American Idol: Houston, We Have a Contestant

Last night's American Idol was rote even by Idol standards, and it's because the hour really should have been folded into Tuesday's episode. Trimming the 46 contestants 24 would have made a solid two-hour ep, but stretched to three it wound up feeling bloated in the first installment and rushed in the second one. Seriously, 17 winners were announced in 44 minutes of show time, which is almost one every three minutes. Learn to balance the pacing, kids.

At the top of the episode, 37 contestants remained, and only 17 of them would get good news. But in keeping with the show's altered mission of the past couple years -- more focus on the talented singers than the terrible ones -- pretty much every singer we saw make the long walk to face the judges on the Kodak Theatre stage was going to go through. Hell, some of the winners even got the good news in a montage, so you know that the show won't waste too much time on seeing someone get rejected. (Not to say they won't linger on it in the future. From what I understand, that's kind of the whole point of the results shows. But for now, they pushed through.) Of course, that's just one more thing that reduced the tension and made the episode an exercise in sheer data collection instead of a character journey.

The few losers we did see were predictable. Thaddeus is probably a nice dude, but should not have his hair cut like Grace Jones. And ... that's all the losers I apparently remember. I even scanned my notes, but there's no one else there. Chalk it up to the fact that the show didn't show names on screen for those who lost in montages. That brown-haired guy who looks like Keith Urban lost, I remember that. Oh yeah, and Angela, the girl who's tried three times and has dealt with all manner of personal and legal problems just to get back. She lost. I was surprised at that, but then again, maybe her backstory is too rough. The show wants to sell a character, not a person. American Idol is all about The Blind Side, not so much about Precious.

The winners seemed to fall into the category of pleasing and not too outlandish. Only Crystal Bowersox, the mom with blonde dreadlocks and the Joplinesque growl, seems to stand apart from the show's m.o. to find the least threatening singer possible. Locals should note that Houston's Paige Miles was chosen for the top 24, and we'll get to see her perform again on Tuesday when the live eps begin with the female performers.

One more note about the top 24: Michael Lynche, aka Big Mike, was featured on both eps this week as being in the top 24 semifinalists, might have had his identity as a winner of Hollywood Week tipped by his dad to his hometown paper, and as a result, some rumors are going around that he's off the show because of a violated confidentiality agreement. I have no idea if it's true yet, but I'll let you know what happens.

With that, here are the 24 semifinalists:

The Men: Lee Dewyze, Andrew Garcia, Tyler Grady, Todrick Hall, Casey James, Aaron Kelly, Alex Lambert, Michael Lynche, Joe Munoz, John Park, Jermaine Sellers, and Tim Urban.

The Women: Didi Benami, Crystal Bowersox, Lacey Brown, Michelle Delamor, Katelyn Epperly, Siobhan Magnus, Paige Miles, Ashley Rodriguez, Lilly Scott, Katie Stevens, Janell Wheeler, and Haeley Vaughn.

There are some talented vocalists in that group. Some seemed to get through because they're the most blatantly commercial -- Janell had lost her voice and could barely sing in her final audition, but her legs go all the way to the floor and she's look good on a poster, so they might as well keep her around -- but others seem to be a bit less cookie-cutter. I'm thinking of Andrew, whose cover of "Straight Up" is still in my head; Crystal, who should totally punch one of these other girls; and Haeley, who's got an interesting country leaning. No idea how this thing will play out, either. It feels like a lot has happened, but it's really just beginning. I might need a drink.

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Daniel Carlson
Contact: Daniel Carlson