I’m feeling OK about Season 12 of “American Idol” so far. How about y’all?
No, I haven’t felt like the audition episodes suggested talent unparalleled in the show’s history, but it seemed like there was some talent. And, more importantly, it felt like the new judging panel had personality and a particular chemistry, even if that chemistry was vaguely toxic. After two years with Wacky Cypher Steven Tyler and Sexy Cypher Jennifer Lopez, I’ll even endorse the cringe-worthy tension between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, plus the “How the heck did I come to be stuck in the middle of this?” benign coolness of Keith Urban.
How will that chemistry evolve in Hollywood? Let’s find out!
8:01 p.m. ET. I’m not sure whose elimination would shock me, but Ryan Seacrest promises that shocking eliminations are coming. Bring it on, I suppose…
8:02 p.m. Wake up, people! It’s time to go to Hollywood. We seem to be spending a lot of time with Gurpreet Singh Sarin. Or maybe he’s just the only person I remember and recognize.
8:03 p.m. There aren’t any Girls! ZOMG! It’s Guys versus Guys. And the women will get their shot next week. “This is going to separate the men from the boys,” Randy Jackson says. Keith Urban compares this to “The Hunger Games.” Nice. Nerd.
8:05 p.m. The first round finds the guys showing up in groups of 10 and singing a cappella. This round is Sudden Death, Ryan says. See? Keith Urban was right. This is exactly like “Hunger Games.”
8:06 p.m. The first line includes Micah Johnson, who you may recall had the horrific experience with nerve damage after his tonsil removal. He is, once again, fairly exceptional and lisp-free when he sings. His line also includes… a bunch of people we’ve never seen before, several of whom seem good enough that it’d be nice to know their names. Don’t worry. Micah is safe. And so are… Peter, Devon and Matheny.
8:08 p.m. Also advancing are Nate Tao (his parents are deaf), rocking baker Gabe Brown and Gurpreet Singh Sarin, who we’re still calling The Turbanator, because… well… it’s an awesome nickname. Yes, it’s a bit racist. But it’s also a bit awesome.
8:08 p.m. I vaguely remember that Karl Skinner‘s audition was overrated, but he’s highly caffeinated today and he’s saying “Coca-Cola” over and over, which is good for business. The judges are more impressed with his rendition of “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” than I am. Karl’s in a line with some cheesy and awful people. Wow. Karl is going home. I’m not shocked, because he deserved to. Dustin Watts is also going home. And Dr. Calvin Peters is done, too. Of that group, Calvin is probably the most surprising.
8:11 p.m. Have we met Cortez Shaw before? Because… His voice is absolutely ridiculous. He’s doing pure, full-voiced Whitney Houston. It’s a bit crazy. That’s a huge voice he’s got, but apparently the judges are split and we won’t learn his fate til after the break…
8:16 p.m. Wait. That was a poor song choice by Cortez, Ryan? Get the heck out of here. Mariah enjoyed Cortez. Nicki, however, was “very disgusted by it.” “You ain’t Whitney,” Randy agrees. Seriously? At this stage in the competition, you’re debating that kid?
8:17 p.m. Yeah, Curtis Finch Jr. can sing, though is he better than Joshua Ledet or Jacob Lusk? As “takin’ ’em to church” singings go, I mean… Frankie Ford is good. And remember Lazaro Arbos? He’s the Cuban kid with the horrible stutter. And, like Micah Johnson, his speech impediment vanishes when he sings. I don’t think Lazaro is as good as Micah, but he’s just fine for now. Nicki makes a heart with her hand for Lazaro, but we still have to wait a couple seconds to find out that he’s safe.
8:20 p.m. Also going on are Trevor Blakeney, Bryant Tadeo and Charles Allen, who all over-sing, but aren’t given personal narratives. Bryant gets a little extra sympathy edit as Nicki tries to each him a lesson for claiming to be tired by telling him he’s going home. He isn’t really.
8:21 p.m. I remember that Brian Rittenberry‘s wife had cancer. He can sing. He’d be better off on “The Voice.” On “Idol,” his heart and soul and determination may not out-weight that he doesn’t look like a pop star. Perhaps that’s why he was sent home, despite what sounded like a terrific solo. He thinks the judges made a mistake and I don’t think he’s necessarily wrong.
8:23 p.m. Group Round! Seacrest promises that this will cause boys to become men. But will men also become wolves? I’m all for the Werewolf Bar Mitzvah Round on “Idol.”
8:28 p.m. Yeah, yeah. Group Round. It’s demanding. And strenuous. And stuff.
8:29 p.m. The guys started forming groups early. Or some of them did. But guess what? TWIST! They’re all waiting anxiously, but Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe announce that, for the first time, the producers are deciding the groups and there’s no leaving the group you were assigned.
8:30 p.m. They have 20 songs to choose from. But agreeing won’t be so easy. And choreographing a routine may be even more difficult.
8:31 p.m. Our first group includes Lazaro and he’s apparently causing communication problems immediately. He doesn’t know the songs. He doesn’t feel comfortable learning the songs. Uh-oh.
8:33 p.m. Trevor Blakeney and another country singer are in a group with two “divas,” as Seacrest euphemistically calls the two contestants who really want to sing “Moves Like Jagger.” They’re Country Queen for semi-logical reasons.
8:33 p.m. Curt Finch Jr. and Charlie Askew and some other guy are in a group we’re calling Couch Potatoes.
8:34 p.m. Normal Hills includes Overrated Johnny Keyser. The Turbanator is in a group called Three Men and a Baby. Gabe Brown, Matheus Fernandes and a couple others are in a group called The Mapheads.
8:35 p.m. Group Oz includes Papa Peachez. Remember him? And Frankie Ford. And the guy I compared with Jason Brock from “X Factor.” I’m curious how Papa Peachez advanced past the a cappella round. But what do I know?
8:36 p.m. Back to Country Queen, Trevor feels that too much effort is being put into dancing and not enough into learning the song. Something he says gets bleeped out and I’m not sure if it’s homophobic or not. This is tense and weird and a bit unpleasant. They’re tired and Trevor’s frustration is wearing me out.
8:42 p.m. Morning!
8:42 p.m. Montage of wake-up preparation. Mariah Carey has some concerns.
8:44 p.m. The Map Heads? The Math Heads? The Meth Heads? It’s the group with Matteus Fernandes, Gab and two other people. They do a very nicely harmonic version of “Somebody To Love.” Nick Boddington and Mathenee Treco are the guys I couldn’t identify previously. Nick was on in a past season, I think? He’s got a good voice and no stage presence. Gabe is very good at that shrieking rock star think. We’ve had his type before on this show, but I think he’s a good version of that. Mathenee seems to be pretty good. Matheus is the group’s weak link for me, but the group is good enough that they’re all going to be safe. Nicki Minaj tries to be ominous and the judges go to the trouble of pretending they’re deliberating. In her British accent, Nicki calls everybody forward. And they’re all safe. They dance happily, culminating with Gabe giving Matheus a piggy-back ride and crushing his nads. Good times.
8:52 p.m. Our second group is Normal Hills. We’re showcasing pretty boy Johnny Keyser, because he’s confident about their song choice and Nicki thinks he’s cute. However, Johnny’s having lyrics problems. Uh-oh. Indeed. He’s clueless. Where’s Simon Cowell to eviscerate Johnny? Kareem Clark is brutal. And there are two members we don’t get to hear at all. “Wow,” Randy says, not in a happy way. Wait. Johnny had never heard “I’ll Be There” before? Keith thinks only aliens don’t know the song, but Nicki is more understanding. Kareem is going home, but the other three guys are safe, inexplicably including Johnny. Whatever.
8:55 p.m. Strangers are becoming friends. Friends becoming wolves! No?
8:56 p.m. Time to be reminded of Charlie Askew, who clearly has Aspergers, even if we’re not saying it. Group Round is stressing Charlie out and he’s sick. One of Charlie’s colleagues wants to help him. Another wants to drive Charlie out. Curtis Finch Jr. was the one who wasn’t so generous to Charlie. They’re an amusingly mismatched trio, but they’re also really hilariously excellent as a group. We’re led to believe that Curtis is the standout and that Charlie’s also shining. I wish I knew the other guy’s name. All three are advancing.
9:04 p.m. The Four Tones includes Micah Johnson and three other guys I don’t recognize. Vince Powell’s fine. Marvin Calderon is fine. David Willis likes to squeal. They’re solid. And they’re all advancing.
9:05 p.m. Up next are Zach Birnbaum, Nate Tao, Cortez Show and Elijah Liu. They’re bland, but completely pleasant. Cortez definitely is the standout here for me. And they’re all advancing.
9:06 p.m. But things can’t be good forever. A weird quintet messes stuff up, but we don’t care about them.
9:06 p.m. The Taylors are gloating about how easy the lyrics are to their song. Naturally, they screw up all the lyrics. Two guys from The Taylors advance. Will White and Paul Jolley. Whoever they are.
9:07 p.m. B-Side includes The Turbanator and they also screw up the lyrics. The Turbanator at least improvises, which is more than can be said for several of his groupmates. They’re collectively wretched. No wonder “Idol” didn’t bother to name most of the contestants. “The harmonies were a train-wreck, the leads were a train-wreck,” Randy says. Nicki loves The Turbanator. “I would be Keith Turban,” jokes Keith. It’s unclear why any of them would advance, but we’re only seeing weird piecemeal stuff from each group, so it’s hard to tell how many cuts the judges are or aren’t making. Apparently the judges are making no real cuts, because everybody in the group advances. “My favorite group! My favorite group!” cheers Nicki, who loves cacophony. Or anarchy. Or destroying “American Idol.”
