OK, "American Idol"... Time to make a deal. If you give me *one* contestant I want to see in the Hollywood Round or possibly in the Top 20, I'll consider Thursday (Feb. 3) night's audition episode a success. Are you happy, "Idol"? Have you lowered my expectations sufficiently?

Make it happen... Los Angeles auditions after the break...

8:00 p.m. ET I barely remember any of those people who were just showcased as being amongst the best talent the show has ever seen, so that's not really a good sign, is it? But ratings are steady, which is more than FOX and "Idol" possibly could have hoped for. What that means is that the show's fate hinges on the Top 10. That's where I get skeptical. But maybe *you've* seen the next American Idol already...

8:02 p.m. Steven Tyler arrives smoking, while Jennifer Lopez arrives smoking hot. Meanwhile, Randy Jackson arrives with shiny shoes.

8:03 p.m. Victoria Garrett believes that God brought "American Idol" to Los Angeles for a purpose and she's the purpose. The producers are treating her as a deluded freak, complete with choral backing track, and, indeed, she sings a song about "The Precious Lamb of God" in a lamb voice. An unintentional lamb voice. "That was not baaaaaad," Tyler cracks. He also tells Victoria that she's going to... Siberia. Victoria sadly declares that she let her nerves get to her. Victoria also becomes the season's first contestant to question J-Lo's credibility when it comes to judging voices.

8:05 p.m. Tim Halperin is Jennifer Lopez's No. 1 fan. His voice isn't particularly unique, but it's somewhat pure and sweet, if you don't look for things like "passion" and "expressivity" in your singing. He announces that he had a crush on J-Lo growing up, back in fifth and sixth grade, which makes the "Enough" star both flattered and self-conscious. Tyler votes "Yes." Randy says Tim isn't ready and gives him a "No." That leaves the choice to J-Lo, meaning he's a guaranteed "Yes," since that's what's been happening all season long. Can't somebody even attempt to fabricate tension?

8:11 p.m. Justin Carter looks and sounds like a mewling homeless man, but he prompts J-Lo to say some bleeped word that I can't even guess at. We never find out if Justin gets a ticket to Hollywood, because... WHO CARES?

8:13 p.m. Lots of food is going into the judging room. This is meaningful. Wait. No it's not.

8:13 p.m. Two friends are auditioning together. They both agree they're very talented, especially Isaac Rodriguez, who has dropped out of school just for this. But first, his buddy Daniel Gomez auditions. Daniel had previously told us that he has what it takes to be big in America, as if he might not quite be up to European stardom. Randy calls Daniel "relatively tone-deaf." And that "relatively" might be understating it. In walks the college dropout. Is Isaac more talented? No. No he's not. He also doesn't know the tone to "Build Me Up, Buttercup." J-Lo looks at him, giggles and says, "You have a nice smile."  Isaac vows to keep on going and threatens that this isn't the end of it, though Randy says that Isaac and Daniel should probably find something else to do instead. 

8:18 p.m. So that was a five minute segment on two mediocre singers who are friends. It wasn't inspiring. It wasn't embarrassing. It wasn't hilariously bad. It was pretty much nothing. What are we watching for?

8:23 p.m. It's somehow Day Two in Los Angeles and J-Lo is telling a local FOX affiliate that they just need to find one Idol, which is what I was saying earlier.

8:23 p.m. Over-singing Karen Rodriguez is a MySpace auditioner. She's hitting some of the notes, but every one of them is over-played and over-embellished. Too many runs and silliness. The judges love her. Hilariously, Karen says that she previously met J-Lo on an episode of "TRL." J-Lo just smiles and makes no effort to pretend she remembers Karen. I'm really growing to like J-Lo.

8:25 p.m. Tynisha Roches steals Ryan Seacrest's mic and declares her intentions to dig up Frank Sinatra's body and violate it in horrible ways. And she succeeds!!! The thing I like best about Tynisha is that even though she doesn't have a lisp when she talks, she has a lisp when she sings. She assures the judges that she has three albums... "that are ready to be composed." When she won't stop singing, Randy leaves the room, with Tynisha pursuing. The problem, it seems, is that Randy makes her nervous. That nervousness isn't stopping the singing. Finally a gigantic security guard enters and looms until she leaves.

