have never seen anything like this!” about seventeen times. The game itself is kind of a blur to me, but a good vivacious kind of blur, as I tried to watch everything going on all around me while learning when to use all the cheers I had just learned the previous night.  What I do remember is that we came away with another victory, and that I could not be happier to have had a part in it.

Whether we win big or are blown out, if it is 100 degrees outside or below freezing, Notre Dame students always come early and stay until the very end, awaiting the moment after both fight songs have been played to put our arms around each other and sway together as we sing our Alma Mater. The students applaud and cheer their team no matter what the outcome in a deliciously unwavering display of support. Is there a better way to demonstrate the existence of the strong, undying Notre Dame family?

This is why I love Notre Dame.

At a Fall 2003 game

Taylor Swift & The Hunger Games

Last night, MTV premiered the music video for Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars' "Safe and Sound," the first song off The Hunger Games soundtrack.

This song may not be something I'd ordinarily listen to, but it is absolutely right for The Hunger Games. It is eerie and haunting, an appropriately tantalizing contradiction to its title. I appreciate that the video opted not to reveal any scenes from the upcoming film- the setting of the cold, creepy woods was clearly inspired by the story, but the only blatant reference happens when Taylor stumbles upon that mockingjay pin. The song matches the tone of the books and inspires your imagination without spelling it out for you, leaving room for interpretation- there are a few scenes I can see this song accompanying, and I can't wait to see how it actually fits in.

The entire soundtrack sounds promising, featuring the likes of Arcade Fire, the Decemberists, and Miranda Lambert as well. See the full playlist here.

Unrelated to the soundtrack but in other Hunger Games news, check out this fun promo that was sent to members of the media. The white rose. Neat. (If you haven't read the books, this won't mean anything to you... so you should probably go read the books now, especially if you expect us to continue being friends).

My Top Grammy Moment

I was planning on sharing a longer recap of my favorite Grammy moments, but I'm not feeling it anymore as I'm over 24 hours behind (since I wasn't able to watch the show live).

While there were several inspiring moments on the show- Adele's domination (and her snot), Jennifer Hudson's tribute to Whitney Houston, Paul McCartney's closing number- the moment that made me want to get up on my feet and cheer was Dave Grohl's speech after the Foo Fighters won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Here's what he said:

"To me this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what's important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that's the most important thing for people to do... It's not about being perfect, it's not about sounding absolutely correct, it's not about what goes on in a computer. It's about what goes on in here [your heart] and what goes on in here [your head]."

He nailed it. I for one am sick of auto-tuned, over-synthesized tracks clearly made for the sole purpose of being played at dance clubs. I'm not saying it needs to go away completely- I've been known to enjoy some Britney Spears- but I think we can do better. I think our standards have fallen too low. Here's hoping that the music industry- and aspiring musicians we haven't heard of yet- rise to Dave's challenge. Instead of just a good dance beat, let's get more heart, soul, and meaning back into the music.

Tangerine Tango

I just wrote an article for Examiner about Pantone's 2012 color of the year, Tangerine Tango- and the accompanying treasury ended up so gorgeous, I just have to share it here.

Check out the tangeriney items available in my shop too:

Have fun incorporating the boldly beautiful Tangerine Tango into your home and wardrobe!

"Live" TV & Social Media

I was planning on writing a nice little post this evening while watching the Grammy Awards- until I discovered that CBS isn't letting those of us on the west coast in on the live broadcast.

How does that happen in this day and age- the Social Media Era?

I realize this is an insignificant issue in the overall scheme of the universe, but regardless, it's an issue that baffles me. I just don't understand why events like this, with instant results and reactions, wouldn't be shown live across the entire country.  

Consider this: last week's Super Bowl experienced over 10,000 tweets per second (TPS) during the final three minutes of play. The peak was 12,233 TPS, a record for sporting events. That number is up drastically from even just one short year ago, where fans peaked at just over 4,000 tweets per second. In 2009? A mere 27 TPS.

And just yesterday, Whitney Houston's tragic death (R.I.P., Whitney) was tweeted 27 minutes before mainstream media "broke" the news. An estimated 2.5 million tweets and retweets about her passing occurred within the first hour.

We've all seen the power of social media. My question to CBS and the Grammys is this: why not take full advantage?

