(CBS) If you're going to have "American Idol" auditions in Texas, how do you start the show? Why, with an astronaut talking from space.
So last night we had a man with a very bushy mustache wishing everyone good luck from the International Space Station. Why was this relevant? Why, we were in Houston, the place that has managed to become synonymous with, well, problems.
Indeed, a survey of executives performed recently suggested that Houston was their least favorite destination for a conference. They claimed they would rather video-conference than go there.
Sheer philistinism, as these auditions would prove - or try to. For here were 10,000 little earth people desperate to be, like the Planet Dojo-Cojo, discovered.
The judges, though, were in Galveston. Perhaps they simply couldn't cope with Houston's hidden pleasures. Steven Tyler confessed that he still struggled with telling people they sucked. This despite so many being willing to tell him how much he struggled singing the national anthem.
"Being on American Idol. It's just so phenomenon (sic)," said the first ambitious dreamer, Phong Vu. He liked to sing "female pop artist" music. It is, indeed, the secret pleasure of many men.
And yet, Vu's singing was more voodoo. His "iconic moves" also featured little with which any known icon would want to be associated. Unless that icon is your dad after too many tipples of tequila.
As the program continued, it seemed as if the producers were as anti-Houston as those executives in the survey. A series of utter mugwumps were paraded before viewers - very sad males in cowboy hats who croaked like frogs in the throes of a difficult pregnancy.
But then we had a nice girl from Mississippi who made a quad bike look like a tricycle and shot deer for a little cheap recreation. Seventeen-year-old Skylar Laine has the guts of a troubled rhino in her voice. It carries with it the rawness of a slab of venison and the pain of the deer before it became the slab of venison.
She was like Lauren Alaina with a right hook in her throat. She was so good that Steven Tyler hugged her mom - politely.
Suddenly we were confronted with a girl who, five years ago, forgot the words during the Hollywood round. Yet here was Baylie Brown, back again and now a mature 21.
She sang about her bed of roses. Steven Tyler stared and seemed to consider the dimensions, consistency and thread count associated with that bed. Brown sailed on.
Kristine Osorio is 28, has three kids, is going through a divorce and, instead of hiring a divorce lawyer, used the money to fly to this audition. Yes, she sang Adele, someone whom so many auditioners have tried to impersonate. But her version actually had the notes that Adele intended.
"Thank you, God," muttered Jennifer Lopez, as Osorio began to sing. That was all the approbation Osorio needed. She is going to Hollywood, the terrestrial version of the International Space Station.
There was, abruptly, dissension among the judges. Randy Jackson and Tyler seemed to be ganging up on La Lopez. She was not happy. You will turn yourself into a pillar of blancmange when I tell you that JLo pouts. She also gets angry.
"Baby, you can sing. I love your voice," said Tyler to 24-year-old bartender Linda Williams. This was perhaps a line he'd used to a 24-year-old bartender before.
"I'm about to pee myself," Williams replied.
"Go right ahead," countered Tyler.
Yet Lopez was unhappy. She couldn't connect with Williams' voice. She'd have preferred to connect with Tyler's chin.
"That was awful," she said to Tyler.
"I'm so angry I almost had an anxiety attack," she added. It's not everyone whose anger leads to an anxiety attack. For some, an axe-attack is a little more likely.
Alejandro Cazares, 26, talked of revolution. Unfortunately, his voice revolved like Linda Blair's head. He pleaded a little much. He was ushered out by a very broad bouncer.
Twenty-year-old Cortez Shaw had a sad personal story to tell - like Adele. So he was another to channel her.
"That what that song sounds like," said Lopez, who had clearly heard one too many desperate versions of songs from the world's most popular album.
Julie Shulman, clad in very tight stretchy pants, made crinkly sounds as she sang. Or, rather, didn't sing. She was yet another to offer Adele. But she was, perhaps, the first to offer dance moves reminiscent of someone who exclusively breathed nitrous oxide.
"I bet you're crazy in..." began Tyler, reaching for the smut that is always lingering at the entrance to his lips. He turned the line to: "..on the dance floor."
But Jackson - as well as any remaining millions watching - surely knew his intentions. They were not honorable.
Would we end with a little talent? A native Houstonian came forward with a distinctive disability: he was born with no ears. Doctors had to create an ear canal for him. Ramiro Garcia offered a symbolic song: "Amazing Grace."
The judges took a leap of grace and faith. So, having begun with outer space, we ended with inner joy.