“American Idol” is hitting its stride now, as last night was the dreaded “group night” portion of Hollywood week. For those of you new to the show, or who need a reminder, what they do is let the contestants form groups–but judge them individually. They also give them a song choice from a list of 20 songs, but give them that list at around 8pm, and force them to practice deep into the night, and audition for the judges early in the morning. I know they want to create a pressure cooker situation, but come on. Is it really necessary to not give them a full day to practice?

The first hour of the show was devoted to showing the groups forming, losing/gaining members and all of the drama that typically goes along with group night. Not surprisingly, no one wanted to work with Tiffany Rios, who had disrespected every other contestant last week by stating, “I’m sick of watching all of these people try to do what I know I can do.” Yikes. And she was surprsed nobody wanted her in their group? She wound up pairing up with someone named Jessica, whom she stole from another group already formed. The producers had to make an exception and let them be a duo. Also, Scott McCreery (young deep-voiced country dude) and Jacee Badeaux (pudgy Louisiana 15 year old kid that Simon Cowell would have eaten for lunch) could not find groups but ultimately latched on.

Here are some of the highlights and low-lights:

STAYING IN HOLLYWOOD
Jordan Dorsey, a great singer but one with a huge ego that was overly critical of other singers when putting his group together, wound up in a five-person group with 16 year old Robbie Rosen (young Andy Pettitte) and all of them in the group are moving on to the next round…440, a group of young ladies, also all made it to the next level…..15 year old Loren Alaina and her group of young Southern women sang to Steven Tyler, whom they invited up on stage. It was amusing and I thought they all sounded great, but the judges only let Loren through…..Aaron Gutierrez made it but his brother Mark did not, although they didn’t show their performances…..then a group called The Hits did a really nice job though I neglected to write down what song they did or who was in the group. Sorry about that…..the DBs had crappy harmonies, but James Durbin and and dude named Caleb made it through while a young lady named Emma (who J-Lo had said would be swallowed up by Hollywood) did not. Their version of Queen’s “Somebody To Love” also paled in comparsion to the next group of 15 and 16 year olds who were being coached by their mamas. Wow, just wow, they were amazing….the harp playing Seth Rogan lookalike Casey and Juli Zorilla made it through from their group….so did Chris Medina, the dude who takes care of his wheelchair bound fiancee….the Sugar Mamas & Babies were Brett Lowenstern and Jacee Badeaux’s group, and while the judges sent four of them through and made Jacee hang in the balance, they ultimately sent him through. Really, I didn’t think he was that great last night but is clearly a fan favorite already, including having Mrs. Mike as a fan…..then they showed the group that kicked Jacee out, which included Scott McCreery, and all four of them made it through….finally, exes Rob and Chelsee along with Jacqueline (one half of the couple along with that Nick dude who was booted off last week) could not get it all together, mostly Rob. The girls made it through (though really, Jacqueline was all over the place) and Rob just didn’t want to be there, and didn’t even try to learn the lyrics or dance moves. Which is really a shame, because he has a great voice.

BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR OR NEVER
Among those not moving on were both Tiffany Rios and her partner Jessica. Mercifully, Tiffany was going home, but not because of her attitude–because of her loud and screachy pipes…Matt Dillard, the dude from southern Tennessee who is a farmer and wore overalls to his first audition, didn’t make the cut…Janelle Arthur and Aly Jados, and someone else in their group named Carolyn, who started arguing with the judges, all did not make it…..Paris Tassin, the mom of the girl with special needs who connected with J-Lo, also was not quite good enough…..same with a girl named Emilee from the San Fran auditions who had the “baby girl” voice. Whew. We just didn’t need another “bird girl” (what was her name again?….you all know who I mean!). And of course, poor Rob. I have to say, I think Rob really blew it. He should have found another group to work with from the start, because he let his emotions and bitterness toward Chelsee get in the way, but he’s a better singer than 90 percent of the other guys in Hollywood.

So there you have it…about 100 contestants survived the group rounds, and now the judges will cut the 100 down to about 50 tonight. That means we are inching closer to the show being live, which is when the fun really begins. So see you back here tomorrow and let’s keep this party going…