I suppose I could stay away from my Twitter the rest of the evening, but I probably won't. Instead of sharing my immediate reactions with everybody else, I'll read what other people have to say first and imagine it in my head. With my regular Sunday night TV lineup (The Walking Dead, Shameless, House of Lies and Californication, in case you were wondering), I probably won't even get through the entire Grammy show tonight. Which means I'll watch it tomorrow... if I end up watching it at all.

TV You Should Be Watching: The Walking Dead

Don't let The Walking Dead be the one that got away!

AMC will be airing all six episodes of the too-short first season TONIGHT, beginning at 8/7c. Tune in again tomorrow at 12:30/1:30c to catch up on the second season, and dive right into the mid-season premiere at 9/8c.

I may love shows like American Idol, Glee, and Gossip Girl, but there is still enough room in my musical-loving heart for a show like The Walking Dead. The stress it causes me while watching may ultimately take a few years off my life, but I enjoy every gut-wrenching moment.

Here's why you should be tuning in: this isn't just another gory show about zombies. This is a show with real substance, character development, and quality writing. The Walking Dead has proven to be about more than just zombie survival, as it deals with love, friendship, power struggles, and self-identity. Just like the real world- but with scarier consequences.

For those of you who already watch, here are my questions. Did Hershel know about poor Sophia? Is Shane's death inevitable- and if so, how will it happen? Death by walkers or angry humans? Is Lori crazy to even think about keeping that baby, and who is the real father? Will we ever find out what Dr. Jenner whispered to Rick or is it going to go down like Lost in Translation where we will never know Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson's little secret? Will we ever see Merle (outside of Daryl's imagination) or Morgan and his son Duane again?

We won't get answers to most of these questions for a while, if ever, so I guess I'll just have to figure out a way to keep the anxiety from eating me alive. Pun intended.

Happy Valentine's Day!

My American Idol Bottom 5

Yesterday, I shared my ten favorite American Idol contestants along with the promise that I would deliver my bottom dwellers today, which I'm sure is the list you are much more interested in seeing. I'll get on with it- what follows are the five (-ish) people that found a way to really irk me. Just thinking about them again makes me cranky. I need some chocolate.

#5: Sanjaya Malakar
It's a mystery for the ages: was Sanjaya overstaying his welcome really Vote For The Worst's doing, or did the young girls really just like him that much?


#4: The Judges
Any of them, all of them. I can't tell you how many times- and I am so sure I'm not alone on this- I've wanted to get up and scream at a judge, THE SHOW IS NOT ABOUT YOU!!! Not once have I felt that an American Idol judge genuinely cared about any of their contestants- they are more interested in creating a sound bite than helping to shape someone else's career. How I wish they would take some hints from any of the judges on So You Think You Can Dance or my personal favorite judging team, The Sing-Off (I love you, Ben Folds) or even- gasp!- The Voice.

#3: Lee DeWyze (and the rest of the Season 9 cast)
Lee DeWyze was the most uninspiring of all American Idol winners- but that yawn-inducing personality was par for the course during the show's ninth season. Did anyone else find it ironic that he used to sell paint? Because watching paint dry would be more exciting? No? In any case, I came thisclose to giving up on the show again, and that is why I resent Lee, Crystal Bowersox, and everybody else from that year.

More like Lee DeWyZzzzzzze
#2: James Durbin
I was shocked when I discovered I was in the minority about this, but color me unimpressed with this Season 10 contestant. I am pretty accepting with other people's taste in music (just because it's not my cup of tea doesn't mean someone else can't enjoy it) but... I just don't get The Durbs. He was consistently out of tune, he screamed more than he sang, his "high notes" were much more Gokey- more on him in a moment- than Lambert, and don't get me started on that scarf tail thing he insisted on wearing. I'd like to think that if Simon was still around that season he would have called him out for being "indulgent"- for all the former contestants Simon threw that term at (Chris Daughtry, David Cook) there was nobody more deserving of it than James Durbin. The more the judges lavished him with praise, the more I seethed with anger.

But seriously, what's with the tail?

#1: Danny Gokey
Danny Gokey had something truly sad and tragic happen to him, which made it all the more infuriating to not be able to stand him. It's enough not to like someone, but then to have to feel bad about it too? It's the worst. And then he had the audacity- the AUDACITY!- to think he can nail those high notes on "Dream On." I shudder at the memory. These days it seems he's calling himself a country singer. How did that happen? What did country music ever do to him?

And his stupid different glasses every week!!!

So there you go, my American Idol villains. Any surprises? Did I forget anybody?

