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apropos of nothing

Is Tonight's ‘American Idol’ the Most Egregious Filler Episode in TV History?

Photo Illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: Courtesy of Distribooks,
Fox

In last night's not-too-bad episode of American Idol, Day One of the Hollywood Round, 164 contestants were cut down to 50. The episode offered everything we could hope for from a Hollywood Round adventure: great singing, crying abstinence educators, train wrecks behind drum kits, and — best of all — that whiny emo kid freaking out, self-mythologizing, dismissing his band, stinking up the joint, and getting delightfully dressed down by Simon. ("It took a hell of a lot of guts," the kid hopefully asked, to which Simon tartly replied, "Now you're getting a teensy bit annoying, because everybody has a lot of guts to get up there.") But the episode ended lamely, with Paula, Randy, and Simon sitting at the table with 50 Polaroids scattered in front of them, attempting to choose the 24 contestants who will advance. Despite a number of dynamic camera moves and flashy lighting effects, it was awfully hard for the Idol producers to make Paula Abdul sorting Polaroids exciting. In fact, we only made it through the final five minutes by imagining how badly the producers of Idol — and casting agents everywhere — were likely taking the complete shutdown of Polaroid's instant-camera business. It was boring.

But hey, get used to it! Because tonight's episode looks to be more of the same, and even more boring. Tonight's episode, the second of the Hollywood Round, consists entirely — if we understand the preview correctly — of people walking into a room, and the judges telling them they're in (or they're out), and then the people leaping in the air with joy (or weeping in elevators). That's it. No singing. No instrument-playing. Just two hours of people stuck in a room, like No Exit, the TV edition. Pure filler, for which Fox will sell ten gazillion dollars' worth of ads. We wish Lane the best of luck coming up with some damn charts about that.