Wednesday, February 18, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 36 Group 1 Results

The first three Season 8 finalists are:

Michael Sarver
Alexis Grace
Danny Gokey

Ryan Seacrest tells us 24 million votes were cast Tuesday night, 10 million more than the same week in 2008. It is impossible to concieve that anyone would even care enough to vote after watching Tuesday's fiasco. We'll chalk it up to the revised format where the Top 3 survive instead of the bottom four are eliminated. Still ... 10 million more votes with nearly 4 million fewer viewers than in 2008 (Tuesday's show averaged 25.10 million viewers and a 9.5 rating/23 share from 8-10 p.m., whereas in 2008 it averaged 29.0 million viewers with a 11.3 rating/27 share)? Have the "Idol" producers found a new way to cook the numbers?

When asked by Seacrest, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi have the temerity to pronounce Tuesday night's show good. If there was any doubt left (and there wasn't), now we know for sure that they're facile liars.

We are subjected to a recap of the "Idol" journey so far. (Do we not know these lame clips by heart by now?) And though we thought the singing torture ended after the performances on Tuesday, we were wrong. We failed to recall that the group songs begin on results nights of the semis. Needless to say, when you have only about four out of 12 who sound acceptable singing solo, putting all 12 voices together was like the cats yowling on the fence at midnight. Ugh! They "sang" and "danced" (possibly even worse than the "singing") to Jason Mraz' "I’m Yours." Anyone else getting sick of this song? And, not to be cruel, but how is blind Scott McIntyre supposed to do the group choreography when he performs in two weeks? Just asking ...

Watch video of Group 1 singing and dancing to "I'm Yours"

But wait! There's more! Bad singing that is. We have to view the prerequisite "highlights" clip from Tuesday's show, or in this case, the lowlights clip. It's times like this that we owe gratitude to the inventors of TiVO, DVRs, VCRs and any other device that has a fast-forward mode.

Before the voting results begin, Ryan chats with Group 1. We begin to understand why Jackie Tohn, whose singing left something to be desired on Tuesday, made the cut to the Top 36. She's animated, funny, spontaneous and totally comfortable onstage. When Ryan asks her to rate her Tuesday performance, she asks, "Like on a school report card, or like in the Olympics?" She then gives herself a 91, which she says equates to a B+/A-. Ryan asks Anoop Desai what the atmosphere is like among the contestants. Anoop tries to bluff his way through, saying he can speak for most of them and that they're relaxed knowing they've done the best they could do and now they're waiting to see if America has found them worthy. Ryan turns on the pressure: "You're relaxed?" Anoop begins to squirm. "Your results are in, Anoop. The nation has voted." More squirming and mumbling. "And they've decided that you, Anoop ..." Ryan pauses, then says, "So tell the truth right now, live on national television." Anoop folds, "I am ... the most nervous I've ever been." Ryan, getting what he wanted, taps Anoop on the shoulder and says, "God bless you." It was funny. For better or worse, Ryan was born to be host of "American Idol." He is very good at his job.

Next Ryan turns to Tatiana Del Toro, asking her a couple of times if she is alright. Seeing Tatiana acting relatively normal on live TV, it's really getting annoying just how much the producers are trying to prod her over the edge, making us wonder how much of a head case she really is, and how much was made to look like one through creative editing on the taped segments of the show. Ryan asks Tatiana if that is Paula Abdul's ring she's wearing (Paula gave Tatiana a "star" ring from her jewelry line at the judges' mansion after Tatiana said she tried to buy one but it was sold out). Tatiana says yes, then drifts into a Tatiana world conversation with Paula, until Ryan snaps her back to live TV to ask her about the plea she made to viewers the night before to keep her dream going. He tries, but the girl is sounding too normal and he can't get her to break. Hmmmm. He moves on to Stevie Wright. Maybe he can get some tears and drama from her. She obviously knows she's doomed after her train wreck of a performance the night before. Even Kara called her out on it (along with Casey and Stephen) earlier on tonight's show. Seacrest asks her what she and mother discussed after the show. Stevie reiterates what she said after her performance Tuesday: It's kinda confusing when the judges tell you to choose younger songs more of her age, then criticize her Taylor Swift song choice. Sadly for the producers, they strikeout on drama. Time for the results.

First up is Casey Carlson. She tells Ryan that she thinks she should have picked a different song, but she had the time of her life and feels great. We wish we had the guy from "Lie to Me" on the show for that comment; her face so betrayed her words (see photo). And, Sweetie, to paraphrase Simon, song choice was the least of your problems. You were off-key and never should have made the Top 36. Plus pulling faces and posturing made it 10 times worse. Needless to say, Casey does not make the Top 12. Nor does Stephen Fowler. Ryan calls him to the stage, shakes his hand, then totally embarrasses him by Stephen his hand is soaking wet. Thanks, Seacrest. Fowler says that he may have picked the wrong song, but he wanted to show another side of himself, though perhaps he should have stuck with what got him there.