8:32 p.m. The piano-singer on that Taco Bell commercial where he sings about "Four-times the steak" is supposed to be bad. He's better than anybody I've seen on "American Idol" tonight.

8:34 p.m. I don't know who the stripper is who starts this segment, but she's making Steven Tyler very happy. Her name is Heidi Khzam and she's rather beautiful. By tonight's standards "stripper+beautiful = Ticket to Hollywood." She's not a great singer, but she's not the worst singer in the world. SCORE!

8:38 p.m. Matthew Scott Frankel is the chairman of Matthew Scott Frankel Production. His gimmick is that he's gone green, so he takes public transit. He calls himself "Big Stats" and launches into his formal, hip-hop introduction. I'm assuming he's a comedian? Matt also produces. He has "a compilation album" that features Chaka Khan. Does that mean he has a mix tape? He ends with something about lubricant and loving J-Lo in "Selina." He's sent home, but vows to come back stronger next year. He leaves Ryan Seacrest with his CD and a screed about how Randy Jackson is pissed because he isn't related to Michael Jackson or Samuel L. Jackson. He announces that he and Randy Jackson are no "beefin'."

8:42 p.m. "It's been two long days, packed with some pretty abysmal talent," Ryan Seacrest acknowledges. At least he knows. Because this first 42 minutes has felt like two days.

8:45 p.m. You know what this episode needs? Talent.

8:45 p.m. You know what I would accept in lieu of talent? The armadillo from last nice would suffice.

8:46 p.m. We're led to believe that some guy named Anthony Granger showed the judges his junk.

8:47 p.m. Meet Aaron and Mark Gutierrez, brothers who get to audition together. They're goofy. Mark is in blue. Aaron is in red. And despite their clowning and their silly scarves, they're actually lively and fun. How much am I grading on a curve at this point? 100 percent. I mean, neither of these guys would even have a chance of making the Top 20 or the Top 10. But for the purposes of this episode? They're stars! Tyler describes their performance as "God-like." No hyperbole there at all, Mr. Tyler. They're both going to Hollywood. [Note: In a normal episode, under normal circumstance, they'd probably be asked to sing separately. Just to see if they can actually sing. Separately. Tonight, either the judges had no time for such trivialities or the producers had no time. If it's the latter, I suspect we didn't see them sing separately because they're much less impressive alone. Just a hunch.]

8:50 p.m. Instead of closing the show with somebody talented, it appears we're going to waste this list segment on somebody called The Human Tornado, a "contestant" who appears to be 50 if he's a day. Because, you know, in the entertainment capital of the world, why would you bother to show a SINGLE VIABLE TOP 20 CONTESTANT?

8:55 p.m. The Human Tornado is named Cooper Robinson. Because he's black and speaks with a slight Southern accent, the producers have decided to subtitle him, even though he speaks more clearly than Randy or Steven on their best days. 

8:56 p.m. Cooper is 59. So in the last 10 minutes of this episode, we aren't going to see a contestant who's even eligible for "American Idol."

8:57 p.m. Cooper loves Universal Studios. 

8:57 p.m. "How you like me?" Cooper says. The judges are speechless. They're scared. Jennifer Lopez requires security to be escorted behind Cooper. 

8:58 p.m. Somebody in the "American Idol" production office just discovered Antoine Dobson and Auto-tuning and they think that Cooper Robinson could go viral. They don't understand that something this calculated isn't likely to amuse anybody, much less capture their remixing imagination.

9:00 p.m. That's two straight nights without even one semi-worthy singer between them. That doesn't mean the Austin or LA auditions won't produce the next American Idol, but it won't be anybody we saw these past two nights. And if the show isn't even going to pretend to show talent, why watch these audition episodes? The freaks haven't been good enough to compensate. Really, I don't understand the production strategy at all. What do they *think* they've been showing us? Or do they just assume people will watch anything with "American Idol" attached and they don't have to put in the effort?

This is making me sad. How 'bout you, dear readers?