You know what we are not supposed to mess with? Texas. There is to be no messing in or around Texas. None. So wait. Why then was American Idol blustering through Dallas, shaming people horribly last night?

Because fame is never a mess! Television is never messy or cruel! No, no, no. Everyone, including the Texans, long ago learned to snuggle up to television's flickering blue flame and to love it and trust it and understand that, though it may hurt many of us, it is only because many of us are not worthy of its rare and singular love. We understand that only a small certain few among us are anointed ones, who will take Ryan Seacrest's pearly jizz-glove of a hand and step into the fire, disappearing behind the holy glass, never to be seen in any real context ever again. That many of us may die so a few can live better, more famous lives is... well, the bargain we've struck and understand. Texas knows this. This is why you saw 11,000 souls cheering and braying and hooting and beaming, even though they knew, nine seasons in now, that cruelty and debasement awaited so many of them. They din't mind. TV has told them that they aren't worth dignity, and they've trusted TV.

Can you tell that I'm beginning to grow a little weary of these audition episodes? There's this little exchange in the great, great new-ish American play August: Osage County where the squirky (squirmy + quirky) teen vegetarian is saying that she doesn't eat meat because an animal is afraid when it dies and releases certain hormones and chemicals, so when you eat meat, you're eating fear. If you were to eat American Idol or most of its audition-round contestants, you'd taste the chalky, sour milk taste of desperate defeat. The gamy fowl slick of sadness. The hot, bitter tang of embarrassment. And we have been eating this slop for weeks now! And I'm very, very sick of the taste. Very, very sick. It is my least favorite meal. Not even Neil Patrick Harris can make it taste any better!

Advertisement

I say that sort of jokingly because I think I am one of the few folks who doesn't really buy into this whole Neil Patrick Harris renaissance. Does the guy seem to have a genuine sense of humor and a bit of charm? Yes. But is How I Met Your Mother — with especial regard to this decade-old joke of a Barney character — one of the most self-satisfied and dopey sitcoms of the modern age? Also yes. I just really hate that show guys! Really think it's terrible. It'd be one thing if it was just this mildly amusing thing that no one cared about that just trucked along quietly and respectably. I could deal with that. I could appreciate that. But noooo. Everyone had to start crowing about Slapsgiving and the Bro Code and all the other things they put the word "the" in front of and how funny it all is. And everyone had to be named Marshall and Lily and that bialy-faced noob at the center of it had to be an architect. I forget where I heard it, but recently someone on a show or in real life (I can't tell the difference anymore) said something about how no one is actually an architect. And it's true! An Architect is the most made-up job in the world. Nobody is an architect. Absolutely no one. I've met architects, and they are not architects. It's just a fake job. Doesn't exist. Anyway. How I Met Your Mother needs to meet its mom and go to bed. I'm tired of it. And I'm tired of smirking little NPH over there.

Sacrilege! I know everyone else loves the way he stops and looks around and slightly arches his eyebrows every time he makes a funny as if to say "What? Huh? Did I say something funny? What?", like he's oblivious to his own rapier wit or whatever. It's just complete bunk. Though I find him annoying, I do respect the guy, so it was weird to see him fall so gamely last night into the awful Idol trap of being kind of an asshole. I mean, he wasn't like a Katy Perry or an Avril Stinkbean or anything, but he diiiid do some laughing at folks right in front of their sweaty, miserable faces. Which is disappointing! But, I guess, understandable. It is very hard to not laugh when the Sad Weirdos of the world are paraded in front you, because they are just so sad and so weird and sometimes laughing is what you do when you are uncomfortable and, yes, maybe a little sad too. I will choose to believe that that's why NPH laughed last night and not because he is a jerk who is jerky to other jerks.

Once again, Idol failed to deliver the goods last night. And I mean "goods" quite literally. Where were all the good people? We saw: some Ruben Studdard knockoff, a girl who was on Barney who showed up dressed like a dominatrix to sing an En Vogue song (above, and: whatever happened to En Vogue?), um... Oh. Right. There was a pretty girl who like almost died or was adopted or almost died while being adopted or something. I don't remember. Was there anyone else? I can't remember anymore. It all bleeds together in the mind, muddy like watercolors, just all old tinny echoes — cacophony, din, dying.

Oh, right. Joe Jonas was on! Yeah, Joe Jonas came on to judge the second day of Dallas auditions and there he was with his caterpillar eyebrows and that molded mocha face of his and out in the hallway Ryan paced up and down, up and down, murmuring things to himself. He was whispering, practicing:

"Hey Joe." "'Sup, Joe?" "Yo... Joe." "Joe, how are you?" "Joe, so good to see you." "Joe, you look great." "Joe, get in me." "Joe... I love you."

But as it turned out, he didn't need some rehearsed opening line. Instead, when the day was done and lights fuzzed off and the last of the contestants' sad weird tears had been wiped off the parquet by Jill the lost-eyed assistant, Joe sauntered out and smiled at Ryan and, without a word, they took each other's hand and walked out into the night. They saw Dallas. Looked at the flickering marquis of the Majestic. Gazed, a longing for the past rippling in their hearts, at the Magnolia building. Ambled slow and close through Fair Park.

They ended up in Oak Lawn, sitting at a little table at Dish, humming things to each other. Tones and thrums and odd, mysterious notes. Later they'd be in a pile of sheets at the W and twirl each other's hair, being weird together, talking in a new language, counting the dust motes that hovered in the shaft of sunlight that came streaming across Texas and right into their room. "This one is ours," Joe would say. "This one is ours forever." And Ryan would smile and feel terribly warm, full of cotton and wonder, and he'd know that the show was done. That he'd found his idol, his hero, his Clarkson to his Lewis, this was the wood he was under, the one carrying him away. How strange to be a couple of celebrities in love in the state of lone stars. How nice to be part of something real.

And then with a snap, Ryan woke up. He'd been dozing in the hallway, tired of fretting moms and weird, smelly men waitin' on their girls. He looked at his watch. Four o'clock. Still hours to go. He could hear Joe inside, laughing at something. That distant, pretty sound. What a weirdo I am, Ryan thought. So sad and weird. And then the next person was there and waiting anxiously by the cameras and it was time to work.

The End, forever, until next week when there are more audition episodes.

A scream rings out in the Hill Country.