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American Idol recap: Group Therapy

As the show works overtime to whip up Hollywood Week drama, talented performers get left on the cutting-room floor

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Idol Mary Powers

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

Q: Ninety-six singers enter the second round of American Idol‘s season 9 Hollywood Week, and break off into an undetermined number of groups comprised of 3-5 contestants each. At least four groups choose to sing that hellacious Gwen Stefani song with the ”woo-hoo, whee-hoo” chorus. If the Jack Black lookalike hits the sack at 3:20 a.m., and Big Mike goes to bed by midnight, which of the following events will happen first: Big Mike’s wife makes a baby, Mary Powers flies off the handle, or a hyper-competitive guy with a surly mug performs a handspring while singing a Lady Gaga chart-topper?

A: None of this matters. Because the annual rite of passage known as ”group auditions” is nothing more than a detour into contrived drama and occasional silliness, dotted with one or two instances of vocal brilliance, followed by panic-inducing cries of ”Wait! Did [insert your favorite contestant’s name here] make it through?”

Speaking of which, I have to admit there is a tiny voice in my head right this second wondering about the fates of singers like Lilly Scott, Mallorie Haley, Keia Johnson, Aaron Kelly and other talented singers I’ve grown mildly/moderately attached to over the last five weeks. The way Idol casually disregards its viewers emotional investment at this point in the competition would be akin to filming a disaster flick with Angelina Jolie, Will Smith, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks in the lead roles, and then spending the middle third of the movie focusing on a band of blurry extras who end up getting killed off anyway. (Not that I’m saying front-runners on Idol should be established early and pimped aggressively (heavens no!); it’s just that once the show has devoted a significant chunk of airtime to a contestant, it could at least do a cursory job of letting us know if we should be expecting an encore!)

What’s frustrating is that it really doesn’t have to be this way. Maybe next year in season 10, when this little invention known as the Internet catches on, Ryan Seacrest could end the ”group auditions” episode by saying something like, ”To see the full list of 71 singers who made it to the final round of Hollywood Week, go to AmericanIdol.com.” Surely, I’m not the first Idoloonie to think of such an innovation.

But let’s focus on the positives of tonight’s episode…

Okay, now that we’re done with that — I kid, I kid! Because for all of the hectic (and dare I say shoddy) editing we had to endure tonight, for all of the contestants who seemed to settle for mediocrity, there were a handful of contestants who attempted to deliver the kind of water-cooler moments we saw from Frenchie and Kimberley in season 2, and Blake, Chris, Rudy, and Thomas in season 6. Not that they got much screentime for their efforts, mind you, but we’re gonna make these rare birds the stars of this recap, dammit!

NEXT: J.B. Ahfua redeems himself