Jully Black Boosts Canadian Idol

PVR’d last night’s season premiere of Canadian Idol, which may be the best way to enjoy this talent search showcase. You can fast forward through the hundreds of shampoo ads and CTV promotional spots and zero in on a well packaged 40 minutes, with plenty of hints as to how the series should play out this summer.
First the good parts: Jully Black is amazing, jolting the show with personality and pizazz as a mentor with a microphone, working the audition waiting rooms with an ease and spirit that calls out for a greater presence. Plus, Lord, the girl can sing. One complaint: took half the show last night to get to her; give us more Jully next time, please.
The sixth season opener certainly got off to a roaring start. Canadian Idol moves at a tremendous speed, with rapid edits jolting viewers away from their remotes. It seemed like you were half way through the Toronto auditions before you even knew the episode had started.
The judges were relaxed and playful and seemed more secure in their TV persona’s than I remembered. Zack Werner, in particular, doesn’t seem to be forcing the Simon Cowell cattiness anymore. He had the best line of the night, telling one chirpy auditioner that they sounded “kinda like Alvin without the Chipmunks.”
Two breakout stars–Oliver and Sebastian Pigott, photogenic brothers who grew up in Portugal–clearly emerged last night as potential winners. Jake Gold, in fact, told older sibling Oliver it was the best audition he’d ever seen on the show. Their talent and charisma shone right through the screen.
Canadian Idol also does a good job of profiling contestants with little hometown vignettes and last night was no exception. A lanky dude from Saskatchewan–Earl the back hoe digger–was easy to root for after his back story was cued up.
On the down side, the fast start could not be maintained. Last night’s season debut, while compelling for the first 20 minutes, sagged in the middle, running out of gas around the time the scenes shifted to the Edmonton auditions. (More Jully Black might help here. She has a naturalness and a charm that does not require those rat-tat-tat six second edits. You really want to linger with her and she brings out the best in the contestants.)
There didn’t seem to be any real train wrecks last night, no William Hung’s which is a drag because the freaky freaks seem to drive the early episodes. One bonnie girl from Saskatchewan was given a golden ticket on to the next round after a so-so audition but a teary plea to gain from the experience of sticking around. It was a moment of parental compassion but I don’t know if that is any way to run a talent competition.
Episode Two airs next Monday at 9 p.m. on CTV.

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