Tuesday, March 1, 2011

American Idol, Season 10: Heading into the Top 24

We survived the auditions. We survived Hollywood Week. We survived a brief, random journey to Vegas. We survived 3 bloated hours of "suspenseful" Green Mile eliminations.

And so here we are. Tonight, the Top 24 of American Idol begin to battle it out for a spot in the finals. At the mercy of America for the first time this season, half of them will be eliminated by week's end.

So before we say goodbye to the obvious cannon fodder contestants (oh, hey, Haley Reinhart), let's check in with Season 10 of Idol.

The Contestants:
It's so hard to get a sense of how the talent is on any particular season until we are one or two episodes into the Top 12. As it stands now, it could go either way depending on how the contestants fair against the first live elimination on Thursday. Clint Jun Gamboa (Glasses), James Durbin (Glambert Lite), Tatynisa Wilson (Wonky Words) and Haley Reinhart (who shall be known simply as Ugh) ending up in the Top 12 makes for a very different (and worse) season than if Tim Halperin, Karen Rodriguez, Julie Zorrilla and Paul McDonald make it through.

Speaking of Paul McDonald, he's my definite favorite at this point. That rendition of "Blackbird" in Vegas was hypnotizing, and I've recently fallen in love with his band Grand Magnolias, whose song "American Dreams" he sang for the final round before the Green Mile last week. He seems to have the charm, maturity and individualism to survive through the competition. Let's hope he doesn't let me down tonight! [knocking on wood]

The Judges:
You know what? This overhaul of the judging panel might be the best thing to happen to American Idol since Carrie Underwood. When trying to decide whether or not to watch Season 10, I expressed my hope that Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez would bring a fresh voice to the show. And they certainly have!

Sure, they fall into the same traps every once in a while (last Thursday's elimination episode was painful with all of the "This is so hard..... to tell you you made it!!!!" setups), but overall Steven and Jennifer are proving to be excellent additions to the show. I get the sense that Jennifer genuinely cares for the contestants and that Steven isn't there against his will. Of course, Randy Jackson continues to be my least favorite of the group—but why would we want to break a tradition 10 seasons in the making?

The Format:
With auditions and Hollywood, the opening weeks of Idol always feel a bit helter skelter. Maybe it's just me, but it feels particularly inconsistent in its scheduling this season. Is the show one hour, 90 minutes or two hours? Is it Wednesday/Thursday or Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday?

Luckily, after this week's Semifinals round the show will be back to only two days a week, which leads me to one of my biggest praises of Season 10 thus far—only ONE week of Semifinals! Gone are the days when an entire month was devoted to Boys Night/Girls Night, Wild Card picks and the rest. To me, those always felt pointless. If I'm going to vote, can't we just be in the Finals already? The boys perform tonight, the girls tomorrow and then the big elimination is on Thursday. Bam. Done. Just the way it should be.

Now can someone tell just tell the producers to stop trying to make Lauren Alaina happen? It's not going to happen. I hope.

The Seacrest:
Still terrible. But at least he doesn't have Simon to try and have "colorful banter" with this season. With any luck, Jennifer will bitch slap him by the time we get to the Top 9.

So far, Season 10 of American Idol is much improved over Season 9. This week's eliminations will determine a lot—let's hope contestants the likes of Katie Stevens, Tim Urban, Andrew Garcia and Michael Lynche don't make it through.

What about you, dear readers? Have you been enjoying Season 10? Who are you rooting for going into this week's Semifinals? And who do you pray goes home on Thursday? Sound off in the comments!
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