Alexis Grace is next. Her outfit, complete with fedora looks really cute. She's either a great self-stylist or has been given good advice. The red lipstick is toned down, and we notice she has a yellow tongue from throat lozenges, but it's so much better than last year's green tongues. When she is declared Season 8's first finalist, Ryan tells her you may be the next American Idol. She says, "I know." No modesty there. Her dad, who looks like a '60s hippie, complete with long flowing hair and tinted granny glasses, breaks down in tears. Alexis reprises "Never Loved a Man," and, strangely, we like it better than Tuesday night's rendition.

Watch video of Ryan chatting with contestants, Casey Carlson and Stephen Fowler being eliminated and Alexis Grace becoming a finalist

Ryan starts calling duos up on the stage, beginning with Ricky Braddy and Jackie Tohn. Something odd happened at this point. As they approached Ryan, Jackie motioned to Ricky to change places with her so he would be standing closer to Ryan, as she said something to him, as if she already knew the order of things (and the results?) to come. Ryan tells Jackie, "Simon thought you played the clown too much and blew it. After watching it back, what did you think?"
Jackie: "Oh, I didn't think I blew it at all."
Ryan: "Would you have done the same thing all over again."
Jackie: "Oh, absolutely."
Ryan: "So you disagree with Simon?"
Jackie: "Oh, a 100 percent."
Ryan: "Simon, any reaction to that?"
Simon: "We'll see."
Ryan eliminates Ricky, then tells Jackie, "After the nationwide vote, Simon wins. You're not in the Top 12."

Then it's Anoop and Michael Sarver's turn. Ryan chats with them briefly, asking Sarver how he feels. He says, "My heart is pounding out of my chest. All that goes through my head is 'tomorrow's another day if not, and tomorrow's really another day if I, you know [make it].' " Seacrest then turns to Anoop and asks him if he is still nervous. "Yeah man, yeah," he says, to a titter of audience laughter. Seacrest then ends only Michael's agony. He's made it, but Anoop's been cut. Michael sings "I Don't Wanna Be," and we don't wanna be hearing it again. After Michael performs, Ryan says that only 20,000 votes separated Michael and Anoop.

Watch video of Ricky Braddy, Jackie Tohn and Anoop Desai being eliminated and Michael Sarver becoming a finalist

They're baaaack. Yes, it's time for an "Idol" promotional. In this case the opening of The American Idol Experience at Disney World. We see a short video of last week's ceremonies, which included, count 'em, all seven "Idol" winners appearing together for the first time. Then there is a glimpse of David Cook and Carrie Underwood dueting on "Go Your Own Way."

Watch video of the Disney World American Idol Experience ceremonies

Seacrest then calls down the next two contestants. Two people approach the stage, but who are they? Oh. It's a stunt. It's really Season 7 finalists Carly Smithson and Michael Johns making a guest appearance to sing "The Letter." Hate to say it, these two were much better in concert. The Disneyworld video was better than this. Carly was shrill and shouting, and Michael was, well, just bad. Waste of time.

Watch video of Carly Smithson and Michael John singing "The Letter"

Seacrest makes really short work with the next three real contestants, who aren't even invited down to the stage. Anne Marie Boskovich, Brent Keith and Stevie Wright are all asked to stand in place and are eliminated. Guess that means they don't even stand a chance of a wild-card callback.

All this leads up to what the producers hope will be the real drama of the night: Tatiana and Danny Gokey are called down to the stage. The face-off. But there was no drama here. Everyone knew Danny was a lock. That was the only sure thing Wednesday night. So we assume the producers were hoping for the big Tatiana meltdown. But that didn't happen, either. We're kept on hold for the obvious results with a commercial break.

Watch video of Anne Marie Boskovich, Brent Keith and Stevie Wright being eliminated and the Tatiana Del Toro and Danny Gokey face-off

We're back, and still having no luck getting Tatiana to have a breakdown, Ryan, almost reluctantly, decides to give us the results. It's *shock* Danny, who, we must note, was wearing the most butt-ugly pair of eyeglass frames we've ever seen on a guy. Is this going to be his style statement? Different (or no) frames every week? Also, has anyone else noticed that Danny looks alot like Robert Downey Jr.'s younger, geekier brother? Back to the action: You know how most contestants feel sorry for the loser standing by their side when they are chosen? They try to be a bit restrained with their joy? Not Danny. We see that he is just as self-absorbed as Tatiana is, whooping it up and ignoring her for a full 10 seconds, before realizing he ought to go over, put his arm around her and make believe he cares. Yuck. We're beginning to like him less and less. What's worse, we see one of his friends pull out a card as he is announced a finalist. As Danny sings "Hero," his friend shamelessly flashes the photo of Danny and his dead wife. Talk about literally playing the dead wife card. Enough already!Watch video of Tatiana Del Toto being eliminated and Danny Gokey becoming a finalist and singing "Hero"

Group 2 next week is: Megan Corkrey, Kris Allen, Mishavonna Henson, Matt Breitzke, Allison Iraheta, Matt Giraud, Jasmine Murray, Kai Kalama, Jesse Langseth, Adam Lambert, Jeanine Vailes and Nick Mitchell

Watch video of Group 2 dance

The show will air on Wednesday and Thursday next week, instead of Tuesday and Wednesday.

And if we had to guess, we'd choose Ricky Braddy, Jackie Tohn and Anoop Desai as being wild-card choices.

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© 2009

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