Paula Abdul explains her "confusing" 'American Idol' show comments
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/30/2008
Paula Abdul described last night's live American Idol performance episode as "confusing" -- which is also probably a good term to describe her explanation for what actually happened.
"It was so confusing," said the Idol judge on Wednesday's broadcast of Ryan Seacrest's KIIS-FM radio show. "It was fun. It was silly. It didn't make any sense."
During last night's live broadcast, Idol's seventh-season Top 5 each performed two Neil Diamond songs -- however the judges were initially told they'd only comment following each finalists' second performance of the night.
But that's not exactly the way it unfolded, and Seacrest explained he was only informed about the change as finalist Syesha Mercado -- the last member of the Top 5 to deliver her first performance -- was on stage singing.
"As she's singing, [Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe] comes running up to me and says, '[Fox reality executive Mike Darnell] wants all the contestants to walk out quickly before the commercial break and let the judges sum up Round 1, which was a curveball change. This was 10 seconds before Syesha finished," explained Seacrest on his radio show.
"I said to Nigel, 'Mike also said to me before the show you can't run late because Hell's Kitchen's got to start on time and the local news has got to start on time.' I said, 'Okay, cool.' Now Paula you don't know this, but at the point when Nigel came running up to me, we were three-an-a-half minutes over the hour."
"So he looks at me and he says, 'But we want to bring out the five kids and have the judges sum up Round 1.' Paula, Randy, Simon [are] unaware that this is going to happen. I said to Nigel, 'I'm happy to do what you guys want, but if we do it, we will not be on time. We will be late.' He said, 'I understand, I have your back, the network wants it. Do it.'"
Following Mercado's performance, Seacrest brought the finalists back out on stage and said he was giving the judges a chance to comment on the initial performances.
"At that point Paula, I think that was the first you learned about it, right?" asked Seacrest of the change.
"It's the first we ever heard about it -- while it was live," she answered.
While Randy Jackson was able to deliver his Round 1 summation easily enough, the same couldn't be said for Abdul.
"While all of that was happening, already two curveballs were thrown out," she explained. "We were freaking out, and I said, 'Well we're going to need pads of paper and a pen to make sure we remember what we saw.' So Randy's writing things down and I'm cutting my papers up smaller so I can read them, and then right as the kids are walking out on stage, Nigel -- I think it was Nigel -- came out and said, 'We're going to change it up again and have you guys critique them on Round 1.'"
"Now the kids are coming out and I'm going, 'Oh my God, what do we do?'" she continued. "So when you came to me, I just started looking at what I'm writing down and I go, 'We have never had to do this before.' I was reading the critique of what I was writing for Jason Castro and it was on the same page that I wrote [David Cook's comments]. I got lost on my notes and that's as simple as it was."
However the root of Abdul's confusion apparently occurred during the finalists' last rehearsal prior to the live broadcast, when she said she was seating friends and family members and happened to catch some of Castro singing "September Morn."
"The only thing I saw on the monitor as I finally was getting in was Jason Castro, and he was singing 'September Morn.' So I was writing notes on 'September Morn,'" she explained, which caused the confusion when she was asked to sun up Round 1 and credited Castro with already having delivered two performances, which wasn't the case.
"I was concentrating on the two performances per kid, so when the kids came out, I started getting confused. 'What are we doing now? We're critiquing them on both their songs?' The only person that I saw sing both songs was a little of the dress rehearsal of Jason Castro. Then when he sang 'Forever in Blue Jeans,' it was my first time hearing it -- and we couldn't hear it because the whole time he was performing we were trying to figure out what the heck is going on here."
Needless to say, that tactic of taking notes -- which both Abdul and Seacrest insisted is not the norm for the judges -- didn't help much.
"We were all a little discombobulated, and [Simon Cowell] started writing things down on the notepad and then he threw the notepad," said Abdul with a laugh, adding the things Cowell was writing included such simple comments as "good, bad, and horrible."
"I think he was kind of pissed at first that he wasn't going to be able to judge after the first song," said Seacrest. "I saw him chuck the notepad at you and Randy."
"I said, 'God, I don't want to be writing this either,'" said Abdul after she saw Cowell ditch his notes. "So when we went to commercial break I saw you and I went, 'What's going on?' First of all, to tell us live -- to hear it the first time when [Seacrest is] speaking. Then they change it up again. So it was just crazy, that's all. Never, ever do we have notes."
Both Seacrest and Abdul used the term "honest mistake" to describe the confusion, and Seacrest reiterated the format was changed because it's "virtually impossible" to fit 10 performances into one hour. Still, Abdul wasn't necessarily buying it.
"Everything works for seven years, why change it up now?" she asked. "In seven years we've never had to do that."
Seacrest said Idol's live broadcast format "makes for great moments that you couldn't plan" and are also "not contrived."
"This television show -- I promise you -- is as unpredictable as they come, because there are times when we are on the air live and we're making decisions on the fly," he said. "You know what? That's okay, because it's not a perfect program. We are imperfect."