Judges all but declare Crystal Bowersox is the winner months before American Idol will end

If American Idol 9 concludes around the same time as it usually does, we have about two and a half months to go. But it seems like the judges have basically already settled on a winner: Crystal Bowersox.

“Please stay healthy. We need you here,” Ellen told Crystal, who performed first (a Creedence Clearwater Revival song) despite being hospitalized yesterday. Simon Cowell then praised her because “you didn’t play the whole sympathy thing” (no, the show did that for her by changing its schedule for her!), and then comparing her to Kelly Clarkson and saying, “I think we’ve got a really serious artist.” At the end, he said the women’s performances included “some marked improvements and some horrific performances” and said Crystal “stood out.”

Yesterday, after changing the schedule for Crystal, executive producer Ken Warwick detailed their decision-making on Ryan Seacrest’s show, and addressed the fairness issue without making any sense. He said, ‘We came to the conclusion really that the fairest thing to do overall — because I’ve got three of four other girls who got sniffles and the flu — that if the boys were okay with it, we put the boys on…” Yes, I’m sure it was really the boys’ call.

Lilly Scott was about the only other person to approach Crystal levels of praise; the others got eviscerated to varying degrees. Didi Benami couldn’t even speak after her critique because she was about to bawl.

Crystal and Lilly as frontrunners are interesting, because they’re atypical Idol contestants, as far away from the Adam Lambert and Kris Allen model as you could get and still have them on the show. But it’s not going to be interesting to watch this level of competition–which is to say, not much competition at all–for the next 10 or 12 weeks, as they and one or two guys move toward becoming the inevitable finalists.

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