Live competition next round



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American Idol judges Simon Cowell, left, and Randy Jackson.


The last episode of Idol before the live competition begins comes across dead on arrival; after five seasons, you’d think that the show’s producers would have found a more dynamic way of showing the last behind the scenes elimination stage of the competition.

The performances are glimpsed in brief snippets taped during the preceding “Hollywood Week,” featuring the same tiny selection of songs, and if I didn’t hate “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” like cancer before, I hate it like crib death now.

Interesting things can still happen in a hotel in this unromantic age, I’m sure, but nowadays it all seems like underwriters’ conventions, team-building exercises and Idol eliminations.

In a featureless holding room, the survivors of Hollywood Week sit and wait; this is obviously the Idol episode scripted by the shade of Samuel Beckett. Some of us — I deputize myself to represent this little-heard minority — will be thoroughly sick of most, if not all of these young people in a month or so, but this is the closest look we’ve gotten at Idol’s finalists so far, which doesn’t mean the show’s producers don’t find time to plug the Simpsons movie for their Fox overlords.

A few of the hopefuls already have their press-ready gimmicks in place; Paul Kim insists on performing barefoot, and says he has a pair of lucky underwear. I already hate myself for trying to write the jokes I’ll have to make about the underwear weeks in advance. Someone named Princess Johnson gets cut, which probably smarted for the show’s writers and PR flacks.

Judge Simon Cowell’s single tactic for leading on contestants — “I’m sorry to tell you that … you’re going to see a lot more of us…” — wears thing pretty quickly, but finally frays and snaps when he tries it on Lakisha Jones, a single mother with a voice like a wall of Aretha Franklin records.

The final judgement of the night pits two beefy dudes, Sundance and Tommy, against each other for the last male spot, which involves two chairs in front of the judges, and a plastic wading pool full of Crisco.

Most of what follows is digitally blurred, but the improbably-named Sundance Head emerges into the sunlight of the Idol finals.