“American Idol” begins Thursday (March 3) night’s telecast with 24 singers competing for a number of spots expected to be somewhere between 10 and 13. Whether we end up trimming 11 singers or an even higher, it will be the most carnage the American People have ever been responsible for in a single episode. And sorting out the surviving contestants will take a full two hours of over-extended triage.
Click through to find out what you’ve done, America…
8 p.m. ET We begin with a nostalgic journey through the auditions and performances that brought us to this point. They have to eliminate or validate one contestant every five minutes tonight, so I hope they move quickly.
8:02 p.m. “I want to be here. I really want to be here,” cries Julie Zorrilla, probably after her lackluster performance on Monday night that aired on Wednesday.
8:03 p.m. Jennifer Lopez is pretty.
8:04 p.m. Ryan Seacrest comes running down a staircase that wasn’t there for the first two nights of performances. Oooh. It’s hidden behind the JumboTron. Fancy, “Idol.”
8:04 p.m. 40 million votes came in over the last two nights. Ryan thinks that this is a sign of how popular this group is. I think that it’s a sign that if two groups of 12 contestants perform over two nights and you open the floor for call-in, text-in and online votes, you can accumulate 40 million votes without any real difficulty.
8:06 p.m. “It’s the highest number of votes we’ve seen at this stage in the competition,” Ryan says. Yes. We also hadn’t previously allowed for 50 votes per person via Facebook. I’m unimpressed.
8:06 p.m. Ah. OK. So the Top 10 will be announced. And then the judges will announce a certain number of people who will perform solos for the chance at receiving a Wild Card. “It’s going to be a tough night for us,” admits J-Lo. But we don’t know how many Wild Card spots there will be. Mystery!
8:07 p.m. Asked if the guys were better or the girls were better, Tyler replies, “I can’t say.” Because, you know, he’s just a judge. Clearly he should never be asked to judge.
8:08 p.m. We’re promised “Drama, like you’ve never seen before.” Since this is an entirely new format, I suppose Ryan can’t help but be correct. Bring the drama, “American Idol.”
8:11 p.m. The guys! The microscope! They’re under it! Remember what happened on Tuesday? I do! I remember it from both Tuesday *and* Friday. I extra-remember it!
8:15 p.m. Oh gracious. It’s 8:15. Nobody’s gone home yet. How are we going to cram in all of the drama?
8:16 p.m. Brett Loewenstern admits that he actually slept fine last night. Ryan wanted to hear stories of insomnia, so he moves on fairly quickly. Stefano Langone is worried about sending home a friend tonight. If I were Stefano, I’d be more worried about sending Stefano home.
8:17 p.m. Behind-the-scenes footage from their interviews. Stefano recalls J-Lo telling him he was hot. Casey Abrams challenges Randy Jackson to a bass-off. They remember their Top 24 Party. Wait. Why wasn’t I invited to the Top 24 party? Ouch. “I look like a guy who slacks and is very lazy,” cracks Casey, who calls himself a lumberjack. And what’s up with Scott McCreery’s sun-visor. Now Brett compares himself to a rainbow cookie in a pile of chocolate chip cookies. Previously he was a green apple in a pile of red apples..
8:20 p.m. “Dim the lights… Here we go…”
8:21 p.m. Scotty and Robbie Rosen are brought to center stage. We all know Scotty isn’t going anywhere. Listen to the squealing from the audience whenever he appears. He remains humble. “I want to see a lot more of the same,” is J-Lo’s advice for Scotty going forward. Robbie may be in a bit of trouble, but surely the judges will give him a chance to sing for a Wild Card even if he didn’t make the Top 10 on his own. Robbie’s also humble. Ryan asks Randy what Robbie’s strengths are. The judge wants to see Robbie back on the piano.
8:23 p.m. The first person in the Top 10 is… Scotty McCreery, But Robbie Rosen is not so lucky. He isn’t in the Top 10 on his own.
8:24 p.m. Let’s bring Clint Jun Gamboa, Jordan Dorsey and Jovany Baretto out to the middle. If you ask me, none of them belong in the Top 10. Clint is hyperventilating. If Clint’s sent home, I desperately want them to bring Jacee out to deliver the bad news. Good gracious. Clint hasn’t heard anything and now he’s crying. Is he trying to be Ashley Sullivan. As for Jordan, he says that if he had it to do over, he’d have sung John Legend instead of Usher. J-Lo agrees that that would have been a good decision. Jovany figures if he stays or if he goes, it’s been a good journey.
