Alexis Grace, Danny Gokey, Michael Sarver are the first members of the top 12

American Idol 8‘s new, efficient, and somewhat brutal method of forming its top 12 debuted last night, as nine of the 12 singers were left devastated and just three made it through to the top 12. Alexis Grace, Danny Gokey, and Michael Sarver, pretty much the only singers who performed well on Tuesday, made it through.

In the past, the 24 semifinalists performed each week and the weakest 12 were bumped off over three weeks, four each week, but this year the top 36 are each getting one chance to get voted in to the finals. Of the 12 who perform each week, only those who get more votes than any other male or any other female, or are the third most-popular contestant, move on; otherwise, they’re out. Actually, they’ll get a second chance during the wildcard round, but it’s not clear yet how exactly that will work.

The nine eliminated singers pretty much crushed their own dreams with their bad singing and pathetic famewhore laughter, in the case of Tatiana “how did she make it this far, really?” Del Toro.

The hour-long results show was, as usual, an hour too long, and oddly, Ryan Seacrest’s eliminations were very predictable and not very dramatic, even though he kept inserting pauses to quiz the judges or ask the contestants how they felt. Answer I wanted to hear: “Like I’m going to punch you in the face, Ryan, if you don’t start reading the results off that goddamn card.”

Correction: This post originally misidentified the number of singers in the semi-final rounds during previous seasons. I really had my head up my ass with that one. In addition, some have taken issue with my characterization of Michael Sarver as performing well, which is the inevitable effect of fast-forwarding through songs I don’t like. It’s been one of those weeks; I regret the error.

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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.