Casey Abrams saved by judges during American Idol’s best results show ever

The American Idol judges used their save on Casey Abrams, which means two finalists will go home next week but all 11 remaining contestants will go on the summer tour. Stefano Langone and Thia Megia were also in the bottom three, but Casey being on the bottom was a surprise, if not completely shocking.

Nigel Lythgoe teased the shocking results, but I expected that to be something lame: at the most, a seemingly popular, praised contestant (Jacob, maybe?) ends up in the bottom three. But no, it was Casey, who has received praise from the judges even if he isn’t always perfect. Besides being a crowd-pleaser, he’s also popular on Twitter, thus ending the trends of the least-popular finalists on Twitter ending up in the bottom three.

The judges interrupted Casey’s sing-for-your-life song to tell him they were going to save him, and although that was clearly pre-planned, he was genuinely shocked and emotional. He’d assumed the judges wouldn’t save someone this week because the results tonight determined who would be on the tour, but Ryan Seacrest explained at the end of the show that producers decided that, if someone was saved at this stage, all 11 would join the tour, rather than limiting it to nine people or only allowing one of next week’s eliminated contestants to tour.

The most surprising thing, however, was for the first time in my memory, the series delivered a thoroughly entertaining hour-long results show. I did not press fast forward once.

I’m not the biggest fan of American Idol, in part because I hold it to a high standard as the most-popular show in the country, and it’s often amateur hour–and I’m not talking about the singing. But Nigel Lythgoe and his team delivered a near-perfect hour last night. Sure, there was content unrelated to the actual results, but it was totally watchable, and even the usual mess of a group number and time-wasting Ford music video couldn’t drag it down.

Besides Stevie Wonder singing “Happy Birthday” to Steven Tyler, there was a performance by Sugarland and one by Jennifer Hudson. Jennifer was awesome, as usual, and there was the nice little bonus of George Huff singing back-up–he placed fifth on Jennifer Hudson’s season; she placed seventh, and followed that with, you know, a Golden Globe and an Oscar.

The episode started off with a segment about Marc Anthony teaching the contestants how to avoid pitch problems by using their earpieces, which James said they’d been given but not trained to use–a surprisingly honest revelation. Then Marc Anthony sat backstage and criticized the judges, including J Lo. From his swearing to his honesty, he was more interesting than Jimmy Iovine has been as a TV character, so I hope we see him back soon.

And the episode kept delivering. I freaking hate Ryan Seacrest’s fake-out results, especially because he so clearly gets off on it (when he told the first three to pack their bags–this summer, OMG, he celebrated his victory more than they did, and hugged them all as if he was their BFF, gag).

But after an actually entertaining clip of the finalists pretending to be pro wrestlers in their house, Seacrest had Hulk Hogan surprise Paul McDonald and James Durbin, who’d been imitating Hulk. It was a great cameo on the producers’ part, especially since it ended with Hulk fake punching Ryan Seacrest into the audience, my favorite part of the episode.

If only every results show could include that, never mind all the other actually entertaining moments.

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