Last night, "American Idol" revealed the first seven members of the Top 24. That leaves 17 open slots to be filled over the course of only one hour on Wednesday (Feb. 17) night. How will "American Idol" possibly be able to fit in all of the excitement?
And who will join Didi Benami, Michael Lynche, Aaron Kelly, Katelyn Epperly, Lee Dewyze, Todrick Hall and Casey James in the Top 24?
This is the final judgment. And this is "American Idol." After the break...
9:01 p.m. There may not be any time tonight for four-minute programming blocks and seven minute commercial interruptions of the sort we were treated to last night. There are also only 17 slots remaining and man, many, manny people waiting nervously.
9:02 p.m. No one was feeling shakier than Janell Wheeler, Ryan Seacrest tells us. Why is that? Does she have low blood sugar or something? I thought Janell was terrific in her first Hollywood Week solo performance, but we learned last night that she wasn't as good in her final solo performance. So far, Janell feels like the weak spoke in the Lilly/Didi/Janell/Crystal wheel. Will she still make it into the Top 24? She's wearing a short blue skirt and looking perilously Brooke White-y as she sits in front of the judges. Ellen is loving these rambling pre-results monologues. It's all a set-up to acceptance. Janell Wheeler is tonight's first contestant in the Top 24. "If I was Bikini Girl, I'd kiss you right now," Janell tells Ryan.
9:06 p.m. I vaguely remember Tyler Grady from his audition. He fell out of a tree, right? He sang "Home" for his last solo performance, but will that be a poor omen? This is the biggest opportunity that has presented itself to Tyler. What opportunity would be bigger for these guys? Straight out of the '60s and '70s, but perhaps ill-suited for the "American Idol" milieu, Tyler almost seems more like an actor playing a vintage rocker than like a popular singer. That's not necessarily bad. The judges sure don't think so. Tyler Grady is on to the Top 24. I look forward to his Happy Dance at the end of the episode.
9:12 p.m. The next contestant making the long walk is Lacey Brown, the gal who missed out last season when Megan Joy was put through in a sing-off. Lacey wins points by telling Simon that the judges made the right decision last year. This year? The decision goes in her favor. Welcome to Top 24 Lacey Brown.
9:14 p.m. Ashley Rodriguez, Alex Lambert and Joe Muñoz get put through without any real exposure. This is especially tough for Muñoz, who has been one of the season's least featured contestants. Lambert and Rodriguez will be OK, but I fear for Muños. Unless he's awesome. Which we wouldn't know. Maybe he could have taken one minute of Casey James' screentime?
9:15 p.m. Crystal Bowersox hasn't lacked for for screentime this year, though she seems not to have a clue how many people watch "American Idol," missing by a power of 10. Simon suggests that this show many not be the right platform for her, or that she might not have previously thought it was the best of platforms. The judges are unanimous and the extremely talented Crystal Bowersox is in the Top 24. Yay, Momma Sox. But am I wrong to want her to wash her hair?
9:22 p.m. There are only 10 slots left.
9:23 p.m. Does anybody doubt that one of those 10 slots is set aside for 17-year-old Katie Stevens? She has a sob story *and* talent. How can she fail? Once she stops dressing like a 17-year-old mall rat, I bet the show will really be able to work with her. She feels Top 12-bound, assuming she makes it to the Top 24. But first? Another rambling intro from Ellen. Yes, Katie Stevens is in the Top 24. She's giddy and keeps holding her head in happiness.
9:25 p.m. Spots are dwindling, which means that a bunch of people we didn't much care about are heading home. Farewell all of you! Maddie Penrose, I'll miss you and your glasses most of all. I say that because you're the one whose name I know.
9:26 p.m. Here comes Angela Martin. She was so good two years ago. And so good last year. And so good this year. Is this her year? The producers show what they think was a poor solo performance from Angela, which also sounds good enough for me. He dad was killed. She went to jail. Her daughter had serious medical issues. Give the girl a break.
9:27 p.m. Is this Angela's year? She's crying as she sits down with the judges, but has to make room for Kara, who hugs her before stabbing her in the back. This will not be Angela's year. For shame, "American Idol." For shame! Kara's performance breaking Angela's heart is dreadful. I'd love to have heard a single bum note from Angela, just to explain why she didn't get a shot here.
9:35 p.m. Crystal is through. Didi is through. Janell? Through. Will all four of my blonde guitar-strumming favorites make it to the Top 24? It's up to Lilly Scott, who didn't have a good last solo performance after a great first solo? Kara doesn't think Lilly's the best singer left. And that, apparently, is why Lilly Scott is in the Top 24. Lilly vows to go all the way.
9:38 p.m. Paige Miles, Siobhan Magnus and Michelle Delamor are also through. Who? Who? Who? Jermaine Sellers is also into the Top 24, as is John Park. Really? Several of those people could have used that screen time. Instead, that programming block was three minutes long. Of that group, Sellers got lots of exposure last night, as did Magnus. Miles was featured in the Group Week, but she was featured as annoying. I remember Park's audition, but only because "American Idol" doesn't have a long tradition of successful Asian males. And Michelle Delamor? Nope. Not at all.
9:44 p.m. Uh-oh. There's only one more spot amongst the Top 12 women. It's down to Haeley Vaughn, who the judges sometimes find terrific and sometimes annoying, and Tori Kelly. As the judges keep saying, this was a strong year for the ladies, which made this extra challenging. Who will get that last place? It's Haeley Vaughn. Tori Kelly is done.
9:46 p.m. Usually they build these last choices a bit more carefully. We haven't seen enough of Tori to know if we missed out on not having her in our Top 24. Haeley received much more screentime throughout, so we can't be surprised that she's going on. Things are a bit more intriguing for the last male spot. It's Thaddeus "I'm Not Bubbly" Johnson vs. Andrew Garcia and although I can't imagine Andrew -- he of the slow-rock "Straight Up" -- not being the one to advance, at least we know who Thaddeus is.
9:52 p.m. It turns out that both Andrew and Thaddeus want to make it to the Top 24.
9:53 p.m. Thaddeus is up first. "Thaddeus, you didn't make it and I'm really sorry," Simon says. Simon reassures Thaddeus that he didn't do anything wrong. He even walks over and shakes Thaddeus' hand. This is just about as magnanimous as Simon can get. Thaddeus, though, is a big blubbering mess. He's like 16 or 17. He's still eligible to come back each of the next 10 years if he wants to. Chin up, sir!
9:55 p.m. Somehow, they snuck Thaddeus out and Andrew in without Andrew realizing that he's set. They don't make him wait long. Andrew Garcia is the final member of the Top 24. Andrew is nearly as blubbery as Thaddeus was. "I mean I'm usually a cool guy," Andrew hiccups.
9:57 p.m. Our Top 24 masses on the stage as "Halleluyah" plays in the background.
9:58 p.m. Happy Dancing!!! I love Happy Dancing.
10:00 p.m. Check HitFix later tonight for a photo gallery of the Top 24. Gotta wait for FOX to put up art!
What do you think of the Top 24? And how sad are you for Angela Martin?