Though actor-singer Jamie Foxx is the latest alleged frontrunner to replace Simon Cowell as top judge on "American Idol," the producers actually found the right guy for the gig during last week's show.
The question is, did they notice?
Harry Connick Jr. stole the show — and maybe the franchise — when he not only mentored the remaining five Idolettes, but also did the arrangements for their songs, saving them from the singing competition's usual hit-or-miss orchestrations.
And, as if that weren't enough, Connick got behind the keyboards and played backup for each performance, the challenge this time being for each singer to croon a Frank Sinatra tune.
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Connick, aka New Blue Eyes, treated his "Idol" gig as seriously as jury duty, in marked contrast to all those drive-by mentors who spent as little time as possible in the company of the Idolettes, preferring to simply use them as props for album-plugging. Foxx tops this list, too.
Turns out, Connick's also very funny — unscripted funny, that is, as opposed to new judge Ellen DeGeneres' canned-corn cracks.
This was not lost on DeGeneres, who spewed Connick digs throughout the show in a effort to keep up.
"What I'm trying to do is feature the contestants by writing a supportive arrangement," Connick said during a taped bit in which he was seen at the ivories, tickling out one of the arrangements.
"I should be lying by the pool. Do you think Shania Twain was up in here doing this?" he said, in reference to Twain's phone-it-in appearance the week before.
The five down-to-the-wire Idolettes — Aaron Kelly, Casey James, Michael Lynche, Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze — couldn't stop talking about how funny, helpful, available and downright heroic Connick was, after that steady trail of see-ya-wouldn't-wanna-be-ya mentors, to whom they'd been subjected.
During his time with DeWyze in rehearsal, Connick confided his wife thinks DeWyze is "really cute." "He looks like a new and improved version of me," Connick joked, then said to DeWyze, "I'm not saying you're hot," while DeWyze giggled.
"That sounds awesome, man!" Connick told DeWyze after rehearsing with him.
"Not really!" Connick mouthed to the camera.
"The guy's full of jokes — he's funny, cool, down-to-earth and more than willing to help," DeWyze marveled of Connick.
Tuesday night, in an uncharacteristic spurt of savviness, show host Ryan Seacrest deputized Connick as the Fifth Judge after Casey James gave his historically bad performance of "Blue Skies."
"I think you sang it better in rehearsal, to be honest," Connick told Casey. "You killed it about two hours ago — but that's not going to help you now!"