Front-runner Pia’s shocking! elimination: probably the American Idol judges’ fault

Perceived front-runner Pia Toscano was voted off American Idol 10 last night instead of Stefano Langone, shocking the studio audience, viewers at home, and the judges. It was so surprising that Ryan Seacrest begged viewers to not bail on the entire season.

Randy Jackson said, “no, no,” and then, as the camera cut away, appeared to say, “fuck no.” Jennifer Lopez—who’d previously suffered the indignity of Iggy Pop’s horrifying shirtless torso writhing in front of her—cried and said “I’m shocked. I’m angry.”

But this is likely the judges’ fault. First, they wasted their save on Casey Abrams, and thus were unable to do anything. This is exactly the kind of scenario the save was designed for, but they used it immediately instead of waiting. (If the show was as fixed as some people say it was, the producers would have given them another save to use last night.)

The vote may have also been the result of the judges’ failure to critique the finalists. As Craig Berman writes for msnbc.com, “if the results really surprised the judges, then they should keep in mind that very few of the show’s viewers have the power to read minds. It would have been impossible to gauge that the panel loved Toscano more than anyone else in the competition because they gave lavish praise to everyone, and ended the show by saying everyone was great and they didn’t know who people should vote for.”

While the judging panel has been surprisingly good television, they’ve been unwilling to be super-critical, which is perhaps not surprising, considering the show has made a conscious effort to distance itself from Simon Cowell. Do viewers listen to the judges? We’ve certainly seen evidence both ways over time. But the judges shouldn’t be surprised if their favorites go home and they haven’t used their only remaining power, being advocates and critics.

Important

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