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Illustration for article titled iAmerican Idol/i: Hollywood Round 1
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Illustration for article titled iAmerican Idol/i: Hollywood Round 1

While I think it's a good idea for American Idol to switch up its format in an attempt to stem the ongoing "Has it jumped the shark?" talk, I was devastated to find that Hollywood week now lacks what used to be its best element: the bitchy infighting between all the talented dreamers.

Previously, the contestants came to Hollywood, sang onstage and were either pushed through to the next round or summarily dismissed. That used to be fun if you had an evil streak and enjoyed watching dazed singers who previous had all the promise and hope in the world be summarily banished to reality TV limbo.

Then, the remaining contestants were put into groups of three, which was always fun—either the harmony and moves were genuinely entertaining, or else the group fell apart in a delightful way. We got to see the contestants' true colors once they realized they had to share the stage with each other.

But the new format has eliminated those things that my dark side adores. First, no contestants were cut right off the bat. Similar to the format of So You Think You Can Dance, a "second chance" was invented so that even those people who should have been sent home right away automatically got another shot. And instead of singing in groups, the contestants were given the chance to perform with instruments, which I don't think was either a win or a loss for the show. We learned what we already knew: that you cannot be a lead singer/drummer and be cool unless you are already famous.

To be honest I was kind of confused by the format of tonight's show, especially as those who seemed like they went "straight through" from the initial audition then had another round of audition wherein they might be cut (no second chance for them at that point?) This is what you get, Idol, for choosing your seventh season to switch things up.

Ah well. Hollywood week still is gratifying in that the idiosyncratic charm or sad personal stories are no longer enough to get contestants through to the next round. Take, for example, Ghaleb, who seemed to be doing an impression of Chris Kattan from "The Antonio Banderas How You Say? Ah Yes, Show" sketch on SNL. He might be creepy/sexy but he can't sing, end of story. Or Perrie, the single father who inflicted the stupid hairdo upon his young son: his excuses onstage couldn't save him. Maybe the biggest and best surprise of the night was Paula Abdul, who for once was the goddamn heavy when she told Brooke the Beauty Queen "no," despite her whining and complaining that she didn't get a fair chance. While Paula seems to fall under the magical spell of adorable boys and girls on a regular basis, I personally believe an angel gets its wings each time a look of pure loathing crosses her face, like the one she had for Brooke.

Speaking of magic and adorableness, I'm going to go on the record here and say that I am not for Josiah the Boy Who Lives in His Car. Simon absolutely nailed it when he told the youngster he was being annoying and overconfident when he dismissed the band and declared that it took a lot of guts for him to sing onstage (the way everyone else did). I don't think he's that good a singer and I'm pretty sure he is the first of his ilk, style-wise, to pass through Idol's doors. He happens to be cute and have a good story but I don't think he belongs in the competition. Also, he's a crybaby. I'll take young David Archuletta or Daniel Noriega as my anti-Sanjayas.

While I think Ryan's explanation that the new format of Hollywood week was due to the "unprecedented talent" was actually a different way of saying "we switched things up so people would keep watching," it really does seem like there is more genuine talent in the pool than in previous seasons. Either that, or it seems like the cheeseball factor seems to be down a bit. But the top 24 will be performing soon enough so there's plenty of opportunity for everyone to bust out their own metaphorical ponyhawks.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

—I like the Brooke the Carol-King-type-singer but I am convinced that she wears horizontal stripes to keep people from talking about how skinny she is.

—It seemed like a lot of the singers had blue tongues. Was it some sort of throat spray? Blue lollipops? Someone must get to the bottom of this!

—I liked Amy Flynn's (the abstinence girl) voice coach much better than I liked Amy Flynn. Too bad she probably got fired once the cameras were off.

—The ads for Jumper are very disconcerting. I feel like we're seeing Ryan Seacrest's id finally pop out of his head and run amok on the screen.

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