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.

Then there was a product placement spot for the “American Idol Experience” at Disney, and they showed footage from its launch with David Cook and Carrie Underwood singing Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.” Hey, that sounded pretty good! But then they had some fun, as Seacrest called up the next two “contestants” to the front of the stage, and those were former finalists Michael Johns and Carly Smithson, who then performed a pretty horrible rendition of “The Letter.”

Back to business. Without even having them come out front, Seacrest had Ann Marie Boskovich, Brent Keith and Stevie Wright all stand up, and told them all they were not in the finals at the same time. I think we all knew that. So then it was down to Tatiana Del Toro and Danny Gokey. Hmm. Could Tatiana really be in the final 12? Nope! But she didn’t squeal like a pig the way we all thought she would, and Danny sang us out in a big way.

America, after this first round, I have to say I’m proud of you. You absolutely chose three very worthy finalists, and I’m excited to see what transpires in the next few weeks. I have a bad feeling we haven’t seen the last of Tatiana yet though. That wild card should go to Ricky or Anoop though. We’ll see. Meanwhile, the show next week is on Wednesday and Thursday, so set your DVR accordingly.