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American Idol Recap: The First of the Gang to Die

AMERICAN IDOL: Curtis Finch,  Jr. (L), Devin Velez (C) and Ryan Seacrest (R) wait to see who will be eliminated  on AMERICAN IDOL Thursday, March 14 (8:00-9:00PM ET/PT)

So here’s the thing about American Idol: Just when you write it off as a bloated waste of time and effort — even when you are absolutely, unimpeachably correct in that assessment — it comes back with a nice, tight hour of television. And so it is with this season’s first real results show: a little drama, a few new twists, a couple of performances, and just enough silly horseshit to make it fun to mock. You’re back, American Idol! For now.

As with last season, Jimmy Iovine is here to give his one-day-too-late critiques. He thinks Candice won the night, that Burnell was the best of the boys, and that Amber has the whole package. He is probably right on the money. Can we move him up to the judges' table, please? Can we move Randy back into some kind of tape-editor kind of situation?

In Randy’s defense, he is mostly silent tonight. But last night’s shitshow inspired me to write my first play. It’s called You and Your Friend Are Joking Around, and Randy Jackson Is Nearby. Here it is:

 Act I

You: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Your Friend: I don’t know. Why?
You: To get to the other side.
Randy Jackson: HA HAAA. A GOAT! I THOUGHT IT WAS A GOAT CROSSING THAT ROAD! HA HA HA. WHAT? Y’all are CRAZY.
Your friend: Hey, let’s go commit suicide.
You: Sounds good.

[The end.]

So here’s a fun twist: This season, they’re telling us who made the top three, but not saying what place they came in. The X Factor did something like this last year, revealing the order of the voting at the end of each episode, but since their top two never changed, it sunk the whole season. (Well, that and the whole season sucked.) So, off we go with our facts and figures: Turns out Devin got 25 percent of the vote in Puerto Rico, Janelle came in first in Tennessee, Candice got 45 percent of South Carolina. But only one of them is in the the top three. And that person is ... Candice! Not surprising.

And then comes the ridiculous promotional part of the show. Here with a song from the Dreamworks Animation feature The Croods, your top ten! Ryan spurs the live audience into action like this: “Put your hands together! Let’s get it!” Wow. What are we getting? I think the song is called “Let’s Say the Word Shine As Many Times As We Can.” Look: It’s not a Ford Music Video, but it is gross and unseemly. I love it.

The mayor of Kree’s hometown of Woodville, Texas, is actually there — in person! — to give her the key to the city! Also, she’s in the top three, which Ryan correctly identifies as much better news. What do you think is in that town, once you get in there and open it up? I picture it like an abandoned Michael’s. Just pipe cleaners and beads and wandering ladies in canvas vests. Also, the mayor of Woodville, Texas, is a giant. The tourism council of Woodville, Texas, has their work cut out.

Coming back from break, Ryan trips in front of Jane Lynch, falls into her lap — this appears to be a genuine slipup — and says, “Help! I need your holding tonight!” Do you think he says things like that to Julianne Hough? Let me rephrase that: How has your life changed since you realized he absolutely says things like that to Julianne Hough?

Performance time. Bon Jovi are doing a thing I do not respect: All of a sudden, their music is one slide guitar away from being country music, which opens them up to a new market while allowing them the plausible deniability that they’re still a rock act. Like: Hey, we’ll dangle this stuff in front of you first, mainstream, and if you like it, it’s yours; if not, we’ll shop it to country radio. It’s lucrative and gross. Pick a lane, that’s the advice I’m sending from my tiny office in the Valley to you genius rock-star millionaires.

Back to the kids. Charlie Askew was the runner-up of the boys, and he’s here to do some kind of ill-defined sing-off with the runner-up girl for a spot on the tour. So, to review: Two people you don’t remember are eating up time on a show you’re not watching to compete for a spot on a tour you’re not going to see. He does what he should have done last week, which is an original, a crisp piano ballad that plays to his strengths but still allows him to come off like a big weird magic tree elf.

His opponent shall be Aubrey Cleland! She sings the deeply unoriginal “Out Here on My Own” from Fame. It’s lovely, and she should have taken one of the boys’ spots in the top ten, but instead she’s going to lose on live television twice.

Phillip Phillips is back, in case you forgot what male sexual maturity looked like. Real talk: “Gone Gone Gone” is, in my opinion, a breathtaking single. Maybe it just reminds me of what was playing on every Upper East Side CD jukebox in 1995, but there are only a few dozen things wrong with that. He’s still doing his Dave Matthews Charleston dance, he still has the artful stubble and the arched eyebrows and the chest hair that begs to be touched. He is still a hot piece. The young girls of America are currently trying to hack the Idol app and supervote for him.

But they can’t, and we go right back into the results: Angie got 17 percent of the Florida vote, though Lazaro beat her there, but she still makes the top three. I respect all this Nate Silver statistical analysis they’re doing now. They’re hemorrhaging viewers, so why not go for the Rachel Maddow market?

In addition to revealing the top three, Idol will now reveal who comes in what position from fourth through last. Sure. Why not? So here, 45 minutes into this show, is the meat: Lazaro is fourth, Amber fifth, Janelle sixth. (This is important stuff, and it is alarming how quickly they’re blazing through it.) Burnell is seventh, and Paul is eighth, which makes our bottom two Devin and Curtis. Nicki says that if Curtis goes home, she’s going home. We already know she’s heedless enough toward her Idol commitment to show up whenever she chooses, so she might not be bluffing.

Let’s hope now, because on the bottom is ... Curtis! His Save Me song is “I Believe I Can Fly,” AGAIN, and it is ten times more annoying than it was last time. Keith, Nicki, and Randy pretend to deliberate; Mariah just stares straight ahead. Indeed, at the end of his song, they are not unanimous, which means he’s going home. Nicki blames it on not having had a moment to deliberate, but there simply was no time.

It’s okay. Here’s the deal with Curtis: Did you ever see one of those terrible comedians who does mostly impressions? You know how sometimes they end their set with things like: “The other day, I was stuck in an elevator with Bette Davis, Jack Nicholson, and Popeye, and it sounded something like this,” and then they tear into a piece whose every moment is overrehearsed, and while it might be technically impressive, it’s exhausting and in your face and never ever funny, and you don’t know what you’re seeing but you know that if you were ever to talk to this comedian in real life, they would never make you laugh? Curtis Finch Jr. is a singer exactly like that person is a comedian. The emotion is so manufactured, so ostentatious, so overthought that you wonder whether he’s ever felt anything. He’s got the talent, now he’s got to go get his heart broken. Let’s hope tonight is a wake-up call.

Just nine more weeks now. We can do this. I believe in you and me.

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX