American Idol: I can get used to this

The producers of “American Idol” wanted to shake things up this season, and so far they have done that, at least in some ways. There are now four judges instead of three, and Hollywood week (on TV) was extended one extra week. But the biggest change of all is in the show’s format. Instead of 24 semi-finalists, there are now 36. And in the first three semi-final rounds, only 3 of the 12 are voted into the finals by America. What this does is weed out a lot of the lesser talent very early on, and sets up a very worthy, very talented Top 12. Of course, those voted “off” this week and the next two weeks still have a chance to make the final round as a wild card. But I gotta tell ya, this is a much better way to go.

So last night, since this IS an hour long results show, there was some fluff and padding. It began with video of the twelve who sang the night before in a video montage of their journey so far. Then they did a group number of the positively horrible Jason Mraz song, “I’m Yours.”

Seriously, that was the best they could come up with? Then we saw highlights of Tuesday’s performances.

Finally, Ryan Seacrest started bringing them out to the front of the stage. He asked the judges their opinion of how they did and then told them whether they were moving on or not. First up, Casey Carlson, who was pretty awful and chose an awful song in The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” Casey, not in the finals. Steven Fowler, also not in the finals. Alexis Grace, yes, in the finals. This girl is cute and has the voice that reflects her Memphis roots, big and soulful. They had Alexis sing, and this is so much better than having an eliminated contestant sing their way out.

Back to business. Ricky Braddy, who was clearly one of the best singers Tuesday night, not in the top 12. Jackie Tohn, also not in the top 12, and that’s good, because she’s been as annoying as the shiny pants she wore Tuesday night. Then it was between Anoop Desai and Michael Sarver. I had thought Anoop might make it, because he has an amazing voice and is likeable. But Michael was more likeable–the hard-working, everyAmerican many of us can relate to. Good for him. So Alexis and Michael so far in the finals, leaving us with five more and one more seat.

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American Idol: awkward and head-scratching

Last night “American Idol” Season 8 on FOX kicked into high gear with 12 of the final 36 contestants performing in front of 25 million TV viewers, a live audience, the four celebrity judges and Ryan Seacrest. And since it’s the eighth season, we can forgive them for a few awkward moments and some bad technical issues, right? Wrong! Okay, it’s live TV and most of these singers have never performed on a stage of this magnitude, so it’s okay if some of them stumble on their words when Seacrest sticks a microphone in their face. But there were some bad sound problems, and even a moment where a video montage of the wrong contestant forced Seacrest to improvise. He does that really well, but he shouldn’t have to. I have a feeling someone is getting fired today, or slapped with a written warning.

Anyway, things are different this season since they added a fourth judge–Kara DioGuardi. This was inevitably going to make the comments from the panel take even more time. Also, of the twelve performing each of the first three Tuesdays of live shooting, only three make it through to the finals–one guy, one girl, and the next highest vote getter. What does this mean? It means you have to be damn good the first time out and you have to pick the right song, something the contestants of Idol seem to mess up with stunning regularity. After each one sang, we’d get about five minutes of judging banter and then an interview with each contestants’ parents and/or spouse as soon as they came off stage. Whoever came up with this idea is likely being handed a pink slip now as well. Damn, I feel like Donald Trump today. Anyway, it was really awkward, especially for those who performed horribly…and there were a few of those.

Here is how it went down, broken down by the good performances, the in-between and the bad, as we have done before in this space.

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American Idol: Shtick sells

Last night on “American Idol,” Simon Cowell made my blood boil just a little. As he sat in one of four judges’ thrones in a judges’ “mansion,” he consistenly made reference to the fact that various contestants were not good-looking enough to make it as musical artists, or more to the point, to win Season 8 of “American Idol.” Mrs. Mike pointed out that Cowell is looking for the total package of looks, talent and the ability to sell millions of records. But this is also what has been wrong with the music industry for at least a decade now–that it passes on less pretty but more talented artists for pretty ones that they think they can teach to sing. Look, I’m not saying Cowell hasn’t been successful with that formula, but sometimes you can’t ignore amazing talent because you can’t picture their face on a magazine cover. Okay, I’m done ranting, on to the results at the Hollywood mansion…

I don’t know how many contestants made it this far, but only 36 are going on to the round in which America votes. This year will be different from than previous seasons, as 12 at a time will perform, and 3 of those will move on while 9 go home, with the judges selecting three wild cards to round out the final 12. So as they do every year at this point, the remaining hopefuls have to face the judges, but the scene is in a mansion this year. Is this someone’s house? Anyway, a handful of these contestants had to “sing for their lives” against one another, which was extremely uncomfortable for everyone. Here are the results, for real this time…

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