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TV Column
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 04/13/2012

‘American Idol’: America boots Jessica Sanchez; judges overrule America

A sense of foreboding in the air as airtime is upon us for tonight’s episode of American Idol. “There is a result tonight on @AmericanIdol that some would say is very shocking!” Ryan has Tweeted earlier in the day.

Hope it’s not #anothercoltonhairdisaster, #anotherseacrestolympicpromotion, #anotherpreviewofanotherjenniferlopezvideo!

Enter the judges:Jennifer Lopez in highway safety orange, Randy wearing a bejeweled happy face with tongue sticking out emoticon, and Tyler wearing tight leather pants for that stick-wrapped-in-electrical tape look

Group-sing time. The Idolettes perform Pink’s “Raise Your Glass”. It’s straight out of the Broadway production of “Pink: The Musical.”

Here’s some suspense. How will Ford make the production values in the Ford Music Video cheaper every week? It will be hard to top this one: The Idolettes appear as paper cut out heads in pencil drawing animation. It’s fun. Next week: rubber bands and popsicle sticks!

The Idolettes get gifts and invitations from their fans and show host Ryan Seacrest hands out two prom invitations for Colton Dixon and Hollie Cavanagh, while Elise Testone gives a feather earring to Tyler, who looks it it dubiously and says it could double as a fishing lure.

Let’s start the whacking process.

Seacrest calls Hollie and Jessica Sanchez to the stage. Roll tape of the judges dissing Hollie and of Randy telling Jessica she “slayed the biggest fish” with her song.

Roll tape of Mentor in Chief and He Who Must Speak the Truth, Jimmy Iovine. Hollie and Jessica are “two technical singers,” he says, but “Hollie has learned a lot of habits that are making her feel “stiff and calculated” while Jessica must have studied the great soul singers because she makes it all feel natural. “Jessica won the night,” he concludes.

Seacrest pulls a maneuver which serious “AI” students know as The Parting of The Idolettes. Hollie and Jessica are sent to stand at opposite sides of the stage with no clue as to their fates.

James Durbin -- remember him from “Idol” past? He’s back as a hard rocker singing “Higher Than Heaven” from his debut album. He’s loud and blonde.

Call Phillip Phillips and Elise to the stage.

The judges loved her (Tyler called her performance “genius”) but thought Phillip didn’t push himself hard enough. Iovine’s take is that they’re both singer/songwriters and those kinds of performers are “usually character singers not technical singers” which further means they can’t be expected to do well on other people’s songs. Anyway, Phil sounded like “Dave Matthews singing a Maroon 5 song” and Elise didn’t do “enough to pull herself out of the bottom three.”

Seacrest sends Phil to stand with Hollie and Elise to stand with Jessica.

Idol non-winner success story Jennifer Hudson performs “Think Like a Man,” or, in her case, “Sing Like Rihanna.” She’s looking very svelte stomping around the stage with a troupe of svelte-ettes, that’s for sure. Her svelteness is enhanced by the appearance of Ne-Yo, a little shrimp, who makes her look that much taller.

Colton and Joshua Ledet to center stage, please.

They both did well, says Iovine. Bruno Mars could have written the song Joshua performed just for Joshua, says Iovine. And “Colton needed a poignant moment” and he got it. “I’m in, on Colton and Joshua,” Iovine concludes.

Now it gets interesting. Joshua is sent to stand with Jessica and Elise, while Colton joins Hollie and Phillip.

That puts the two strongest singers, Jessica and Joshua, with one of the most uneven performer, Elise. Meanwhile, the two most popular guys, Colton and Phillip, stand with the other uneven performer, Hollie. This is like those “what doesn’t belong in this set?” questions that gave us the sweats in elementary school, and we are not liking the feeling at all!

Oh, right – Skylar Laine! We forgot about her, hiding in the shadows on the benches. Let’s bring her out.

Iovine loves Skylar: “She is just a pro…she’s a singer songwriter AND a technical singer,” and last night her performance “floored me.”

The week’s Bottom 3 should be: Phillip, Elise and Hollie, Iovine proclaims.

