Last night’s episode of American Idol was the first installment of Hollywood Week’s semifinalist winnowing process, and boy did it seem like not a lot had changed at all since we were last in the cozy confines of Southern California. Barry Manilow as a mentor who basically gave an inspirational speech! There was a Ford commercial by a bunch of unnamed hopefuls who haven’t even made it through to the second part of Hollywood Week yet! Well, I guess Fox needs to squeeze as much money out of its sponsors as it can in these rough times.
American Idol‘s premier antifan site Vote For The Worst has got its hands on what it’s claiming is this season’s group of 36 semifinalists—i.e., all the people who made it through the Hollywood Round (which airs next week) and onto the big stage, where they’ll be held up for scrutiny in front of text-message-ready Fox viewers. Tireless Idolblogger MJ has a page with links to the chosen ones’ auditions here; I’ve also placed the names of all 36 “lucky” ones after the jump. Surprises: It’s Osmond-free! Non-surprises: Joanna “major-label refugee” Pacitti and Von “I was famous on YouTube for being a white boy who screams songs” Smith are on it.
Perhaps in honor of Kansas City-area native David Cook’s grunging up all his songs, there was definitely a weird pall over last night’s audition episode of American Idol. Sure, it was great to see Jason Castro again (he was there in support of his brother, Michael, who’s pictured at left), but there was a little too much sadness: One of the contestants who made it through to Hollywood had an interview segment where he talked about his wife passing away four weeks before the audition; another singer sang “Cry-Baby”; some dude’s backup singers, dressed as cheerleaders, got teary-eyed in the wake of his rejection; and there was a montage of rejected singers freaking out in various ways. (The latter sort of had its dramatic importance undercut by the mortality-related reasons for tears.) The show itself was sort of weird, with people getting through more because they were, in the words of Paula, “not a disaster” than actually spot-on with everything, but I guess that’s in keeping with all the tears. More observations from the show after the jump!