We aren't quite sure what's going to happen on Tuesday's (Feb. 16) "American Idol," nor why it will take a full two hours, nor what FOX means when the network boasts that "some" members of the Top 24 will be revealed during tonight's episode, but whatever happens, I'll be live-blogging the heck out of it.
8:01 p.m. Ryan Seacrest begins by asking us to imagine that we're an "American Idol" contestant. You wait. You audition. You leave your job. You leave your family. You take an air-o-plane to Hollywood. You struggle the struggle.
8:02 p.m. We're now flashing back a few hours, just like on all of those fancy TV dramas where they show something shocking and then place "Three hours earlier" on the screen.
8:03 p.m. And now it's three hours later. The judges are making their final choices, while the contestants sit in the main holding room.
8:04 p.m. Now the big group is culled into three smaller groups for the familiar "American Idol" Rooms of Russian Roulette game. In Room One, we have Casey James, Tim Urban, Andrew Garcia and a massing of other people. In Room Two, we have the cool-then-annoying Mary Powers, the formerly poor Hope Johnson and a massing of other people
8:05 p.m. In Room Three, we have Maddie Penrose, suddenly wearing contacts instead of her stylish specs, as well as the frequently cut Angela Martin, who the show indicates had a great final audition. Angela Martin can't be cut again, can she? Surely she's due to get to the Top 24 one of these seasons? I like Angela Martin! I wouldn't vote for her, but I'd write nice things about her.
8:06 p.m. We're back in Group One, where we learned that Casey James struggled on Group Day, but apparently not in a way dramatic enough to merit a single second of television time. In his last solo performance, Casey did a soulful (slightly cheesy) version of "Bubbly." Down the hall, though, we see Jermaine Purifory, who did a playful version of "Brickhouse" and finds himself in Room Three. Or his he Group One? Seriously, I'm lost already and we've got nearly two hours left. Both men feel good about their last performances.
8:12 p.m. The mood is mighty, mighty dramatic.
8:13 p.m. Time for Room One flashbacks. Seriously? They're in a room with Katie Stevens and Andrew Garcia. How aren't they feeling cocky right now? Probably because Jermaine Sellers did a really shrill and nasally version of "Man in the Mirror." And then he tries blaming the band for messing up the arrangement he'd rehearsed. Kara's particularly displeased with the "diva move."
8:14 p.m. Also in Room One is Shiobhan Magnus, who we've barely spotted before. She sings Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" as her last solo. As anybody who knows me knows, this is an absolutely iron-clad way to get on my good side. Go her! Also? Go Crystal Bowersox, who played *two* bloomin' instruments in her final performance, working both the guitar and a harmonica on a fantastic rendition of "If It Make You Happy." I've been a Crystal fan previously and she's the real deal.
8:16 p.m. But what for Alex Lambert? He's also Group One. He's not Adam Lambert. He was part of Mary Powers' Group From Hell on Group Day and he was the only one who didn't stink. He does Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" for his final solo, a mediocre cookie cutter version, especially compared to Big Mike and to Todrick Hall's total reimagination of the familiar track.
8:19 p.m. Thaddeus Johnson has an excitable mother. Who cares? At Thaddeus' final performance, the bad starts playing "Bubbly" and Thaddeus says, "I'm not 'Bubbly'" and Simon responds, "No you're not." Ouch. Thaddeus does "Man in the Mirror" and, given his initial struggles, he's probably OK. Thaddeus' momma is convinced he's in the Top 24. I'm not. But he's also in Room One, so he's probably safe for tonight, at least.
8:27 p.m. But enough of Room One. ROOM TWO TIME!
8:27 p.m. Let's start with 17-year-old Charity Vance. She's definitely not bad. Her final solo had some nice nuance. And how about Lauren Graham-esque Worship Pastor Tasha Layton? She's also in Group Two and she sounds good to me. Charity and Tasha are freaking out.
8:28 p.m. Mary Powers, however, is feeling confident. She wouldn't be so confident if she'd watched last week's Group Day episode. Her Katy Perry final solo shows indications of vocal strain and comes across as weak an undistinguished, which you wouldn't have guessed from her first Hollywood Week performance. Oh. Now she's nervous.
8:29 p.m. Lloyd Thomas is also in Group Two, drawing peace from his wife and kids back home. Or maybe just drawing tears from his wife and kids back home. Dude, don't get choked up before starting to sing. It's yet another cookie-cutter version of "Man in the Mirror," not bad but not memorable. Would police officer Brian Walker be more memorable? I didn't much like his audition, but the judges appear to have liked his final solo, a solo we don't hear.
8:31 p.m. OK. Jermain Purifory is in Room Two. Just in case you were as confused as I was.
