American Idol’s semi-finals start with weak performances

Every year, one or more judges talks to the press and says something about a man or woman winning this year. I’m not sure what the point is, or how exactly they know this early in competition that’s frequently about growth from week to week. Maybe it’s an attempt to plant that idea in our minds to keep the American Idol universe balanced? In any case, this year, Simon Cowell has said, it will be a woman. Perhaps he should have waited until after last night’s kinda weak set of performances by the women to make his proclamation, however. Or maybe he knows that the men will be even worse?

The performances were, overall, weak. There were some stand-outs, but not many. And because we’re back to the three weeks of semi-finals, instead of 12 new semi-finalists every week, this is the group we’ll have from now until May. Yay.

At least we have the comfort of knowing that after eight seasons, American Idol can still not produce a live show with any degree of technical competence. From Simon Cowell being unaware that he was going to be the first judge to comment on the first singer (“Is it me? Am I going first? I didn’t know”) to the audio problems through the first few singers in the end-of-show recap, there were plenty of little goofs.

The judges were in a new order–Ellen, Randy, Kara, and Simon–though they rotated so each went first at different points. Ellen explained that to Ryan by joking, “The problem is, Simon wants me,” and adding, “His hands are like wandering hands,” and then they cut to Hollywood round footage edited together with a stand-in for Simon putting his hand on not-Ellen’s leg. I’m not sure why they didn’t just use real footage of Simon touching Paula’s crotch.

In her first live show, Ellen was a bit less great than she was during Hollywood; she seemed less confident, maybe. And she had a touch of Paula, like when Haeley Vaughn sang and everyone pretty much thought it was bad except Ellen, who added later, “If it was a mess, it was a hot mess.” That’s a good use of her humor, I suppose, but I want more of Hollywood week Ellen back. Oh, and some songs that don’t bore me.

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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.