The show refers to them as "boys and girls," and a dozen of each has been chosen," the three "American Idol" judges. This week, the public voting begins, with a boy and a girl to be picked off each week.
The sing-off starts now
12 ladies and 12 gents remain after a brutal culling process
The seemingly endless scrum of hopeless delusion and staggering pathos has ended. As delightful as it was to see tens of thousands of "American Idol" wannabes bellowing through the audition process -- set in a half-dozen cities that all seemed to have identical convention-center interiors -- the fact is, the field had to be narrowed. Radically. The judges let 175 contestants move on to a week of hell in Los Angeles, where they were ruthlessly whittled down to 24 -- 12 boys, 12 girls, ages 16 to 29. We'll introduce them in a moment.
3 Days of Competition
"American Idol" airs on KHON/Fox.
Day 1 / Girls: 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow
Day 2 / Boys: 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday
Day 3 / Results: 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday
Voting is on both nights, with a results show on third day.
But first, some observations on the process, beginning with the notion that there are a lot of seriously self-deluded people out there. Can't they hear themselves? Rule 1: It's a singing contest. Rule 2: It's not just a singing contest, but this rule follows Rule 1.
We saw some shining moments and breathtaking auditions, plus some truly inspired pandering and cheap shots aimed at people too clueless to defend themselves. If you appeared on the auditions shows, you were either a good singer or a bad singer or just cross-eyed crazy. The vast majority of auditioners must have had perfectly serviceable, pleasant voices, but that makes for boring TV. This was like watching gladiatorial games for the disabled.
Appalling, I know.
Brilliant TV, though.
As for the judges, Simon -- we can call him Simon, right? Isn't the whole world now on a first-name basis with these folk? -- Simon for the first time actually lived up to his reputation for grinchiness. Paula was amazingly clear-eyed -- I guess the painkiller problem has evaporated -- but slack-jawed in presence of pretty boys. Randy was businesslike; he'd actually be checking his watch.
The most delicious serving during the pre-game audition was the Brittenum Twins from Memphis, Derrell and Terrell, who sang well but who were a rolling thunderstorm of hissy 'tude. They managed to get reinstated in the finals and then vanished -- oops, apparently there's jail time involved.
Also memorable was the odd little cowpoke who giggled and squeaked, whose joints were seemingly pieced together with string, like Woody in "Toy Story." The overweening sensation, however, was that of a forced march through snowdrifts of self-delusion.
A distressingly large number of contestants felt the glaze of "American Idol" is an entitlement, not something to be earned. These folks invariably stalked out of the auditions, slamming doors and vowing their upcoming record album will outsell Mariah, you bet. Many of these were women whose midriffs should not be bared under any circumstance, not even for an appendectomy.
At any rate, the final 24 are chosen. They start competing for real this week, and for the first time, you get to vote. The final two dozen were actually chosen something like four months ago, so don't expect the contestants to look exactly the same. They've had wranglers aplenty -- if they were smart -- and should be in rounder voice, in fitter shape, glossy in hair and trendy in clothes. Some of the boys might even have gotten their first shot of testosterone.
There are no contestants from Hawaii, so feel free to pick your favorites:
» Ayla Brown,
17, self-assured, basketball-playing debutante from Massachusetts
» Becky O'Donohue,
25, slinkily feline supermodel melisma manqué from upstate New York
» Brenna Gethers,
25, feisty alto also from New York
» Heather Cox,
22, blank-slate blonde from North Carolina
» Katharine McPhee,
21, sweet drama queen and Ivory Soap-pretty from Los Angeles
» Kellie Pickler,
19, pert beauty from the sticks of North Carolina whose home life is apparently a Chekov tragedy
» Kinnik Sky,
28, Usher fan with Gladys Knight lips who hails from Georgia
» Lisa Tucker,
16, one of those scarily self-possessed teens with tremendous vocal control and poodle hair, from Anaheim
29, one of those charming black women with a single name who makes fun of the substantial junk in her trunk, from Tennessee
» Melissa McGhee,
21, Tampa beauty pageant show stopper who actually stopped a show -- she pulled a fire alarm
» Paris Bennett,
17, baby-voiced and wide-ranged, from a family of gospel pros in Georgia
» Stevie Scott,
19, hippie chic in an Edie Brickell groove, from California (of course) and who, like most of the contestants, credits her savior, Jesus Christ, for getting her through the auditions
» Ace Young,
25, who made both my wife and daughters murmur about his cuteness, from Denver
» Bobby Bennett,
19, also from Denver, a big marshmallow teddy bear
» Bucky Covington,
28, one toke over the line and from North Carolina, dude
» Chris Daughtry,
26, North Carolina, the shouty one who looks like a mechanic who had to shave his head after a timing-belt mishap
» David Radford,
17, Tom Hanksy crooner from rural Illinois
» Elliott Yamin,
27, looks like a Quaker buggy driver and wears an insulin pump proudly, from Virginia
» Gedeon McKinney,
17, rubber-faced jumping bean from Memphis; too bad vaudeville is dead
» "Sway" Penala,
28, cue ball from Filipino South San Fran with sweet pipes
» Kevin Covais,
16, homunculus from New York who sings in a big, scary Jim Nabors style
» Patrick Hall,
27, "Star Trek" Away Team fan from Arkansas, and the only who will thank his spouse if he wins (the rest will credit God)
» Taylor Hicks,
29, a gray-haired Alabama good ol' boy who seems to be inhabited by the ghost of Ray Charles, even though he looks like Fred Flintstone
» Will Makar,
16, Texas, indistinguishable from David Radford, above.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your vocal cords.