8:27 p.m. Clint and Jordan have not made the Top 10. But Jovany is still standing there. He also hasn’t made the Top 10. That’s probably appropriate. I wonder if the judges will let Jordan do a totally different song, or if the Wild Card contenders are going to have to do their Top 24 songs again. That would suck.
8:32 p.m. Poor Scotty is all alone. He remains my pick to win. So this is appropriate.
8:33 p.m. But first? A flashback to Wednesday’s show and Monday’s taping for the Top 12 Women. I double-remember this one also. These recap packages aren’t insightful. But it’s good to be reminded how badly the judges were forced to over-rate Pia Toscano, who was *good* but not *that* good…
8:37 p.m. Ashthon Jones reassures us that the Top 12 Women are all best friends, that they’ve prayed together and become roommates and taught each other stuff.
8:37 p.m. The ladies have also undergone media training. And they’ve also walked the blue carpet. The ladies all thank us. And they’d all be very sad if they were sent home, especially poor Rachel Zevita. Lauren Turner vows to cut us if we cut her. I hope Lauren Turner’s OK.
8:40 p.m. Pia and Lauren Alaina are brought to the center. Let’s get real: They’re both in the Top 10. Why drag this out? Wait. Kelly Clarkson compared Lauren Alaina to Kellie Pickler? Ouch. Then again, Kellie’s been very successful post-“Idol.”
8:43 p.m. The first woman in the Top 10 is… Lauren Alaina. And the second is Pia Toscano. Duh.
8:44 p.m. Next? Tatynisa Wilson and Julie Zorrilla. This feels like a “Neither of you is in the Top 10” group.
8:44 p.m. It’s amazing how crushed Julie has been by just one bad performance. She keeps apologizing over and over again. She maintains she just wants one opportunity to come out and play her guitar.
8:46 p.m. Tatynisa isn’t in the Top 10. Nor is Julie.
8:51 p.m. Down come Kendra, Ashthon and Karen. I’m convinced J-Lo will save Karen if Karen needs saving. And either Ashthon or Kendra would also be a fringe. Ashthon isn’t in the Top 10. The judges will give her a chance to sing, you can be sure.
8:53 p.m. Karen Rodriguez makes the Top 10. Sigh. She wouldn’t have been my choice. Kendra is sent back.
8:53 p.m. Down come Jacob Lusk, Casey and Tim Halperin. The first two are Top 10 locks. Tim is not. Poor Tim. He may not even be asked to sing again. Steven says that he’d have chosen something more “alt” for Tim.
8:55 p.m. Off to the Top 10 for Jacob Lusk. Duh. There’s a lot of growling in that hug. I blame Casey. Well, one of the remaining two is in the Top 10 and it’s… Casey Abrams, Duh.
8:56 p.m. Next up? Wow, we’re just zipping along. It’s Naima Adedapo, Lauren Turner and Thia Megia. Well, Thia’s a lock for the Top 10, but what of the others?
8:58 p.m. Only one is in the Top 10. Naima is not in the Top 10. It’s down to Lauren and Thia. And Thia Megia is in the Top 10.
8:59 p.m. Now Paul McDonald and Brett Loewenstern. Brett agrees he likes to hug and agrees he’s now ridiculously nervous, “numb,” I believe. Only one of them is in the Top 10… Paul McDonald is in the Top 10. Nice.
9:06 p.m. Hmmm… Haley Reinhart and Rachel Zevita are up for one last spot. I wouldn’t have predicted either of them for the Top 10. Will it be hotness or quirkiness winning out? It’s hotness. Haley Reinhart is in your Top 10.
9:08 p.m. For the men, it’s down to Stefano Langone and James Durbin. Will it be wailing or cuteness winning out? It’s wailing. James Durbin is in your Top 10.
9:09 p.m. “Is your favorite missing from that group on the side of the stage?” Ryan asks. Looking at the Top 10, the American People did a great job with the men. That’s the correct Top 5 Men and I don’t know that I’d even need an alternative put in as a Wild Card. As for the women? Well, Haley shouldn’t really be there, as sexy as she was last night. Lauren Turner definitely belongs. Naima Adedapo probably belongs. And I think Julia Zorrilla may belong on potential alone.
9:14 p.m. “I think that’s a great Top 10 and let’s see what happens after this,” Randy says. J-Lo says that they’ll let six people sing, three per gender. Ashthon is their first choice to sing. “She accepts the challenge,” Ryan says.
