Idol Beat: Battle Los Angeles

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You know, I had my misgivings about covering Season 10 of American Idol. I've already mentioned my concerns that, contrary to what David Hasselhof would have us believe, America doesn't necessarily have talent. At least, not enough to fill 10 seasons worth of programming.

I also feared the show was starting to run out of steam. I mean, after Lee DeWayze, could things go anywhere but downhill? Luckily, my faith was restored by Randy Jackson, who assured us at the beginning of last night's episode that both the talent and the show itself were "definitely better this season," and why would he lie?

It's the beginning of "Hollywood Week," where the 327 contestants who survived the various Auditions of Long Knives congregate in Los Angeles (and from the looks of the cheesy intro, they all arrived on the same plane). Now's the time we can finally look forward to some serious criticism and big surprises, right?

Yeah, well...as my grandfather was fond of telling me and my cousins around Christmas, "Don't get your hopes up, losers."

First of all, I have to get this out of the way:

Why am I as excited as a Japanese sailor seeing his first naked American, you ask? Because Ashley made it! Granted, they relegated her passage to the last minute of the broadcast, and next week's preview...doesn't look very promising (she appears to be having a tweaky[er] Lindsay Lohan moment). But for now, I'm happy.

The contestants arrive, followed closely -- and separately -- by the judges. Couldn't they all come in the same car? Are they afraid of some sort of Tom Clancy doomsday scenario where all Randy, Steven, and J Lo are all killed at the same time and they have to pull Kara DioGuardi out of retirement? In retrospect, I suppose that would be pretty horrifying.

Simply Red's Brett Loewenstern is first up, but first we simply must be reminded how much of an outcast he was in school. Are we really going to relive everybody's neuroses we were just exposed to a week ago? Of course they're fucked up, people; they're musicians.

Quite a few familiar faces make it to the group round, including Rachel Zevita, Milwaukee's Thia and Casey from Austin, who looks like he's trying out for an Iron and Wine cover band. I was mildly disappointed to see no mention of Devyn Rush, the NYC waitress who got canned when the restaurant where she worked as a singing waitress couldn't accommodate her singing schedule.

That's good thinking, because no one who ever visits New York would want to do something so eminently cheesy as visiting a former American Idol's place of work.

And I have to admit to being mildly disappointed Victoria Huggins didn't make it. Granted, I was just pulling for the kid so I could continue heaping abuse on her. And before you think I'm being unfair, take a gander at all the people around her at the airport baggage claim. They hated her too, and they'd only been standing next to her for 10 minutes. So much potential for good journalism wasted.

But there are no surprises this time for the sad-bastard crew. Paris, she with the disabled baby, Chris Medina, with the tragic engagement story, and James, the Tourette's/Aspergers double-whammy, easily make it. And you can call me cynical, but I'm willing to bet money none of them get sent home until the voting rounds when the judges are off the hook.

The sole exception, I guess, was Travis from New York. Apparently "formerly" homeless just doesn't cut the mustard.

Rob and Chelsee will continue their inevitable journey into each other's bed for another week, but the biggest surprise of the night was not that Nick and his beard girlfriend Jacqueline were split (she's going on, he's not...and you could almost see the realization of a terrible fate averted in her eyes as he pleads for another shot), but rather that the belly dancer didn't make it. I guess J Lo had a talk with her male counterparts.

And can Scotty McCreery sing anything but that fucking Josh Turner song?

The Hollywood fun continues next week. In the meantime, I'm going to go watch that Battle: L.A trailer again. That was the best part of the night.

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