Top 24 men fail to impress with first-ever themed semi-finals

For the first time in the history of American Idol, the top 24 contestants have to choose songs with particular themes, and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe revealed last week that they would be forced to choose one of 50 songs, in part to speed up the clearance process and in part to prevent against terrible song choice.

Yet that limited selection still left some men being criticized for their song choice, and the ’60s theme itself seemed to be a terrible choice, as the judges, particularly Simon Cowell, kept criticizing performances for being old and not modern. They weren’t impressed by any of the guys except Michael Johns; Jason Castro, who played the guitar while singing; and David Archuleta, whose shyness and humbleness has everyone enamored. Oddly, at the end of the show, Randy Jackson said it was “fierce competition” and “blazing hot tonight.” Yeah, except for all those performances you all hated.

Otherwise, the judges spent lots of time half-heartedly arguing with one another, perhaps to fill time or just to provide some entertainment beyond the singing. Ryan Seacrest also (unintentionall?) got into the act and presided over a series of super-awkward moments and apparent in-jokes, like when he concluded the show by saying, “but most of all, thank you for watching,” and Paula shrieked and Simon cracked up. (Update: Several readers who were much more awake than I was at the end pointed out that was because Ryan thanked the other two judges, and then pretended to start to thank Simon, but did not. Oh judges!)

Many of the awkwardness came while the judges criticized and the contestant stood there silently. After the judges slammed Luke Menard, he said something about being himself, and Simon said, “No one’s going to ever admit to being forgettable.” Both Luke and Ryan stood there, blankly, for a few seconds.

Danny Noriega stood on the stage while the judges argued over his performance, and then gave some of his signature super-affected attitude to Simon, shaking his head side to side while looking at Simon and saying, “some people weren’t linking it.” Ryan said, “Careful, he might double-snap you back.”

After David Archuleta’s performance, Seacrest gave David’s phone numbers and said, “You can only vote for him; you actually can’t adopt him, so” and David elbowed Secrest and then Seacrest elbowed him back in an awkward, flirty way. David said, “I’m only 17,” and Ryan said, “I know. But the ladies love you.” Oh, Ryan, you can’t hide behind your heterosexist language.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.