8:32 p.m. What about poor Hope Johnson, with her inner light? She only wants to have it easy for once in her life. But maybe she shouldn't have sung "Home" for her last solo? It's both an ill-fated song and a song she can't sing. It's way too big for her slight voice and she mangles almost every note. If she's going through, it's a body-of-work thing.
8:39 p.m. Time to spend some time with Room Three, starting with the lyric-challenged Shelby Dressel. Just hours before her performance, she's freaking out, but did she pull it together? She does "More Than a Feeling" and appears to remember her lyrics (though sometimes not the melody), which is more than can be said for Boy Band-ready Aaron Kelly, who sits next to Shelby in Room Three. It's hard to know how Aaron would be put through based on this last solo, but these things can often be cumulative. Or at least that's what he's hoping.
8:42 p.m. Ashley Rodriguez, also in Room Three, closed strong. I thought Ashley was great in her initial audition and, as I've noted before, how much would "American Idol" love to have a Latina winner this season? Allison Iraheta came close last year and Ashley looks capable taking things that extra step.
8:44 p.m. Lee Dewyze annoys me, but college stoners would love him.
8:44 p.m. Room Three also has Janell Wheeler, who nearly lost her voice before her final solo. And boy does it show. Janell's part of that group of towheaded guitar-playing gals who impressed me on the first Hollywood night, but this is not how she sounded then. I'm assuming this group is also OK, but Janell walks off stage and announces, "I think I blew it."
8:46 p.m. Maybe we'll cut somebody after the break? But probably not... It sure *seems* as if Group Two is the one that's doomed, but what do I know?
8:51 p.m. Ryan tells us that this year's decision was harder than usual for the judges. They stand over pictures we can't see pointing at contestants we can't identify.
8:52 p.m. Yes, Ryan. We KNOW. Three Rooms.
8:53 p.m. Tori Kelly's in Room One. I don't care about her. Lilly Scott is in Room One also, though, and she's awesome. We see Andrew Garcia's fine final solo performance. It's fine, though he does to "Chasing Pavements" exactly what he did to "Straight Up." Be careful, Andrew. You don't want to be a one-trick pony!
8:53 p.m. Room Two is full of fighters, "both on-stage and in life," Ryan tells us.
8:54 p.m. We start with Room One. Come on. We know this one is safe. Even they have to know it, even if they all look terrified. "This is my very first time doing this and this is the room they give me," says Ellen, launching into a speech before she reassures them that they're all fine. Duh.
8:55 p.m. Time for another commercial! That was FOUR MINUTES.
9:00 p.m. Room One? Safe. But you knew that already. And now the people in Room Two also know that Room One made it and they're even more nervous.
9:00 p.m. The judges enter Room Two next. And I'm pretty sure they're doomed. They're also pretty sure. "You've enjoyed it, yeah?" Simon asks, before reassuring them that "most of you have been better than we thought you'd be and we're glad you entered." He then tells them, "It's bad news. You haven't made it."
9:01 p.m. "Give yourselves a round of applause," Simon tells them. But instead, they cry. Collectively. Good-bye to Mary, Charity and, alas, Hope. Sorry, y'all.
9:02 p.m. And now on to Room Three. I wonder if they're going to be OK. Randy gets to break the news, telling them there are never enough slots to take into account all of the talent. Kara tells them that some of them started strong and then... "You're gonna stay," Kara tells them. Hey, John Park was in this room. Nice. Somebody eventually must exorcise the ghost of Paul Kim from "American Idol."
9:04 p.m. So 46 contestants got good news. But only 24 get to be in the Top 24. That means the judges have more cuts to make. And that also means that this was our second consecutive four-minute programming block.
9:10 p.m. "Today can change lives forever," Ryan tells us. The final judgment is, oddly taking place at the Kodak Theatre. The contestants are upstairs in a holding room and they'll be brought down into the theatre, taking a long walk down the aisle. As you know, 24 of them will get good news.
9:11 p.m. Big Mike Lynche is the first contestant to face the chair. The new father and personal trainer has had a tough week. Not as tough a week as his poor lonely wife. But it's been a tough week. The judges don't have the guts to send Michael Lynche home. They're going to let America do the dirty work. Wimps.
9:13 p.m. Michael tells the judges that he's done "well," that he feels "good." Simon starts by telling Michael that they all agree that he's a really nice guy and that Michael has improved. He isn't sure, though, that Michael believes enough in himself. Michael insists that as the week went along, he became more confident that he can win this. He'll at least get that chance. Michael Lynche is the first person in our Top 24. Michael gives Ellen and Kara big lifts. He does not, however, attempt to pick Randy up. Way to know your limitations, dawg.
9:16 p.m. There's more drama to come. And by that, I mean we have more products to sell. Commercial time! Between all of the commercials and Ryan's redundant blather, tonight's two-hour "Idol" can certainly be watched in an hour without missing any original content.
