On the first elimination show of ''American Idol'' season 6, a couple forgettable singers are let go before the aggressively awful ones

By Michael Slezak
February 23, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
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”American Idol”: When bad is better than boring

A wise sensei once spoke these words about advancing through the earliest semifinal rounds of American Idol: ‘Tis better to be a slice of fetid lunchmeat in the fridge than the unscented candle on the kitchen counter.

Okay, a wise sensei never actually said that. I just made it up. But the point is, when you’ve got 24 contestants fighting for only 20 places on the nation’s favorite reality competition, it’s a better strategy to set yourself apart with a thoroughly abysmal showing than to be forgettable and middling. That’s the lesson poor Rudy Cardenas and Amy Krebs will probably be trying to process as they rewind their respective performances of ”Free Ride” and ”I Can’t Make You Love Me” in the weeks and months ahead and think, ”Come on! I was better than Sundance and Antonella!” But that’s the reality of reality TV: Rudy’s getting a free ride back home, and no, Amy can’t make her love us if we don’t.

As for this week’s other two eliminated contestants — Paul Kim and Nicole Tranquillo — they made the mistake of giving truly ghastly performances that somehow failed to evoke the nation’s sympathy response. The opening bars of Paul’s ”Careless Whisper” sounded like a gasp (as it turns out, a last gasp), but I think his big mistake was spending most of his interview time maniacally insisting that he would never — never! — take the stage in anything but bare feet. I dunno, I’m wearing a pair of red Old Navy sleep bottoms with little white Cupids on ’em ($4.99 on sale last March), but am I gonna lead the conversation with that? No, I am not. Also, did anyone notice Paul was wearing sneakers as he gave his exit performance tonight? Dude, where are your dogged convictions?

Nicole, meanwhile, delivered each note of Chaka Khan’s ”Stay” like a punishing blow to the audience’s ears, then retreated into her country-mouse persona while facing the judges panel. Simply put, the experience was disconcerting. Also, she did not play the all-important ditzy-sexpot card so wisely chosen by Alaina Alexander. (Not that the latter contestant is gonna last another week, mind you.) I loved how when Ryan asked the judges for constructive advice for Nicole, Paula blathered something about how she should keep doing what she’s passionate about. Note, Idol fans, Paula did not say Nicole should pursue a singing career. The woman speaketh in codes — when she’s not clapping like a lively seal!

On that note, I’m now gonna clap for myself like a lively seal because my choices for this week’s eliminations were pretty on-target. After Tuesday night’s show, I had my money (in no particular order) on Rudy, Paul, and Sundance, and last night, I guessed that Amy, Nicole, and Antonella were on the chopping block. That said, I’m also a wuss because I should’ve narrowed it down to two predictions per gender — something I promise to do next week.

Finally, can I get a couple seal claps from the seal pound for the following reader comments? First, a witty bon vivant by the name of ”me” had this to say about Tuesday night’s male performances: ”Let’s give a medal to the microphone. How brave was that microphone, putting up with such verbal abuse, toddling on like a brave Lindsay Lohan into an AA meeting, until finally it was laid to rest. Microphone, I lub you.” Also, let’s hear it for ”Cranky,” who must’ve read my mind during last night’s episode (or was it the other way around?), by wondering: ”What I wonder is, how many Pomeranians had to die to make Paula’s skanky wig?” Sorry, but it’s true. That thing was un-be-weave-able!

Did America get it right tonight with its four choices for elimination? Were your buying Chris Sligh’s explanation for his tiff with Simon? Could you believe the way Ryan Seacrest totally cut off Quincy Jones? And wasn’t it great to hear Fantasia in such delicious vocal form?

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