‘American Idol’ Season 11 Premiere: Southern Comfort and Ryan’s Double

Contestant Shaun Kraisman and Ryan Seacrest on American Idol (Michael Becker / FOX)

Tonight’s season 11 premiere of “American Idol” was as much a response to concerns about its age and relevance as it was an audition show. The opening moments paid homage to Kelly Clarkson’s win 11 years ago and showed how it inspired countless six-year-olds to anxiously wait a decade for a chance to sing before the judges. From the first notes of “Forever Young” in the background, the nostalgia-coated intro attempted to remind viewers that as the elder in a now saturated reality music competition market, “Idol” is still the one that’s got the formula down, at least to those who were conscious when Kelly Clarkson first rose to stardom.

But could the rest of the episode – a series of auditions by hot Southern teen girls and montages about Steven Tyler’s kisses – hold up to Clarkson’s goosebumpy ordination?

Well, duh, of course not. But there were a few good moments in an otherwise routine entry into the “Idol” canon.

The Highlights

I’ll start with the last auditioner of the night, and certainly the best contestant so far. Phillip Phillips — you read that right — who works in Georgia at a pawn shop owned by his dad, Phillip Phillips, Senior. That’s right, that mistake wasn’t made once, but twice. Junior is a good-looking, guitar-toting soul boy who put an indie spin on “Superstitious” and, dazzlingly, “Thriller.” He was clearly comfortable as a performer and I’m betting he’ll have a few more updated twists on oldies during Hollywood week.

The Dixon siblings will be a pair to watch, but not if the sister, Schyler, has anything to say about it. She and her brother Colton both auditioned last year, but only Colton made it to Hollywood. This year, he nobly stepped out of the way to allow sis her chance to shine — until the judges remembered him and demanded that he sing for them. Schyler did nothing to hide her utter annoyance at her big brother for once again stealing the spotlight at her own audition, giving him death-eyes the whole time. Luckily for Colton’s safety and future familial relations, the judges gave Schyler a golden ticket — and Colton, too.

Watch: An “Idol” Contestant Gets a Handful of Steven Tyler:

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/E!-News-Now/103071/2188445791/%22Idol%22-Hopeful-Gets-a-Handful-of-Steven-Tyler/embed 580 476]

Though the episode was notably lacking in heartwrenchingly sad stories about sick grandparents and defaulted loans, one touching story slipped through. Amy Brumfield, from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, lives with her boyfriend in a tent in the woods. It’s a pretty tricked out tent, with cabinets and even a makeshift closet, but you had to feel a little something for her when she pointed out that her black dress and rhinestone necklace, a gift from her boyfriend’s mom, was the nicest thing she ever wore. She sang with serious soul on Alicia Keys’s “Superwoman,” and I can’t wait to see what happens when she gets to stay in a hotel in Hollywood.

Doing nothing to squelch rumors about his (possible) imminent departure, Ryan Seacrest all but gave his job away to one creepy lookalike, Shaun Kraisman. Randy even offered him Ryan’s job for half the pay, which Shaun turned down. What the heck, man, that’s like $20 million! The 26-year-old got points with the judges for saying the name “Ryan Seacrest” repeatedly in an annoyingly dorky radio voice, though his audition didn’t get him to Hollywood. Should’ve taken Ryan’s post when he had the chance.

Weird Things Steven Tyler Said

And finally, I’d like to leave you with a few parting words from the great sage of our day, Steven Tyler:

“Dude, I think I just had an eargasm.”

“Hot, humid and happening, just like your daughter.” — To a former World Series pitcher for the Cardinals. And no, dad did not take it too well.

“I drove it here from Maui.” – Joking about his yacht parked in Hawaii. Just pointing this out in contrast to that aforementioned auditioner who lives in a tent.

“I’m here to tell you that I am moist.”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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