After spinning wheels with two straight Group Round episodes in which almost nothing happened, “American Idol” may start making some tough cuts tonight.
FOX is promising that we're gonna get down to the Top 48 tonight, which still leaves many cuts to come, but at least things will begin to take shape for the season.
Follow along as we get to trimming…
8:01 p.m. ET. “It's A-Game or It's Plan-B,” says tonight's pre-credits tease.
8:01 p.m. It's morning on the last day of Hollywood Round and the contestants are pouring into Fords, except that then they're disembarking from buses. Slick product plug, “Idol.” The judges are prepared to cut half of the remaining contestants after Solo Round.
8:02 p.m. Up first? Affected Actress Lauren Lott, whose grandmother is in the crowd. Lauren does a decent, but emotion-free cover of “Skyfall.” I really don't think anybody's going to vote for Lauren, but J-Lo makes an approving face as Lauren hits a big note. The emotion comes out after Lauren finished. J-Lo stands and calls it a “superstar performance.” She's pumped.
8:04 p.m. Meanwhile, Daniel Seavey is still waiting to fully go through puberty. He's intimidated by how much experience other people have. I like Daniel's warbling and his innocent charm, but he still feels more like an “American Juniors” ringer than a full-sized “American Idol” contestant. “It's crazy,” J-Lo says. “Back at you,” Daniel replies. Keith Urban says something that suggests a Daniel Seavey body-swapping comedy that I might watch.
8:06 p.m. People are rehearsing, but Big Ron Wilson is having trouble lining up with the band and listening to Rickey Minor. Rickey keeps giving Big Ron advice. Big Ron keeps talking back to Rickey. Will anything sink in?
8:11 p.m. We're back for Big Ron, returning to “Let's Get It On.” I don't understand any piece of Ron's performance, from the pith helmet to the arm movement to the confused ending. Ron blames Rickey Minor for not letting him steer the band, calling it a “short man thing.” Wow. Dude. You're seriously insulting Rickey Minor? I'm made fun of Rickey Minor plenty over the years, but my fate has never been partially in his hands. Keith is incredulous. “I feel like I'm the energy that 'American Idol' has been missing all these years,” Big Ron says incorrectly. Blech. Away with you, sir.
8:14 p.m. Lacking Big Ron's confidence is the terrified Shi Scott, who hits the stage on the verge of hyperventilation. Shi is gorgeous and she has a very good recording voice, but this may be the first time I've felt like she was coming across as genuine in any way. Or maybe she's just getting value of looking like she's going to pass out. Harry felt like her nerves came through and that wasn't her strongest vocal performance.
8:16 p.m. Santana's nephew Adam Lasher has a fancy guitar and he's got a veteran's stage presence and composure. But at 27, I'm tempted to wonder why, exactly, he hasn't made it before. There must be something missing. Is he just not exciting enough for people to care? I think he's very good, but not thrilling enough to move the needle. He also comes across as cocky when Keith makes a minor criticism.
8:18 p.m. Time for a first round of cuts! Big Ron and Adam are heading home. Shi, Daniel and Lauren are all safe, as are a bunch of people who we assume aren't going to advance to the Top 24, because they just keep getting ignored. The lesson? Don't be an ass.
8:23 p.m. Who's next? Stylish, nose-ring fan Quentin Jackson. J-Lo comes to the stage to do a slo-mo jacket-removing-dance with him. Quentin's pretty damn cool. Coupled with a fine voice, that's enough to get a standing ovation from Keith. I also like that Quentin is both cocky, but likable. That's not easy.
8:23 p.m. I keep forgetting who Maddie Walker is, because she's my second favorite Maddie in the competition. This Maddie is the teenage blonde one. Nerd Chic Trevor Douglas is good. I never remember his name, but I always remember him.
8:27 p.m. Will Alexis Granville pass out again? Will she at least sing better than she did last time? I just don't buy her. There are too many faces and “I'm singing a note” hand gestures and her voice isn't nearly good enough to justify the affectations. It doesn't help that Alexis starts in the wrong key and can barely hit any notes. Harry makes Alexis stop and get her note. Sadly, it doesn't help. “One time is excusable, two times just isn't,” Harry says, stopping her. Alexis blames nerves and gets a hug from Ryan.
8:29 p.m. Ah, Jax. I don't think she can win, but I definitely think she could make the Top 7 or Top 8. Her whispy growl and slinky confidence tend to make me smile. I'm confused by the process here, because Jax is sent through on the stage, without a line or anything. And Alexis seemed to be done in the same way.
8:34 p.m. I always forget Michael Simeon, but then I always think he's got a very clean, trained voice. J-Lo always likes him. “He's getting better every time,” Harry says. I don't think we've actually spent time with Nick Fradiani, but now we know he's old. And like many of the old contestants, he's polished and relaxed. I'd listen to him in a coffee shop, but I'm not sure America will vote for him. Harry says it's clear how experienced Nick is.
8:37 p.m. San Francisco auditioner Katherine Skinner has “a psychic cat Mustapha” who just died. Katherine is shrill and unformed and some viewers will HATE her. But some viewers will also really like her and accept her random key changes and shrieking. J-Lo thinks this was the third time Katherine didn't deliver.
8:39 p.m. Another line. Michael, Emily Brooke, and Nick all advance. I wonder if we didn't see Emily Brooke because of Santana's nephew's mockery of blonde country teens.
8:40 p.m. Farewell to… a bunch of people. Jessica Lamb is gone. Boo. She was distinctive, even if I don't think she'd ever have gone far on “Idol.” Alex Shier is less of a loss, ditto with Piper Jones, not that they were bad from what we saw.
8:45 p.m. Nashville busker Clark Beckham does well on the piano. I think his “Try a Little Tenderness” cover suggests he'd do well in a touring production of “The Commitments.” I can't say if he'll do well on “Idol.” Consistently, I initially only remember that Mark Andrews is old, but then I love the tone of his voice, even if misses lyrics through sleep-deprivation. He's got a big smile and a good attitude. Keith is wondering if they're getting worse performances by exhausting the contestants. Naomi Tatsuoka and Alexis Gomez get truncated performance clips. Naomi is going home, but the other four we saw are advancing. Katherine Winston is also advancing, as is compulsive lyric-forgetter Shannon Berthiaume.
8:51 p.m. Will hipster pixie Joey Cook remember the lyrics this time around? Nope. I like listening to Joey, but Hollywood Week has ground a lot of her personality out. She's stressed and tired and, as the segment ends, she's getting a medical assist. Somebody will have to go back through the annals of Hollywood Week history to tell me how many artists who had freak-outs in Hollywood Week and then recovered to have long runs.
8:56 p.m. Joey has to wait for other members of her line to sing. Lovey James is a bit shout-y. Tyanna Jones remains a favorite. The judges like Rayvon Owen more than I do. Oh right. Riley Bria was the guy who once performed with Keith.
8:59 p.m. Line results: Joey, Tyanna, Riley and Rayvon are all advancing.
Up next? The House of Blues in front of a live audience. I had to miss that event because of a pre-TCA chest cold.
So it looks like we have a Top 48? Any of tonight's results upset you?