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American Idol Recap: Team Time

AMERICAN IDOL: Hollywood: Over 300 conetstants made it to Hollywood and only 70 will survive. The Hollywood round begins Wednesday, Feb, 8 (8:00-9:00 PM ET PT ) and Thursday, Feb. 9 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Pictured: Contestants waiting for the judges decision during the Hollywood round on AMERICAN IDOL. CR: Michael Becker / FOX.

Welcome back to Hollywood! Whose role, as anyone who knows Los Angeles reasonably well can attest, is clearly being played by Pasadena! Ryan Seacrest promises that tonight, “dreams will come crashing down,” which is a clunky way of reminding whoever might have forgotten that someone straight up fell off the front of the stage at the end of last night’s show.

To review: Symone Black sang “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” woozily answered a few of the judges’ questions, and then visited Plop City, USA. We begin in medias res; Symone is being tended to by a team of paramedics and terrified 19 Entertainment lawyers. She slowly regains consciousness, reveals that she hasn’t eaten since lunch, and Jennifer Lopez looks upon the scene in a way that only be described as peevish. It’s pretty delicious, I won’t lie.

The remaining contestants from her audition group form a prayer circle to wish her good health. It’s a nice moment for many reasons, one of which is this: The next time Newt Gingrich vents his big fat spleen about the bigotry American Christians face, the next time one of these Million Moms wails about our culture antagonizing people of faith, I can just show them this. This moment when a bunch of kids stop and ask for Jesus’ intervention and it is played like the kind gesture it is, on a very popular show that has never — not one single time — come across an effeminate young man it has failed to belittle, or an easy gay joke it has bypassed. Put that in your pipe and shut up.

Anyway! The show must go on, as some off-camera producer actually says. We get a quick recap of last night’s auditions by mental-disabilities counselor Lauren Mink and shouty shouter Jeremy Rosado, which are replayed in a tinny audio effect that makes me wonder whether I’m fainting. Jeremy makes it through, because shouting counts as extra singing on this show, and Lauren does not, and neither does Ethan Jones from St. Louis, whose Hollywood audition we didn’t see, so he was pretty much toast anyway.

Symone, by the way, totally moves on, so if you missed the fall, don’t worry. They might show it again.

In all, 185 go through to the next round. Which is GROUP WEEK! Which is not a week so much as a day, and which seems to require a set of skills that do not apply to pop stardom in general or to the rest of American Idol specifically, but whatever — GROUP WEEK!

So let’s get into the shoddily crafted drama.

Alisha Bernhart is a cop who can’t find a group to sing with, because she seems to think the way to find one is to shout "WHO LIKES COPS?" and then when there are somehow no takers, to shout "NOBODY LIKES COPS." Amy Brumfield, whom I will call Tent Girl, because she is the girl who lives in the tent, has the flu and is being a huge sad sack. Needless to say, they find each other. But they have trouble filling their group out, because they are a bellowing policewoman and a homeless person with a communicable illness. Also they have not gotten the news that they cannot be choosers; they insist on singing “Joy to the World,” and everyone else only knows the Christmas song by that name. This is awful.

Heejun Han, who is actually intentionally very clever and funny and is yet still on this show, forms group MIT (for Most International Team) with beautiful Phillip Phillips, cowboy-y Richie Law, and some African-American guy I’ve never seen before. There is immediate tension between mellow Heejun and fussbudget Richie, who insists on showy harmonies. Ryan throws to commercial promising “a battle between EAST AND WEST.” Oh Jesus. Just because Heejun is of Korean descent does not mean he represents the mysterious Orient. Stop it.

Symone the Accidental Stage Diver gets out of the hospital just in time to fall right into the awkward situation of trying to find a group several hours too late. She has a little too much help from her pushy father, who explains himself thus: “I don’t want to be a stage dad, I’m just a mentor. And I’m about to be a famous mentor.” It’s the world’s quickest revival of the musical Gypsy.

Ryan tells us that there is a bug spreading around the audition room; “everyone who came into contact with Amy is sick.” Yes, the noted epidemiologists at Fremantle have identified Tent Girl as Patient Zero. But truly, people are dropping like flies. One girl, just moments ago so proud to be in a group called the Betties, refuses to stop singing even as she power-voms into a full-size Glad trash bag.

As usual in Group Week Which Lasts 24 Hours, there is conflict all around, and I honestly cannot see why. How difficult can this be? All these kids have to do is remember the lyrics to very popular songs, devise some basic harmonies, and generally perform the entry-level requirements of the thing they keep insisting is their dream. At most, they might have to dance. But check this out, readers: Stop what you’re doing right now, get up, and do an American Idol Group Week dance. Now look around. See how everyone is doing the same basic step? This is not hard, kids. Get it together.

Richie Law continues to be a tyrant who looks like Bobby Brady, and Heejun and Phillip continue to rebuff him. Tent Girl refuses to succumb to her flu because “guess who’s on my side? That’s right: Jesus,” which would perhaps sound more convincing from a person whose home features a door, but sure. The Betties are riven by a debate over sleep; two claim they need it to survive, two choose to soldier on, forgetting that anything anyone does after 2 a.m. is garbage. I look at my watch and realize that it’s very close to the top of the hour and that we won’t be seeing any actual performing tonight. So this is not really a show, per se; it’s just a little something they threw together from some extra material they had lying around. As a gift. Guys, you shouldn’t have. You really should not have.

Next week, the actual Group Week performances! No fewer than three more faintings, and too many ambulances to count! American Idol is the leading cause of death in the state of California.

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX