Jermaine Jones’ disqualification from Idol handled with a surprising amount of respect

Jermaine Jones was removed from American Idol 11 because he had outstanding arrest warrants, and the show addressed that tonight in a surprisingly respectful way. Meanwhile, Seacrest said that despite Jermain’s exit, the person with the lowest number of votes will be “at risk for elimination” tomorrow night.

At first, it seemed like the show was milking this for every ounce of drama it could, with Ryan Seacrest teasing the disqualification but refusing to identify who was disqualified at the start of the broadcast, and then with executive producers Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe confronting Jermaine in an office on white leather sofas on Tuesday night. It seemed like an ambush.

But they handled it well. Nigel Lythgoe went through the charges against Jermaine, and said, “you didn’t disclose those charges to us.” And Ken Warwick said, “We’re not judgmental at all,” adding that many artists his age have similar problems. “If they come clean with us, and tell us at the beginning, we can help them. But you did know that you’re incumbent to tell us the truth about all of it, and it appears that you just haven’t on any level.”

Jeramine briefly explained that there “wasn’t a fight; I wasn’t fighting” and called one of his arrests simply a “disagreement” between friends, and said he didn’t disclose them to the show because “I just was scared and nervous; I didn’t want to get judged; I didn’t want to get penalized for anything that happened in the past.” (Didn’t want to get judged?! On the previously number one TV show in America that also happens to be a competition with judges?!)

Nigel explained the producers “are not allowed to have anybody who has an outstanding warrant on the program,” and they told him he was out, but not before the show spent time actually building him up.

Nigel and Ken praised his performance during the rehearsal earlier in the day, and then we saw footage from that rehearsal, as he sang “Somewhere Out There.” As the show returned live, Seacrest concluded with a pretty sincere statement: “We will certaintly miss Jermaine’s talent on the show, and we wish him the best of luck for his future.”

This incident has certainly generated more headlines and conversation than anything else has this boring season, and thus won’t assuage those who are floating conspiracy theories that Jermaine was brought back as the wildcard just to be eliminated in dramatic fashion. (That doesn’t seem plausible, since he wasn’t a throwaway contestant, but one who might have gone far and done more for the show as a singer and personality.) But it was a lot more than I expected American Idol to do.

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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.