My Top 10 American Idol Alums

Between writing about my major commitment to American Idol yesterday and Hollywood Week finally arriving on the show's current season, I couldn't help but reminisce over the best and worst moments of the previous ten years. Join me for a stroll down memory lane as I go through my list of favorite contestants (in reverse order, just to amp up the drama)- but you'll have to check back tomorrow to find out who truly makes my blood boil.

#7-10: Jon Peter Lewis, Jason Castro, Siobhan Magnus & Stefano Langone
I started with a clear cut Top 6, but since Top 10 has a nicer ring to it, I expanded my list to include these four singers (and that's why their names don't get to be in a larger font like the rest of my list- that, and so they would fit cleanly on one line). My honorable mentions, in no particular order amongst themselves, were my sentimental favorites during their respective seasons. They each stood out to me for very different reasons: JPL for his charming personality and awkward dancing during Season 3; Jason Castro and his guitar (or ukelele) during Season 7, particularly his performances of "Hallelujah" and "Over the Rainbow"; the quirky Siobhan for her weirdness, the only remotely interesting part of Season 9. As for Season 10's Stefano, while I was automatically inclined to root for the Seattle-area native (for the record: hometown status is not enough to win me over- SPOILER ALERT- you will not find Blake Lewis or Sanjaya Malakar on this list), it was really his earnest singing that won me over.

#6: Allison Iraheta
I bought the Season 8's fourth-place finisher's debut album. Did anybody else? I'm guessing not. Her album didn't seem to get much support, which blows my mind because I swear to you, it deserved to get some attention. Check out the teenage rocker singing "I Can't Make You Love Me" on the show or even better, her own "Don't Waste the Pretty" (featuring Orianthi on guitar). And one more because I can't help myself: her duet with another contestant on my list is one of my all-time favorite performances on the American Idol stage.

#5: Haley Reinhart
I knew I loved Haley from the first time we heard her sing on Season 10- that raspy voice, that tone, that growwwl! She kept landing in the dreaded Bottom 3 until America finally caught on to her brilliance after she unleashed her rendition of "Bennie and the Jets," eventually coming in at third place. Picking a favorite performance is difficult, but if you'll only watch one video, I beg you to press play below and enjoy "House of the Rising Sun."

#4: David Cook 
Season 7 champ David Cook was a game-changer for American Idol by really being the first to reinvent just about every song he chose to perform. I was a fan of his musical stylings, but he also always came across as a genuinely nice guy- and who can resist that? His overall catalog of Idol performances, top to bottom, might be my favorite of any contestant- or at least a very close second to the person I slotted #2. Put a gun to my head and I'll say David's take on Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby" is my favorite, but it was his arrangement of Lionel Richie's "Hello" during the Top 16 that instantly put him at the top of his class, from where he never looked back. 

David & I in 2009. Nice guy.

#3: Carrie Underwood
Did I just hear some gasps? Yes, the gorgeous country queen merely gets the third spot on my list- but it's less about her and more a commentary on how much I love the next two artists. There's not really anything I can say about Carrie that you don't already know, so I'll just say this: I was ready to move on from American Idol after its third season, but Carrie's emergence had me running back to my television set. Having seen her perform live in concert, I can truly say that Carrie Underwood is simply fantastic.

#2: Adam Lambert
I admire Adam Lambert on so many levels. Obvious vocal talents aside, he isn't afraid to be himself, and he took some killer risks on the show (I'm sure I don't have to remind you of "Ring of Fire"). He was captivating week after week, never singing a single note out of tune, from his very first audition to "A Change is Gonna Come" on the finale, and the incredible "Mad World" in between. I still don't understand how he didn't take the Season 8 title, as he just might end up being the most talented performer the American Idol stage will ever see.

#1: Kelly Clarkson
This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, seeing that I've already declared my love for Kelly twice in my blog's one-week lifespan. I'll just leave you with her latest video for another brilliant song, "Stronger."

OK, I lied. If you want to see the exact moment that Kelly Clarkson turned into a star, watch her sing "Natural Woman" on Idol a whopping 10 years ago. I couldn't in good faith write this post and not include that performance.

If TV Shows Were Boyfriends

I love TV. That might not be an earth-shattering declaration, but here's the problem: I'm way too loyal to the shows I choose to watch. This realization hit me as I caught myself hoping that certain shows would be canceled so that I could stop watching them, because I'm incapable of walking away from them on my own (this wish came true with Brothers & Sisters last year- now I'm rooting for at least The Office to follow suit). Committing to a television show is a big decision. So big, in fact, that I would argue that the process of determining which TV shows to watch is similar to entering a romantic entanglement.

