Category Archives: American Idol

American Idol XIV: Top 12 Boys

Last week, I found myself wondering how Idol would get through twelve performances in an hour, as we reached the House of Blues portion of the show. The answer turned out to be “We didn’t.” Instead we got a clip show.

This week, in the new setting of Detroit’s Fillmore stage, we once again had only an hour, and twelve boys to get through. Even weirder, tonight started voting. So, a clip show wasn’t possible, was it? We had to actually see the full performances, right? Though this was pretaped, so the producers still held the editing control, they had to at least show us the full performances, in order for us to vote, right?

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So how do we get through twelve performances in an hour? The answer, it turned out, was simple: “cut the judge’s worthless, useless comments.” There was only one problem. The show didn’t figure that out. What followed instead was the most frantically paced hour of Idol in a very long time. Also? Still didn’t get full performances either. (Though the editing hid that well.) We’ve seen Ryan do the micromachine man act before–mostly when there were four judges. Tonight, he might as well be bringing us our contestants auctioneer style.

Let’s see how the boys did. Like the judges, I’ll be pithy.

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American Idol XIV: House of Blues Part 2

The second half of the House of Blues round felt much like the first–heavy, heavy editing control, lots of song snippets, rather than performances. In fact, tonight felt like we got less singing than last night, despite the lack of a sing off interruption that ate up time.

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There were a few overly predictable editing choices, especially at the end–Shi has gotten camera time at every round, while I had plum forgotten about Jelly Joseph, it had been so long since we’d seen her. Moments like that made tonight feel more like The Voice than Idol has ever managed before. Though there is viewer comfort in predictable rhythms, which The Voice panders to, so that you can have mindless entertainment, Idol has always been slightly better than that. I look forward to seeing what happens when the editors finally have to hand the reigns over to live TV.

But until then, here are the highlights of last night’s performances.

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American Idol XIV: House of Blues Showcase Part 1

We’re in that uncomfortable period between the announcement of the Top 48 and the announcement of the Top 12 that Idol had never really settled on how to handle. In earlier years we had a Top 36, who were then decimated in a bloodbath round down to a Top 12. Then for a while we had a Top 24 which slowly dwindled over the course of three weeks to a Top 12. Since abandoning that format, the show has hopped from idea to idea, never quite finding the right way to do it.

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One more problem–getting the amateurs used to a stage with an audience. Part of what the gradual cut back from a Top 24 over three weeks was so effective is it gave contestants extra time on a stage, performing live for cameras in front of a studio audience. Those who made the Top 12 did so with nearly a month’s worth of experience under their belts. One of the show’s biggest mistakes last year came when they threw their Top 12 in front of a huge stage and a live audience  without any practice rounds, and no ability to edit the results. In fact, the season never really recovered from that first live impression.

This year, the producers have done something far more savvy. First, they took them out of LA, and off to Detroit where it’s cheap to rent a venue. Then they had them perform live on stage in a club setting. Now, that’s not quite the level of huge Los Angeles theater filled with screaming fans. But it does make for a good practice session, and a glimpse of who did well, while still having full editing control.

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American Idol XIV: The Top 48

It’s the end of Hollywood. An episode that once took two hours, and at the end of it, all recappers had to show was a list of names that could be read in two minutes, at the longest. Known as “The Green Mile” for the long drawn out walk to the judges each contestant had to take, most of it was dedicated to flashbacks, so the show could montage in all their performances since the auditions–the better to remind you who they were. Of course, then there were those put through in montages, without a drop of video flashback, the better to cannon fodder them through the semi-finals.

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This year, said drawn out list was coupled with the final day of solo performances, as has been the choice to do in the last few seasons. sometimes the solos happen first, sometimes the solos are the highlight of the montage during the Green Mile walk. The better to sprinkle the results throughout the hour instead of saving them all up for the last minutes.

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American Idol XIV: Hollywood Part 3

I take it back.

Last week I said how good shortening each of these episodes to an hour was. That it forced the producers to cut down on the crap and focus on the good stuff. Our usual “singingless” episode was totally avoided. I was so proud.

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But just as you think idol’s taking a turn for the better, it takes a turn for the worse again. Tonight’s group numbers were awful. Even more damningly, the show warned us ahead that tonight would be awful. “The group numbers aren’t about singing, they’re about handling curveballs thrown at you,” the judges tell us. Oh really? Because some of the most memorable moments from Hollywood week are the group rounds, when three or four talented singers get together and produce great harmonies. That’s why, even though the build up to them has always been excruciating, they’re worth it for the pay off.

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American Idol XIV: Hollywood Part 2

We’ve been promised by the Idol scheduling gods that Hollywood will only take two weeks, effectively cutting it from eight hours to four. For those that have been watching Idol for years, we all know that the second night of Hollywood invariably is the worst–the run up to the Group Rounds. AKA, the episode where there is no singing.

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But with only one hour, and the Lines of Ten round–which usually takes up the bulk of Night One–only just begun at the end of last night’s episode, I wasn’t sure how this was going to work. Would the Lines of Ten mostly get skipped? (Nope, got a full 30 minutes!) Would we spend most of the precious time left with the usual pre-performance Group Drama (Don’t sleep! Rehearse past your limit and then wonder why your performance sucks!) and have an hour where no one sings?

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American Idol XIV: Hollywood Part 1

Idol’s Hollywood week has always been difficult to show on TV. Back in the very early days, when Nigel was all in on showing bad auditions and terrible human behavior, this pressure cooker segment where the show determined who would be able to handle the live shows and who couldn’t was like a random detour. Contestants we saw audition who would go on the make the 24 would basically disappear for two or three weeks while the show delivered trainwreck after trainwreck and cut them one by one. As the bad auditions declined in popularity, Hollywood adjusted. But there still wasn’t enough singing and virtually no camera footage of the really interesting stuff–that is, the criteria that puts one through to a live show that has nothing to do with singing.

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With the show now in its new “one hour two nights” format, the fear as these Hollywood episodes would only get worse. After all, there was never enough time to show the singing before this, how could a drastic reduction help? And yet, the forcing of the production to focus down turned out to be the best thing the show could do. All the superfluous crap seems to have disappeared down a memory hole. No creepy bus trips where the doomed riders cry and scream. No weird “lets watch a mini pandemic of flu in action” arcs. No long drawn out recaps of the auditions we just bloody watched last week, or extra time to focus on the judges being fabulous, not today, thank you kindly. Instead, we got right to the singing.

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