Act two of American Idol began with 172 female singers, each with 30 seconds to prove their worth before either going forward or going home. There are two times as many women as men, a blur of puffy blouses and big hair; the first round is over in less than 20 minutes, and I’m at a loss to recall a single voice I’d call exceptional.


The men’s round, aided by the numbers, lingers over the contestants, with the result that we get to see more of Matt, an unusually weepy lad whose story — an emotionally distant mother — is obviously more poignant than the stoic sailor Jarrett, Idol winner on the USS Ronald Reagan.


Group night is next; now’s the time when anyone who isn’t going to move on can take whoever’s close with them — it’s like the talent show version of suicide bombing. Forgetting the lyrics is a fatal mistake, and it sends weepy Matt home, as well as the Charo-esque Perla.


The night’s final elimination slips by without even a glimpse of the performances; the climax comes in three hotel rooms, only two of which will move on. It’s about as dramatic as waiting for a tax refund; no wonder it’s paced so quickly, with the same mix of disinterest and vague embarrassment that feels like a memory of a bad date.