The Summer Fling
Some relationships are short and sweet, with a beginning and an end, and will always be looked back on fondly. These TV shows didn't last very long- just a few seasons- but had enough of a following that they were allowed enough time to give its deserving fans some closure. For me, these series include The O.C. and Chuck. They share a special place in my heart.

I miss you guys!!!
The worst possible scenario: you are ready to take the plunge, only to have your heart crushed when you find out your feelings aren't reciprocated. These are the shows that went unappreciated- the quality is there, but for one reason or another, you seemed to be the only person watching. I have gone through this particular type of devastation twice thus far. Recently, the loss of Lone Star after just two episodes broke my heart. But here's the one that really hurt: back in 2005, I was sucked into a murder mystery called Reunion that followed The O.C. This show chronicled the lives of a group of six friends, each episode covering one year between their high school graduation and twenty-year reunion where one of them was murdered. Reunion was canceled after nine episodes. Before the identity of the murderer was ever revealed. I'm still not over it.

Stuck in a Rut
Every once in a while, you find yourself stuck. The relationship is comfortable and familiar- not exciting enough to be love, not boring enough to call it quits. These are the shows you find yourself watching out of habit. This is where The Office falls, ever since the departure of Steve Carell's Michael Scott. No one can carry that show like he did. Until recently, my once-beloved Grey's Anatomy and Gossip Girl had fallen into this category as well- but it seems that we're rebounding. We're working through our difficulties and headed back towards green pastures.

Just In Time
These relationships almost never happened because you didn't notice them at first, but when you finally saw the light, you wonder what took you so long. Dexter and Shameless are two shows I caught up on just in time- but they aren't the best examples, since a subscription to Showtime is necessary. A better one is Parks and Recreation. After ignoring it the first couple of seasons, I couldn't resist it any longer after catching snippets here and there following 30 Rock. I am just so thankful that NBC stuck with this show despite its lackluster start and gave it a chance to come together. It just might be the best comedy on TV right now.

The One That Got Away
There's always the one that got away. For me, this show is The Big Bang Theory. Where was I when this show came on the air and what was I watching instead? Probably Reunion (bazinga!). And how did I not really notice it until late 2011? Due to my stupid loyalties to NBC's Thursday night lineup and American Idol, I can't DVR the new episodes. I try to catch re-runs as much as possible- thanks, TBS!- but it's just not the same. I feel like a phony. I don't enjoy being a late adopter.

The One That Is The One
Once in a blue moon, you get lucky. You find someone who makes you happy, allowing you to at last commit to a long-lasting love affair. This is what American Idol is for me. Does it have its flaws? Of course- what relationship doesn't? I nearly gave up on the show before Carrie Underwood came along, and shiny new objects like The Voice tried to steal me away (I flirted with it last year, but just can't make enough room in my heart- or on my DVR- when it goes head-to-head against Idol). Ten years later, I still choose you, American Idol.

I'll never forget a moment like this (get it?)

In Defense of Gisele

For what it's worth: I am Team Gisele. So, OK, I said before that I didn't care about the outcome of the Super Bowl, and it's true, I couldn't care less. And I don't really care about Tom Brady or Gisele either. So why do I feel the need to voice my support for her?

It's not about her. It's not about Tom Brady. It's not even about some wide receivers whose feelings may have been hurt.

Mark Humphrey / Associated Press / February 5, 2012 (via LA Times)

Gisele's comments indicate that she was emotionally involved in the game. She was emotionally involved in the game because she cares about her husband. She cares about her husband because- well, he's her husband. So she got caught up in the moment and said some things that hurt some people. 

She's only human, after all. She may be a supermodel, but her brain operates the same way. Who hasn't said something that they maybe didn't entirely mean, or came out the wrong way, because they were caught up in the heat of the moment? Haven't we all overreacted over something or someone we love? Most of us are just lucky that our moments of weakness aren't picked up by the media and shared with the world to dissect and criticize.

She had his back. Isn't that what someone in a loving relationship is supposed to do?

So take it easy on Gisele. She isn't trying to become an analyst or scoop reporters. She was just being a good wife- and that's refreshing.

