American Idol
Semifinals, Week 1: The Girls

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Suck It, Sasha Cohen! Part I
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!
In the beginning, there were the Winter Olympics. Well, not exactly in the beginning, but a long time ago. Like when Taylor Hicks was merely a teenager. But so historically no one ever really gave a damn about the Winter Games, at least not in this country, even though I seem to recall I was pretty psyched about the games in 2002, though I cannot for the life of me recall why because this year the only thing I could be bothered to care about was the princessy awesomeness of Johnny Weir. Anyway. The lone exception to this trend of profound not caring has always been women's figure skating, with its rich traditions of East German femmes fatale and American trailer park felons. So even though American Idol has its own history of crushing time-slot competitors into tiny little cubes, the fear of the red-hot drawing power of the figure skaters convinced the folks at FOX to cram every spare second of their schedule with AI to compete. The upshot: five hours of programming, two nights of two-hour performance shows, a one hour results show, and enough filler to rival...well, NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics, actually. In a related story: Jacob, Sars, and I are looking to smack a bitch over at the FOX offices.

Ryan's standing on a balcony that is new to the semifinals studio (right?). It's actually the RC Cola anteroom with the one wall ripped out so it overlooks the stage now. I really like it, mostly because watching how the contestants act while one of their own is performing is maybe my favorite part of semis. Who's being fake? Who's being less fake? Who's being only a little bit fake? Who's being Constantine? Ryan explains the process of this round to us (two nights of performances, separated by gender, fans call in and vote; on Thursday, two men and two women with the lowest votes will be gone) and says we're doing it "ladies first" this week, like it's chivalry and not a shrewd marketing move to neutralize the Sasha Cohen fan base.

Then: a decade of filler. Honestly. Ryan makes a joke about crying cowboys and the Brittenum twins -- because yeah, we're the assholes for caring about that stuff when that was literally all that aired a week ago -- and then introduces the twelve women set to compete tonight. They've all clearly been instructed to walk past the camera, smile, and wave. And I certainly hope the boys will be expected to do the same, lest this all turn into some A League of Their Own "a lady reveals nothing" sexist bullshit. Of note: Becky O'Donahue has had Botox and/or has completely forgotten what to do with her face when there's a camera on it; Ayla Brown needs to stuff some tissue under her upper lip like that one bird-faced girl on Top Model Cycle Four; and Brenna Gethers knows exactly what she's doing at all times. Ryan then intros the Dawg Pound, which is so funny because more than half of them were not even alive to remember Arsenio Hall. Then the judges and Ryan go the "Know Your Current Events" route by bringing up how mean Simon has been this season. I love when they do this shit. It's like they're holding a press conference in the middle of the show. Even if Simon's answers consist of content-free smug expressions and Paula's answers are content-free bewildered gibberish. If it's good enough for the White House, you know? Anyway, Ryan and Simon go as follows: banter, banter, Brokeback, banter. Ryan does note how uncommonly harsh Paula has been this season -- which I do think is probably accurate -- and Paula is the most coherent she will be for the next two hours when she says that nowadays "everyone in the audience is a critic," and then she and Simon bicker about that being his line and she's already turning her back to him, which is among my favorite Paula Tics (see what I did there?) because it's very pre-school "if I don't see you, you're not real." Randy says this year's Idol will be a "boy," which is what he says every year, I think. But this year it's true because Ace is totally winning.Done with the filler yet? Oh no. Because now we have to remind ourselves "how the girls got here." This is dumb in several ways, because it's just a series of clips of various girls walking in and out of auditions, without any real dialogue or singing or any story progression at all. So unless you've already been watching all season, none of this makes sense to you. But if you've been watching all season, why the hell would you need the video package? And then? Commercials.

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American Idol

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