On the ''American Idol'' results show, Stephanie goes home after the voters put her and Chris Richardson in the bottom two, while Sanjaya survives to torture again

By Michael Slezak
Updated March 22, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

”American Idol”: The wrong two finish last

If I ran American Idol, tonight’s unfortunate elimination would’ve played out much, much differently. Nope, I wouldn’t have enforced a one-vote-per-phone rule, or given the judges the magical power of veto. Instead, I would’ve given voters the choice of 12 phone numbers after Tuesday night’s performance show — one for each of the 11 remaining contestants, and one for the sobbing little girl with the Jan Brady pigtails.

Seriously, given those choices, I bet at least a third of Sanjaya Malakar’s votes would’ve gone to little Ashley, whose ”OMG! Just! Saw! Tweener! Heartthrob!” tears were so fall-off-the-couch funny they had one TV Watch reader thinking about programming possibilities: ”Fox should get an option on crying girl,” wrote LMF, ”so whenever a show is slumping in the ratings, or has a particularly boring episode, just bring on crying girl. Think about it: If Arrested Development had crying girl, would it still be on TV? Or they could option her out to NBC’s Friday Night Lights and watch rating quadruple!”

A female reader by the name of Good Lord was also impressed by the kid’s waterworks, declaring, ”That little Ashley girl must be a hella good actor to bawl so long and so hard. Even when I’ve got PMS, I run out of steam after about 10 minutes.”

Not everyone was a fan, though. JazzyJake wrote in to say ”the repeated camera shots of the crying girl were just annoying. Shots of the Kinks crying would have been appropriate.”

Indeed, I’d agree that Ray Davies & Co. have a right to reach for the Puffs, and I defy anyone without significant hearing loss to tell me that Sanjaya’s screeching, creepy rendition of ”You Really Got Me” was good enough to win the average high-school talent contest, let alone score one of ten coveted spots on a national concert tour.

As I predicted Tuesday night, though, Sanjaya’s watercooler buzz and recent emphasis on comedy over actual singing spelled doom for poor Stephanie Edwards, who was victimized by three things: lack of any significant airtime prior to the semifinals; backward momentum over the last four weeks; and, obviously, a Tuesday-night rendition of ”You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” so lackluster that I wouldn’t be surprised if even Stephanie’s family and friends had heeded the song’s title for the last 24 hours or so. I genuinely wish Stephanie had gotten another week in the competition, just to see if she was capable of regaining the mojo that made her ”How Come You Don’t Call Me” and ”Dangerously in Love” such tasty semifinal treats.

More surprising was Stephanie’s companion in the bottom two, Chris Richardson, who, up till now, seemed to be successfully lobbying for the greatest number of fangirl screams during each week’s elimination show. Now anyone who’s read this column knows I’m not a Chris R. fan, but I actually thought his restrained take on ”Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” on Tuesday was the best vocal he’s delivered all season. Could it be his fan base craves the random vocal runs and tinny melisma that the J.T. look-alike usually brings to the stage? I wouldn’t worry too much about Chris, though, because his fan base will probably rally around him next week (leaving perhaps Gina, Haley, Phil, or Chris Sligh vulnerable), and also because I’m going out on a limb and predicting America will finally tire of Sanjaya the following week, allowing him to boggle Idol enthusiasts with a ninth-place finish. That is, unless he can get crying girl back each week until late May.

And on that scary note, let’s cut to our reader comments of the week:

Lei came up with what I think is a brilliant network crossover idea with the CW’s America’s Next Top Model: ”Kiki and Melinda need Tyra and the boys to come and do a makeover — hair extensions fabulous!”

A number of our straight male readers, meanwhile, tried to make me understand Haley’s mysterious avoidance of the bottom two for two weeks running. Dave M said he wasn’t sure if or what Haley had sung, as he was ”distracted by the two polecats that were fighting underneath her gold bandanna shirt.” And a guy who went by the moniker My Poor Married Buddies got a little more philosophical: ”I got divorced last year. It was a horrible, wrenching experience that I didn’t see coming. Only now am I starting to emerge from the fog of confusion and sleepless nights that has paralyzed me, stalled my career, and made me question the existence of God. Last night, however, I was glad there was no wife monitoring my reaction to Haley’s outfit, smacking me with sofa cushions, etc….”

On the flip side of the debate, however, was a reader named Please!, who chided the drooling guys: ”If you need to get your kicks off looking at a nice-looking female off of Idol, you really are in trouble, people!”

No matter which side of the debate you’re on, however, I think we can all agree with TiredofIdol’s comment about a certain host’s unexpected display of beatboxing and choreography: ”It’s sad when Ryan Seacrest sings and dances better than Sanjaya.” Can I get an amen to that?

What do you think? Who belonged in the bottom two? And who is at risk next week? Let us know on the message boards below, and be sure to check out our new Idolatry episode — with season 2’s Kimberley Locke giving a full-length performance of her hit single, ”Change.” Plus, if you’d like to take part in our next Idolatry webcast, e-mail your comments or questions about this week’s show (be specific about who you’re crazy about and who’s driving you crazy) to idolatry@ew.com, along with your full name and a phone number where we can reach you between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. EDT on Mondays and Thursdays.

Episode Recaps

American Idol

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

  • TV Show
  • 16
  • 574
  • ABC