My Top 10 Anticipated Movies of 2012

All those movie trailers during yesterday's Super Bowl got me thinking about which films I am most looking forward to seeing this year. I'm not saying these will necessarily be the best movies of 2012 (although I'm certain at least a few of them will be) nor am I saying they should be your most anticipated movies of 2012; these are simply the ten flicks I just can't wait to see this year.
  1. The Hunger Games (March 23)
    To put it frankly, I'm a little obsessed. I love The Hunger Games. Film adaptations are usually a disappointment when a book is so beloved, but even with the rising expectations, I have zero concerns this time. From the moment I dove into these books, I couldn't wait to see Panem and Suzanne Collins' words come to life on the big screen. If you haven't read the books yet, just do it now.

    Honorable Mention, Violent Teens Division: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (November 16)
    Oh, quit your groaning. I'm just being honest. And for all you haters, you should be looking forward to this anyway- it will soon all be over.

  2. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)
    I don't know how they are going to top Heath Ledger's Joker, but I can't wait to find out. While I'm a little wary of the Catwoman/Selina Kyle storyline, I'm choosing to put my faith in Christopher Nolan and company (and besides, OMG, Joseph Gordon-Levitt!). {trailer}

    Honorable Mention, Joseph Gordon-Levitt Division: Looper (September 28)
    I didn't know this movie existed until I started researching for this post, but I am very intrigued by what I have found so far. The synopsis from IMDB: "A killer who works for the mob of the future recognizes one of his targets as his future self." Can't wait to see a trailer.

  3. The Avengers (May 4)
    If I expanded my previous post to a top four, this new trailer would have rounded out that list. I just love a good geeky superhero flick. Seriously- Captain America was one of my favorite movies of 2011. {trailer}

    Honorable Mention, Superhero Movie Division: The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3)
    In all honesty, I'm still a little confused about why this franchise is already being rebooted, but I know I'll watch it anyway.

  4. Rock of Ages (June 1)
    I am sad to admit that I haven't seen the Broadway version of this musical, which garnered American Idol alum Constantine a Tony nomination. I'm not sure how I feel about Tom Cruise taking his role, but I suppose I can reserve judgment until I see for myself. Even if you're not a fan of musicals- c'mon, it's the 80's! And did you see Alec Baldwin and that awful wig? The hair band music alone guarantees that this will be, at the very least, a cheesy good time.

    Honorable Mention, Musicals Division: Les Miserables
    I just really, really wish the phenomenal Lea Michele had been cast in this.

  5. The Expendables 2 (August 17)
    I really, really wanted to avoid putting The Expendables 2 on this list, but I just couldn't fight it anymore. It belongs on my list. Arnold's bigger role and Chuck Norris being thrown into the mix just seals the deal. {trailer}

    Honorable Mention, Sequels Division: Men In Black III (May 25)
    Similar to The Expendables 2, I just can't help it with this one. Will Smith and the first Men In Black movie are just part of my generation's cultural DNA.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let me know in the comments- unless you're going to complain about Breaking Dawn being on my list, then I don't want to hear it.

My Top 3 Super Bowl Moments

Unfortunately, the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl match-up left me without a team to root for. Needless to say, I couldn't have been less invested in the game itself (although that was certainly an exciting finish). Here are my three favorite non-football moments of the big game.

Kelly Clarkson's Star Spangled Banner
I am admittedly biased when it comes to Kelly Clarkson as I have been a huge fan since she first showed up on American Idol way back in 2002 (the girl can do no wrong in my heart!), but you can't tell me that she didn't do our National Anthem justice. Kelly managed to respect tradition while still adding a touch of her personal flair, a refreshing but rare balance these days.

M&M's "Just My Shell" Commercial
This was hands-down my favorite of the Super Bowl spots this year.

I have to bring this up as I always enjoy reminiscing over a delightfully cheesy rom-com; this ad reminded me of that movie- was it The Wedding Planner?- where they would only eat brown M&M's because they are the closest to the natural color of chocolate, therefore indicating the least amount of added food coloring. For the record, I wouldn't let this theory stop anyone from enjoying M&M's of all colors (we're open minded here).

Madonna... or She-Ra?
I thought Madonna was fairly entertaining. However, I hate lip-synching, and so her halftime performance was not shaping up to be something I'd find memorable- until this gem popped up on my Twitter feed:

As a child who grew up idolizing the Princess of Power, this is all I'll take away from that performance now. For better or for worse.