9:16 p.m. Ashthon’s bringing out the big guns with “And I Am Telling You.” It’s fine off to the chorus… Did she drop the key at the chorus? It’s only OK. But she makes sure she gets in one last unnecessarily big note at the end. I’m not expert, but I think that’s gonna impress the easily impressed judging panel. “I thought you brought it like you brought it before,” Steven says. J-Lo felt Ashthon’s passion. “I still love the attitude,” Randy says. But not one of them mentioned the actual… I dunno… Singing?
9:18 p.m. Stefano is never to perform. He’s singing “I Need You Now.” Bah. I wanted *all* of them to do “And I Am Telling You.” I mentioned Stefano’s poor phrasing on Tuesday. He’s a bit better tonight. This is, in general, a much better performance than what he did on Tuesday. And, as promised, that vein is popping on his forehead. He closes with nice touch. That may have been good enough… Randy says Stefano did the song justice. “There’s no way to not get it right with this group of kids and there’s no way to not get it wrong,” J-Lo says. Tyler was happy.
9:27 p.m. Steven determines that Kendra is next to sing. She’s singing “Georgia On My Mind.” It starts way too low for her. Then it goes strangely high for her. It’s never really in her sweet spot, though the audience seems very impressed with her head-voice. Meh. Randy feels like Kendra rocked it in the end. Ha. We’re running out of time. Only one judge…
9:29 p.m. Wow. J-Lo picks Jovany. He chooses “Angel.” But I’m actually shocked by this decision. Jovany sings in Spanish because, heck, it worked for Karen Rodriguez. Is he also going to take off his shirt and give J-Lo a lapdance. He’s much better than he was on Tuesday. But I’m still astounded that he got this opportunity but only one other guy is left to sing. J-Lo is the only judge with time and she says, “You did all you can do.”
9:37 p.m. Steven summons Naima. Wow. That means that Lauren Turner is done. Tatynisa and Rachel are also done. And Julia Zorrilla will never get to play her guitar for us. Naima sings “For All We Know,” a much better showcase for the “big-ness” of her voice than last night’s “Summertime” was. This is a nice reminder of Naima’s pipes. She’s *so* much better than Ashthon. I really hope the judges don’t get confused between the easily packaged mini-diva and the actual, genuine, unique talent. In case you’re confused, that actual, genuine, unique talent is Naima. I think we just locked up a Wild Card slot. Steven thanks her.
9:41 p.m. The last shot for the guys goes to… Robbie Rosen. That means that Clint, Jordan, Tim and Brett are done. I wish Jordan hadn’t screwed the pooch so royally last night, but otherwise? Seems tough but fair.
9:42 p.m. Robbie picks “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.” I don’t love this as a song choice. Robbie sounds really good. Far better than he did on Tuesday. But with Ashthon and Stefano and Kendra all over-singing for their lives, can he compete? He’d be one of my picks. “Very nice, very tender,” Randy says, before calling this “The toughest night ever.”
9:49 p.m. The judges haven’t made up their minds yet. How fortunate, then, that we have a previously announced J-Lo video to watch! Whew. Good thing the judges weren’t ready with their decision, because this NEEDED to be seen.
9:51 p.m. This song is not *un*catchy. I wish to get on the floor and put my drinks up. Also, I dunno if I’ve mentioned this, but Jennifer Lopez is kinda attractive. I take back anything I might have thought about how this “Idol” judging move was a bad choice for J-Lo’s career. This is definitely the most I’ve liked her since “Out of Sight.”
9:53 p.m. Whew. They’ve come to a conclusion. All they needed was that extra 4 minutes of J-Lo sweating and flexing her abs. But first? Commercial!
9:57 p.m. OK. Let’s do this!
9:57 p.m. We still don’t know how many people are even in the Finals. This is weird.
9:58 p.m. Randy selects… Ashthon. BAH. I must keep remembering to add that superfluous “h.”
9:58 p.m. J-Lo selects… Stefano. BAH. He wasn’t bad. But he wouldn’t have been among my Top 3.
9:59 p.m. Tyler selects… Naima. WHEW. I still feel a bit sad for Robbie Rosen. But he can still win Jewish Idol, premiering this summer on… um… cable somewhere.
10 p.m. Your Top 13: Scotty, Lauren, Pia, Karen, Jacob, Casey, Thia, Paul, Haley, James, Ashthon, Stefano and Naima.
10:01 p.m. Now? Off to the Top 13 party to hopefully interview our Idols…
So? What do you think of your Finalists? Did America make the right choices? Did the judges? Other than Lauren Turner, who got hosed?
IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO JOIN HITFIX’S FANTASY AMERICAN IDOL!!!!