I'm not sure how often “American Idol” has done Hollywood Week, or how often Hollywood Week has reached its climax with group performances, but the reality is that group performances have almost always been anti-climatic and low-drama, but every once in a while somebody totally freaks and the drama is tremendous.
Will Thursday (February 5) night's show feature a gripping Group Round? Or a fizzle in which one or two people forget lyrics, one or two people go to bed earlier and nobody really cares?
Let's find out…
8:00 p.m. ET. When we left things, Gabby Z was freaking out a little, which would have been much more exciting if I knew who Gabby Zonnenveld was or if the competition would be the poorer in her absence. Will she pull out of her tail-spin? Harry Connick Jr to the rescue! He comes up on-stage, takes Gabby aside and tells her to recover her composure. Everybody else in her line performs. That includes the lovely Kelley Kime, who isn't quite as winning without her adorable daughter, and Katherine Winston, who is a not-untalented bore.
8:03 p.m. “I'm gonna try this one more time,” Gabby says. Accompanied by some encouraging clapping from her fellow contestants, she finishes her performance. Was it enough? Gabby is safe, as are Kelley and Katherine. Oh.
8:05 p.m. I'm already annoyed by Andrew Annello, but he doesn't lack for confidence. I don't remember Maddie Walker, but Ryan Seacrest tells me we met her in New York. I assume I mentioned that she seems at least 20 years older than her alleged 16 years. I do vaguely remember Alexis Gomez, who's better than either Maddie or Andrew. Andrew's sent home, but Alexis and Maddie advance. Based on what we saw, I can understand that decision.
8:12 p.m. Oh right. Cody Fry is somebody. He makes slow songs even slower. That's what he did in his audition and it's what he's doing here, too. It's an OK gimmick if you've got a nice voice, as he does. But it's sure gonna get tired.
8:13 p.m. Speaking of getting tired Loren Lott announces that she's here to help “American Idol” make a lot of money. Mostly, I think she's auditioning to play Pretty African-American Friend on a CW drama. That inevitability is delayed slightly, because the hyper-wired Loren is advancing.
8:14 p.m. Hiding from the paparazzi with a purple beard is frizzy-haired Shi Scott. It's one of several annoying affectations Shi sports. That group also features smooth-voiced Rayvon Owen who sings for his mother and likely would sing for the mothers in the audience, without making much connection with the younger viewers. There's nothing wrong with that, because he's got a nice tone. They're both safe.
8:16 p.m. Clark Beckham has a mature and rootsy sound and very little stage presence. The opposite of mature is tadpole Daniel Seavey, a terrifyingly young singer who plays 75 instruments, if memory serves. Daniel's voice sounds like it has settled a bit from his first audition. Puberty is a powerful thing. They're both advancing. A) Everybody is advancing and B) If they're planning on fitting Group Round into the last 40 minutes of this episode, it can't be very good.
8:22 p.m. I like Dakota Suarez's story, but she isn't anywhere near good enough to be on this show. In fact, she's awful. Also awful? Several people I don't recognize and who aren't identified. That seems unfair. Why are these people being spared name humiliation? The people who are awful all think they deserved to make it. Kudos to Dakota for knowing how bad she is.
8:24 p.m. Remember Virgin Qaasim Middleton? Jax is making eyes at him. It's a very cute fledgling showmance. I hope it progresses, because it's adorable. Is he singing his song for Jax? That makes this even cuter, especially when the editors keep cutting to Jax in the crowd with every high note. Somebody needs to tell Qaasim to chill out a little, but he's got almost limitless talent if he gets the right coaching. He's on to the next round.
8:26 p.m. A bunch of other people I barely remember are advancing as well. But now? Group Round. They have to divide into groups of four. “This separates the players from the champions,” J-Lo says.
8:28 p.m. The obligatory Singer Without a Group is Alexis Granville, who is reduced to tears.
8:32 p.m. Will Alexis find a team? Awww. Italian Stereotype Sal invites Alexis to join his quartet. Is that allowed? Apparently. For now.
8:33 p.m. Rehearsal. Rehearsal. Rehearsal. Some of the groups are doing well. Some are not. “It's time for delirium,” Jax says as the “Idol” special effects team begins getting all Van Gough-y on the backgrounds. It's a cute effect. Sal sings “In The Wee Small Hours” as everybody stumbles around bleary-eyed. Thus far, there isn't a single group with an cohesive narrative.
8:35 p.m. We're starting with Double-Stuff. They were confident enough to actually get some sleep. But sleep messed everything up and now they're worried about lyrics and whatnot. This group is David Oliver Willis, Jesse Cline, Clark Beckham and J. None, who makes a bit of a splash with a James Brown split. I think Clark and J. None were the standouts here. I'd send Jesse Cline packing. The judges are pleased and all four singers are advancing.
8:43 p.m. Yeah, we're not getting through this tonight. Shi Scott's squad has a strange composition and a strange name. She's joined by Andrew Bloom, who people once compared to Tim Tebow, Adam Ezegelian, who I'd want to hang out with, and Big Ron Wilson, who is awesome. This is an example of odd component parts adding up to some amusing chemistry. I think Shi and Big Ron were the stars of their version of “PTY.” Andrew is sent home, which is OK, since he's only 17 and may be back someday.
8:47 p.m. The youngest team is The Dream Team, which features several of my previously established favorites. Maddy Hudson was awesome before, though she needs a bit of help with lip-stick application. She's shout-y here. Reno Anoa'i isn't even that good and he can't remember his lyrics. Tyanna Jones oversings to compensate, as does Steffi Ledbedder, though not as well. It went from OK to worse and the judges are concerned. Steffi goes home, but everybody else survives.
8:53 p.m. Sal's Gals will be our last group tonight, presumably so that Lonely Alexis can get the Gabby Z treatment. Ryan says that there was an “unexpected turn of events” during preparation. By that he means that Alexis had a panic attack, which was about as expected a turn of events as I could imagine, given the editing.
8:55 p.m. Oh. First we're getting Team Dimples. Jaq Mackenzie is much better singing covers than she was on that first audition with her original. Nick Fradiani has a decent corniness. I like Hunter Larsen's combination of smoker's voice and California girl looks. And Michael Simeon raises Nick's corniness with a bit more earnest talent as well. This is a very well-conceived group and they all perform well together. They're all advancing, though Harry warns them that only one can win.
8:58 p.m. Here comes a cliffhanger with Alexis and Sal's Gals. Before they can even begin, Alexis wobbles and has to be led off-stage. DRAMA! Harry asks for a break. Somebody in the crowd crosses herself. Will Alexis survive?!?!? I hope so.
Who'd you like tonight? Did anybody you care about get sent home?