9:21 p.m. We're back. The contestants are still nervous.
9:21 p.m. Next up is Didi Benami, one of my five or six favorites to date. If she doesn't go through, this recap stops right here. But before we find out her fate, we learn again about the very sad passing of Didi's best friend Rebecca. "She's my angel," says Didi, who fittingly sang "Angel" as her final solo. We're not sending her home. She's like Brooke White, only GOOD. Asked for self-reflection, Didi says she did "well" and that she tried "really hard." Simon tells her she had good moments and bad moments, but when she was good, she was fantastic. Didi Benami is the first girl in our Top 24. She cries many a tear. "I'm just used to you with make-up running," Ryan jokes.
9:25 p.m. Now? Katelyn Epperly. I vaguely remember that her personal pain stemmed from her father abandoning her mother. I don't, however, remember much about her voice. She's definitely fine, but I'm not emotionally invested in this one. "If I don't make it today, I'm going to be upset," Katelyn warns us. Ellen goes on a rambling monologue about not making Katelyn wait. Katelyn isn't sure if she's supposed to be laughing or dying. "You're going through," is the end of the gag. Katelyn Epperly is the second girl in our Top 24.
9:28 p.m. Back to Shelby Dressel, who effectively shouted her way through "More Than a Feeling." I like Shelby. A lot. But let's get real. She's not really good enough for this show, not as a vocalist. Shelby feels "good" and tells the judges she had "fun" and that this was "like a dream." Randy doesn't waste time and he tells her to continue to grow and come back, but this won't be her year. "Don't let the dream end," Randy tells her.
9:32 p.m. That was a solid 11 minutes of programming.
9:36 p.m. Oh my goodness. Enough with the Hollywood street scenes. We know. Life is going on outside, unaware that lives are changing in the Kodak.
9:37 p.m. Time for Casey James, or as I like to call him "Kara DioGuardi's Corey Clark." I'm not kidding. Keep her away from Casey after hours. "He has his hair down for you," Ellen tells Kara as Casey takes ihis place in The Chair. Casey comes from a town called "Cool," prompting inane stalling from the judges. And who gets to tell Casey he's going through? Kara. And when Kara hugs Casey, she does that thing where she lifts one leg behind her, which the other judges mock her for. This is a scandal waiting to happen, kids. Anyway, Casey James is the second man in the Top 24.
9:39 p.m. Aspiring Boybander Aaron Kelly, with his shy charm and decent vocals, is up next. With only moderate delay, Aaron is put through to curry favor with teenage girls around the nation. Aaron Kelly is the third man in the Top 24.
9:42 p.m. I've already stated my opinion regarding Lee DeWyze, a slightly boozier Taylor Hicks wannabe. The judges say they didn't feel his confidence. He insists he's confident in everything he does. The judges had a split on Lee, but Lee DeWyze is the fourth guy in the Top 24. And he's also my early pick to be one of the first two guys *out* of the Top 24 next week. Prove me wrong, Lee! Prove. Me. Wrong.
9:49 p.m. Oooh. New "Glee" footage. If I loved "Glee," this would be a VERY exciting moment for me.
9:50 p.m. The Hollywood Week contestants had lots of pressure, but they also made lasting friendships or, in the case of Todrick Hall, engagements.
9:51 p.m. Todrick is actually a trained dancer. Interesting. Oh right! I forgot all about him. He's the guy who was in "The Color Purple" with Fantasia. I loved his audition. But apparently I didn't love it enough to remember who the blazes he is. "Yes." That's the only word he needs to here. Todrick Hall is the fifth guy in the Top 24. Good for him, now that I remember who he is.
9:53 p.m. It's Jessica Furney time and we've been prepped for her. She was rejected last year, but came back with more confidence this year. She's shouted her way through Hollywood Week, except for Group Day when she was part of one of several groups that butchered Gwen Stefani. She was, in fact, one of the few who did Gwen proud. She's confident, but it's a "No" from the judges. Jessica, however, isn't hearing it. "You guys have no idea," she tells the judges. Several times. Darling, after two seasons, I assume the judges have *some* idea. Her rambling protestations become increasingly incoherent, even as Simon keeps telling Jessica that it's not going to happen. Jessica asks what she did wrong. "You didn't sing as well as the others," Simon says. Randy and Ellen try their hardest to console Jessica.
9:57 p.m. "I deserved to move on," Jessica tells Ryan, calling it unfair. Jessica's mistake? Not taking care of herself.
9:58 p.m. So that's it. "Some" meant "seven," which isn't bad at all.
9:59 p.m. That means 17 more Top 24 contestants to be revealed tomorrow.
So what'd you think? Are you happy with the first seven? Are you unhappy about anybody who was eliminated?