On the Scene: The Paula Abdul 'Idol' gaffe heard 'cross the nation

Paula_l Simon Cowell called tonight’s episode of American Idol "officially the strangest show we’ve ever done," and I don’t know about y’all, but from where I sat inside the Idol studios at CBS Television City, I’d say Simon was referring to that glorious moment when, halfway through the show, Paula Abdul critiqued both of Jason Castro’s songs after he’d sung only one.

Let’s take a quick step back. With the final five contestants each cramming two Neil Diamond tunes into the hour-long production, it was indeed an unusually frenzied evening, and the judges refrained from commenting on the singers’ first songs. At the end of the first half of the show, Ryan invited all the Idol contestants on stage and then had the judges run through their thoughts on the first half of the show. (Stage manager Debbie Williams had to step on stage herself to motion the Idols to come out to the stage, as if, perhaps, this half-way check-in wasn’t entirely planned.) Randy shocked no one —"just OK…doing your thing…the bomb"—and then, with executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and Debbie watching from the wings, it was Paula’s turn.

"Oh gosh—we’ve never had to write these things down, uh, fast enough," she said. "Jason, the first song, I loved hearing your lower register, which we never really hear." So far so good. "Um, the second song, I felt like your usual charm, it was missing for me. It kind of left me a little empty." Huh? The audience began tittering with confusion, and Nigel and Debbie both began quietly freaking out. Paula continued, unaware. "The two songs made me feel like you’re not fighting hard enough to get into the top four." By this point, several audience members were openly cracking up, Debbie had to stop herself from stepping on camera to end the madness, and Nigel was frantically gesturing a single finger to anyone who could see him: ONE SONG! THEY’VE ONLY SUNG ONE SONG!

"So, David Cook," Paula continued, until Randy saved the day: "Oh, they’ve just done the first song though, just the first one." The tension was finally broken with this apology (of sorts) from Paula: "I thought you—Oh my god, I thought you sang twice!…You know what, this is hard! You know what, I’m looking at, it’s your notes, David [Cook]. You were fantastic." As Simon swooped in for his chance to scold the Idols, Nigel stepped off stage to, I’m assuming, get the on-site EMTs to give him some oxygen. At the ad break, the judges were all whisked out of the studio, Syesha Mercado, David Cook, David Archuleta and Brooke White left waving to the audience, and Jason Castro was left on a stool, stage center, contemplating what, exactly, had just happened. (Get more on last night’s shenanigans in Slezak’s TV Watch.)

A Fox spokesperson declined to comment, and Paula’s rep did not return e-mails seeking comment. Below is the clip in question. What do you think, PopWatchers? Was this just an honest mistake, or did the whole event strike you as bit more…curious? (If you’re looking for our regular on-the-scene write-up, don’t fret, it’s coming soon. It’s just that this was too juicy not to bring up as soon as possible.)

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  • jmiklane

    Paula, you may have just killed the show. The thing is, she has had many insane moments on the show where she just says ridiculous things. But she was literally READING HER NOTES. She already knew what she was going to say before Jason sang. Maybe the producers told her to say that or maybe they were her own comments. Either way, the fact is that Jason had not sung yet, and she already knew what she was going to say. This stinks on so many levels. Slezak has been saying for weeks that they want an all-David finale. Never has his theory been more proven to be correct.
    Now I actually feel sorry for Paula. All I can say is wow.

  • jmiklane

    And the “David, they’re your notes… you’re fantastic” cover up? That was priceless. Especially after she already said that the performance wasn’t good.

  • Bill Mullen

    I don’t think there is anything fishy. Paula has mentioned rehearsals before, I think she made notes during rehearsal to use for the show. However, she is still not clear-headed enough to realize the mistake she made, and passed it off as David’s critique.

  • Steph

    Medication? Alcohol? Just stupidity? Or a ratings ploy? I’m not sure but I certainly cracked up. It may make me tune in for the results show instead of looking it up on-line after it airs on the East coast.

  • bubba1967

    I was just waiting for Paula to turn to Nigel and say, “You know, I can’t quite make out what you wrote for me here.”

  • Jonathan

    combining Paula’s seeming stupidity with a list of things to say in a critique AND the strange format of the episode… was not a smart move

  • paisley quinn

    OBVIOUSLY the show is scripted and the producers want to throw Jason under the bus.

  • Mish

    I had to mute my tv because I was so embarressed for Paula. It was awkward. Poor Jason (even though I did end up agreeing with her critque)

  • Allison

    This just proves what a brilliant host Ryan Seacrest is. He may be annoying, but any other host would have gotten flustered. He just threw the seeing the future bit out there and moved it along. These are the moments that make or break a host. Can you imagine Julie Chen or Chris Harrison handling that so well? No way!

  • huty

    To me it just seemed that Paula was so confused that she should comment now and… did not have any notes, so she made her usual generic bla up.
    I think all those conspiracy theories are a bit stupid.

  • Allison

    And those were definitely rehearsal notes. No way anyone else could come up with the crap she spouts every week!

  • Dduellman

    It sure looked to me like she was reading from previously written notes and already knew what she was going to say. It’s the only explanation that makes sense. Paula just “outed” Nigel Lythgoe’s agenda.

  • gigi

    Jason’s had to go out and sing his second song after this fiasco. Plus he already knew it was going to be canned. If AI wants to retain any credibility, no one should be eliminated tomorrow night!

  • Leslie

    Did anyone notice that Paula called Syesha Brooke at the end of the show?? I had 2 classes of wine before watching the show, and I still managed to figure out that they had only sung one song AND I knew that Syesha does not have blonde hair and blue eyes………

  • Suzanne

    Simple. She wrote her notes during the dress rehearsal, and then relied on them, instead of revising them during the live performances. Also, I read on a board that someone there saw Paula in the studio during the dress rehearsal and she fell. Maybe she was on medication that disoriented her during the show, so she just started reading her notes on auto pilot.
    i don’t think the show is scripted. I think they may take notes during dress. couldn’t have been easy for Jason Castro to sing September Morn knowing that she already thought it sucked.

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