The talented teen failed to win over ''American Idol'' viewers, but the remaining four contestants have their detractors as well

By Whitney Pastorek
Updated July 03, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: American Idol: Ray Mickshaw/FOX
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”American Idol”: Paris accepts defeat

Hello, Idol fans. I am saddened to bring you the news that 17-year-old Paris Bennett had a very, very bad day. America cast nearly 45 and a half million votes last night, but not enough were for our teeny little soul queen, and so off she goes, to wherever it is people who get voted off this show go. I kinda wish they had a Survivor-style jury or something, don’t you?

Let’s start with tonight’s group number, which was especially Up With People-esque. The smaller the contestant pool gets, the more these things seem like a Kids Incorporated reunion tour. (Ooh. Note to self: Must make Kids Incorporated reunion tour a reality!) But I guess this is what the show is about, right? These scruffy kids picked out of their small towns and crappy lives and brushed and plucked until they shine, so that we might watch them and aspire to that same salvation.

As for the song itself, there were several revealing moments within its cheesy sludge. Chris looks like he’s in pain even when he’s not, and Taylor doesn’t sing songs he doesn’t know so well. Elliott still has the best voice ever, Paris always pushes high notes, and Katharine McPhee, no matter what you think about her, always looks like a star. As for the preposterous ”Hollywood Swinging” Ford commercial, I shall restrain myself from commenting too honestly, but I will say that I was impressed with the personality Elliott showed in his brief screen time. If he were half that charismatic and entertaining when he sings live, I doubt I would have predicted he was going home this evening.

Oh, about that: I predicted Elliott was going home this evening. And I got it wrong — he was in the bottom two, but he’s sticking around for another week. While many of you were on the same wavelength as me, lots of people disagreed with my prediction; lots of people also cried, ”Cheater!” at Taylor’s decision to sing a Beatles song during the current-Billboard-charts round. I say, suck it up — the kid made a very smart call. And anyway, I thought we were against the way this show sometimes tries to iron out the individuality of the contestants and turn them into homogenized poplets. Look at your 2005 Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson: we had no idea what she was capable of when she was belting out the super-generic ”A Moment Like This.” So why force Taylor to try and take on the latest Nick Lachey track or whatever? I think all these kids should be applauded for knowing exactly who they are, and where their strengths lie.

Except for Paris. She’s so young, she’s so talented, but she never really defined herself. Still, she’s got a future ahead of her that’s absolutely limitless. I completely agree with poster ChetZ, who wrote, ”Paris shouldn’t hang her head; her ceiling is higher than that of each of the other four contestants, who are largely finished products. She’s still growing into the person she will become.”

In fact, many of you have some serious passion about these contestants now — I love that you’re already debating whose CD you’d buy. But while I’ve got your attention, I’d like to invite you to look within and ask why that passion so often turns to rage. I already talked a little about the criticism leveled against Taylor, but he’s not the only one facing your wrath. Chris has his detractors, like the anonymous commentator who posted, ”Chris is as boring as dry toast and lacks any decent singing ability. What exactly is this cookie-cutter ‘rocker”s appeal? His same exact ‘intense’ stare at the camera? His ‘hard’ swing of the microphone stand every week?” (Perhaps that person is wisely hiding his or her identity from everyone on the ”CHRIS IS THE BESTEST EVER OMG” side of the fence. I know I wish I had.)

But the real hatred seems to be reserved for Katharine McPhee, who is facing opposition the likes of which I’ve not seen since Reese Witherspoon tried to run for student-council president in Election. In fact, a poster named Leigh even went so far as to propose there’s a conspiracy afoot, involving Simon’s decision to take back his negative comments about the McPheever treatment of ”I Have Nothing”: ”I really hope Kat is gone next week,” Leigh wrote. ”I didn’t like the ‘apology’ and think she receives special treatment at times.” Goodness. I find this hard to believe. Or is it? If you look at the contestants left, Kat probably would appeal to the widest swath of the population, and there’s no question the Idol producers really, really like to make money. By the way, have you heard about the American Idol tour that is coming to your town any day now?

Finally, I would like to give a shout-out to a poster named Kate, who wrote in with three little words: ”I miss Bucky” She didn’t even punctuate, she was so wracked with loss, the poor thing. Kate, I know how you feel. I feel the same way about Melissa. But I do not miss Bucky at all whatsoever, and would in fact like to use the last bit of this TV Watch here to congratulate Nashville Star winner Chris Young, whose rendition of ”Real Good Man” kicked Covington’s hide up one dirt road and down the next. And before you all start yelling at me for mocking the rural folk, bear in mind that I was born in Texas and used to live in Arkansas and can say whatever I please because I lived in a single-wide trailer with a stray dog and know dirt roads intimately.

Anyway, that’s it. Thanks for bearing with me, Idol nation. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Slezak. Remember: In our hearts, we’ll always have Paris.

What do you think? Was Paris burned, or was it time for to go? And who will do best or worst next week after they go to Graceland?

Episode Recaps

American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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