American Idol dumps four people we mostly didn’t even know were on the show

American Idol 9 dropped its first four semifinalists, and they were people that, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t even recognize. Perhaps the biggest surprises were that last-minute replacement Tim Urban was safe (but Simon Cowell’s criticism has the potential to galvanize voters) and Alex Lambert escaped elimination despite looking as though he had wandered in off the street thinking the studio was a McDonald’s, and Tyler Grady went home despite getting a lot of screen time.

Janell Wheeler was first out, and Ryan said “that part sucks,” as if there’s any other part to come. Ashley Rodriguez also went home, as did Joe Munoz and Tyler Grady. Tyler blamed the judges, saying “I didn’t get much constructive criticism during Hollywood week and I feel like what they told me was a little bit too late.” But at least he got some attention during the earlier rounds, unlike Joe.

The filler wasn’t bad: Allison Iraheta performed, and Kris Allen did too, singing “Let it Be” set to footage of his visit to earthquake-ravaged Haiti; the recording will be on iTunes and proceeds benefit relief efforts. That’s the way they should do Idol Gives Back: one song every week, not one big telethon.

My new favorite is Casey James, because during the lip-synced “American Boy” group number, he didn’t even try to pretend, and instead just moved his mouth slightly and gave a look to the camera that said, “whatever.” Indeed.

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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.