9:16 p.m. I have no clue how a guy is going to win this season. Nobody we’ve seen before can win.
9:16 p.m. Will there be a winner in Last Minute? This group includes… Jason Jones, who stinks, needlessly cocking Dan something-or-other, equally subpar Jessie Lawrence and a fourth guy who they spare by not identifying him. They don’t know the words and they don’t know the arrangement. “You all were equally bad actually,” Nicki says. And, indeed, all four are sent home.
9:18 p.m. Our only group to eschew the “Idol” band and go a cappella is up next. The risky idea came courtesy of Ryan Connor-Smith and it may be a mistake. Devan Jones and Devin Velez are decent and they’re OK as a group. Keith Urban, however, wanted them to use the band and wanted more energy. Everybody from the group advances other than Ryan. There’s a lesson here about not taking risks.
9:24 p.m. Mo Flo is next. This group includes Burnell Taylor, who found his voice post-Katrina and made Mariah cry. For some reason, Burnell is frustrating the vocal coaches and he’s also worried about the typics. Tony Foster has a smooth voice and a strong beard. Mario Jose is has soul. And Burnell doesn’t mess up. Darien Moses isn’t bad either. This seems like a group that’s all gonna advance. Keith had issues with Burnell’s pitch and mic control. Mario and Darien are sent packing. Oh well. Whatever.
9:27 p.m. Super 55 is the group with Lazaro Arbos. They’re doing a Beach Boys song that Lazaro didn’t know. He’d never even heard of the Beach Boys. They other members are trying to help Lazaro, but they’re also worried that he’s holding them back. Josh Stephens is cheesy and dull. Scott Fleenor messes up the lyrics. Christian Lopez has OK tone. Lazaro has no clue what he’s singing. This is all a nightmare. So I expect them to advance by general acclamation. “It was just a little bit inconsistent for all of you,” Mariah says. Josh stands by his ensemble-mates with the judges, but to the camera he leaves little doubt that the group’s failures were Lazaro’s fault. Josh and Scott are sent home. Lazaro and Christian advance. “I feel like I helped out this person who ended up taking the spot that I wanted, which is frustrating,” Josh cries, before being an ass-hat to Lazaro.
9:37 p.m. This has been an emotional day for the judges.
9:37 p.m. Country Queens time. This is going to be horrible. “This a funny group,” Randy says. No. No it’s not. Lee Pritchard doesn’t know the lyrics. JDa doesn’t know the lyrics. It’s funny, because they’re singing “More Than Words” and nobody knows the lyrics. Trevor Blakney is particularly bad, because he doesn’t even both improvising when he loses the lyrics. He just pouts and mewls. Yeah. I really hope everybody from this group gets sent home. They won’t be, but they should be. Mariah knows this was a challenging and rough day and she sends Trevor and Lee home. JDa and Joel advance. That’s just idiotic. All or nothing. Trevor cries and says he’s never failed at anything.
9:41 p.m. DKSK includes David Leathers, who was the last elimination in Vegas last year! I remember David Leathers. He got jobbed last year. And it also includes Kayden Stephenson, who has cystic fibrosis. Kevin Quinn is too young and dull for this. Kayden makes Mariah get emotional just by appearing, which is kinda all he has going for him. Randy praises David for being the best of everyone. Kayden promises he can be better. Kayden and Kevin are done. David and S’anni advance. “I wasn’t ready,” Kayden says. Mariah is clearly sad.
9:45 p.m. Also eliminated were: Griffin Peterson and Clifton Duffin. Kayden’s determined to come back next year.
9:47 p.m. Never separate contestants by gender at this stage again, “American Idol.” This episode has been so darned monotonous. Plus, there’s only 10 minutes left and there isn’t a group that we’re specifically waiting on. There’s been no drama to this episode at all.
9:50 p.m. Oz is the last group, that’s the Papa Peachez and Frankie Ford group. They had drama because subway performer Frankie has less musical experience than everybody else. There’s complaining aplenty, mostly from Frankie, who is in tears minutes before the performance. Will they rebound with a good performance? No. No they will not. Adam Sanders managers to have a funny moment, Charles Allen does a little singing and Frankie falls flat on his face. Nicki tells Frankie that he fell apart and lost her. “It’s crazy, because I love you so much…” Nicki says. “I enjoyed it for what it is, which is a hot mess,” Papa says.
9:55 p.m. Frankie and Papa Peachez step forward. Nicki tells Frankie that Keith fought for him. Nicki then tells Papa that one person changed their vote at the last second to save him. Only Frankie is going home. He takes his elimination graciously. The judges are all bummed.
9:58 p.m. Frankie exits crying. The other member of his group try to commiserate, but he doesn’t want any part of it. He vows to return next year and to win.
So… ummm… Did you like anybody tonight? That was pretty weak for two hours…