Seacrest pronounces Skylar safe. Then he takes her by the hand and leads her to stand with Hollie, Phillip, and Colton. Yes, they are all safe. Hollie is stunned.

That leaves Elise, Joshua and Jessica as this week’s Bottom 3.

“A lot of shock and awe in here,” says Seacrest. He throws it to Iovine, sitting in the audience.

“That shouldn’t be the bottom three,” he says unhappily.

Randy, the senior statesman of “American Idol,” is solemn. “I’ve never seen this happen. This is a ridiculous Bottom 3, America! I’ve never said this: They got it wrong tonight.”

Tyler gets his turn. “We’re going to use our card tonight, especially with an outcome like this.”

In the control booth, “Idol” executive producers spit out their tea. The use of the one and only Judges’ Save is supposed to be one of the moments of high suspense in the “Idol” cycle, a moment of, shall we say, shock and awe preceded by the nail-biting critical last performance as an Idolette sings for survival.

Nonetheless, Seacrest sticks to the script. “Who will take that mike for that critical live performance?” he poses, for the benefit of all those at home who may have sneezed and missed Tyler’s remarks.

“After the nationwide vote,” Seacrest pronounces Joshua safe.

It’s down to Jessica and Elise. The person who will go home, unless the judges use The Judges Save -- which Steven Tyler has already assured us they will -- is….Jessica Sanchez.

There’s “an unbelievable reaction in the studio”, says Seacrest as the studio crowd shouts madly. JLo looks stunned. Randy throws his arms skyward.

Jessica starts to sing, and she’s pitchy with emotion. A few seconds in, JLo grabs the microphone away from Jessica.

“Give me that mic!” she shouts. This is crazy!…You aren’t going home -- Go sit down!” The other judges make their way up to Jessica on stage. They don’t move so fast as JLo, but then they don’t make music videos any more.

Randy takes the mic:

“We are saving Jessica, without a doubt! “ shouts Randy. “This girl is one of the best singers in America! Ever! Are you kidding me? Please, everybody vote for the best! This about finding The Best!”

This is also about song choice. Jessica’s choice of the little-known “Stuttering,” by Jazmine Sullivan, set her up for a performance that was just okay, at a time when she should have amped it up with some killer take on some tune the “Idol” audience could hum along with. If Mentor in Chief Iovine and this weeks Guest Mentor, Akon had spent less time fawning over Jessica and more time talking her out of her song choice, Jessica might not have used up the precious Judges’ Save.

Hugs from the judges for little 16-year-old Jessica – the youngest Idolette.

Was she surprised? Seacrest asks. As the newest member of the NBC news team, he’s been trained to think clearly and continue to ask the probing questions in highly emotional circumstances.

“No, not at all,” she says calmly. “I don’t expect anything. I just do what I do…I just want people to know that I’ve been working hard my whole life.”

And, as the “Idol” credits roll, and Jessica finally gets to perform her Judges Save Song, out in the Twitter-sphere, at #thesave, “Idol” fans start to foam over:

- “Stop telling us we’re wrong for voting for who we like. We are the ones who decide & buy the albums & tix. NOT you!!!” says a pretty blonde, who’s showing off her endowments in her Twitter photo.

- “#FACT: American Idol became a Pageant for Boys!” observes another serious student of “Idol,” -- a reference to all those safe scruffy boys behind guitars who have won the singing competition the past several consecutive seasons.

- “Jessica Sanchez is in the bottom b/c she performs R&B music that “AMERICA” isn’t familiar w/! yep i said it! #AmericanIdol! #thesave,” writes another.

- #thesave <--- LOL #idol really you just created this hashtag?” snarks a hipster.

- “#thesave Jessica was never in any real danger. The producers did that to get your attention. Amer. had nothing to do w/ that vote,” a conspiracy theorist insists.

- “Oh my god #thesave was INSANE!!!! I almost died!!!!!!!!! @RyanSeacrest America is crazy!!!!!! And I live here!!!!” someone else hyperventilates.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 04/13/2012

 
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