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On The Scene: 'Idol' 11 Results Night

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Before I get to the inside dish on this week’s Idol results show — shameless teaser: Which Desperate Housewife got a peck on the cheek from Ryan Seacrest? — I have to share a tangential-but-tasty nugget, and to do that requires a bit of geography: To get to the CBS Television City Studio 36 (right next door to The Price Is Right!), press ticket holders are instructed to park at the nearby outdoor-mall-cum-mini-small-town-street, The Grove, and walk up to the studio next door. Usually, the street is rather traffic-less and dull, but I knew something was up the moment I emerged from the parking garage and saw a coffee truck ubiquitous to movie sets everywhere. And it was but one of a long line of equipment trucks, makeup and wardrobe trailers and mobile restrooms lined up alongside the sidewalk to guide me to the entrance to CBS lot. And what massive cinematic production was all this hullabaloo for? Why Bratz: The Movie, starring none other than Paula Abdul herself! Alas, there was nary a sassy snap to be heard inside the Idol set (at least, from a live-action Bratz doll), but I somehow doubt the proximity to Idol was just a coincidence.

Anyhoo, here’s the breakdown of the Results Show scene:

Pre-show mash-up background music Fergie’s “London Bridge” with Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait” — which, I realized, is piped in directly from Corey the Stand-Up Comic’s iPod.

Celeb sightings The Commodores, Brandon Rogers, Justin Guarini (who sat next to Rogers — seriously, who does this guy not know?), Leslie Hunt, Alaina Alexander, the cast of ‘Til Death (including, of course, shameless ham Brad Garrett  — more later), and Desperate Housewife Teri Hatcher, a.k.a. “Ryan Seacrest’s girlfriend for approximately 20 minutes last year, i.e. just long enough to be caught making out by the paparazzi.” And, yes, during an ad break, Ryan did swing by and give Ms. Hatcher a peck on the cheek hello… and also said hi to Hatcher’s daughter and the gentleman who happened to be with them.

Finalist audience scream-o-meter As the finalists entered the stage for the first time, the audience was loudest for Blake, then Jordin, then (sigh) Sanjaya.

The Performances How to describe Peter Noone. Hmm. Uninspiring? Tepid? Dorky unclesque? One need only compare the finalists’ reactions to his entrance and co-mentor-for-the-week Lulu’s to get a read on which one had the bigger impact: When Noone entered, Sligh and Phil were at their feet, but it took a good five seconds for the rest of the finalists to wrest themselves into their “I’m on TV!” happy-go-lucky standing-and-clapping. (The less said about Noone’s gyrating hip-swivel during the ad-break following his performance, the better.) Upon Lulu’s entrance, however, the Top 11 all snapped to immediately — and, for good reason, since Lulu totally rocked it. The audience was completely lovin’ it, too, which I don’t think quite came over on television.

The Elimination… began with a bit of mugging from Brad Garrett, who came up to the stage to greet all the finalists during the ad break and then decided, spur-of-the-moment, to sit down with them. At which point Blake raced down to the audience and snatched the random “Clay Aiken Hurt Me” sign and gave it to Brad. (So Blake’s a fan of the snark. Good to know.) When the Coca-Cola ad began, however, all the finalists stood up to watch, and somewhere in the shuffle (I couldn’t see how, since the lights had gone dark for the ad), the Clay Aiken sign got pulled. Awww — no snark for you, Brad!

Then, of course, Ryan did the whole three-up, three-down routine, and when we landed with Chris R. and Stephanie, the audience was genuinely shocked — we’re goaded to play up the “ooooo”s and “booooo”s by Corey the Warm-Up Comic before the show, but the protests this time were very much authentic. We weren’t the only ones, either. Mindy Doo immediately grabbed Chris R.’s hand during the subsequent ad break; Kiki, who had (huzzah!) been far more talkative and outgoing up until that point, turned sullen once again. Equally gobsmacked was Blake, the usual man-of-the-party, which meant for a much more subdued Top 11 this time through. The one who seemed best at taking it all in stride, actually, was Stephanie, who kept her composure and her smile while the rest displayed faces varying from “I’m just glad it wasn’t me” relief to “I reeeeeeaaaallllly hope Chris R. doesn’t go home” alarm.

Too harsh to poor Steph? Well you all saw that the bottom row, i.e. where Chris R.’d been seated, became a hand-clutch-fest once Stephanie and Chris R. were moved center stage, but it was telling to me that the top row — Sligh, Kiki, Phil and Sanjaya — were just as equally distant with each other. Make of that what you will, but 19-year-old Steph has already told EW.com that she was separated from all the 21-and-over finalists who would go out drinking and leave her and 17ers Jordin and Sanjaya behind. When Ryan declared Chris R. safe, Haley sent up a huge kick of celebration, and most everyone seemed far more relieved than bereaved. Not to imply that Steph was some outcast, but I my Sec. D-Row 8-Seat 6-armchair analysis is that she hadn’t quite bonded with everyone either. Such insight!

Stephanie’s Final Performance… which you did not see yet again (thanks, Brad Garrett), started a bit awkwardly, since the arrangement’s bombastic opening was very much at odds with, you know, the whole teary-eyed farewell. Steph was on key and strong for much of the song — continuing the Idol season 6 tradition of giving the performance Wednesday you should’ve given Tuesday — but once she hit the final round of “Believe Me,” she broke down and couldn’t finish, prompting the Top 10 to finally join her on stage for support and the obligatory group hug. Through all of it Sanjaya could not have looked more sullen.

I’m surprised Stephanie stayed tear-free as long as she did, actually, since once the cameras were off and the mic in Steph’s hand, Ryan plopped next to Randy to powwow with the judges, causing all four to bunch up together and completely ignore what was happening not 10 feet from them. Thank God for exec. producer Nigel Lythgoe — with a face that screamed “pissed off papa,” Nigel reprimanded them all right then and there, and Simon, yes Simon, snapped back into position for the rest of the song. Of course, since the cameras kept acting as if they were recording the proceedings, perhaps Nigel just wanted to be sure his judges didn’t come across as complete jerks should the footage ever see the light of day.

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