American Idol – Episode 9-10 Review

Ellen Degeneres didn’t come off as a complete bust in her first day behind the table. The ratings were up compared to last week. She’s bringing in a few extra eyeballs. But now she’s got to deal with the most painful part of the Hollywood auditions: the group song. Five, four or three hopefuls band together in the hopes of coming up with dance steps and an arrangement that would look good on a ‘70s Variety show hosted by Charo. There better be plenty of drama at the hotel as groups rehearse until their throats bleed. This is prime meltdown time for the hopefuls which is why we watch.

The teaser to group day promises us theatrics and tears. After the 11 p.m. wrap of the solo auditions, the 96 remaining contestants must form groups and pick songs. One trio becomes a quintet called the Dreamers. A batch of folks from Denver get together as The Mighty Rangers. It has the guy who looks like Jack Black. Moorea Moosa was a finalist last year. She was part of Danny Gokey’s group. Her new group practices in the same space for good luck. Shouldn’t she find a luckier space since she didn’t make it to the big show? Isn’t there a broom closet that was photographed for an Andy Dick police report? The Mighty Rangers have issues figuring out what to do.

Midnight has the kids all over the hotel practicing. The Dreamers are getting nasty since two keep vanishing. One batch of singers keep getting shuffled around since they get loud when rehearsing. What cheap motel are they doing this show at that doesn’t have enough ballroom space? They should at least bring in dividers. Moorea’s group is frustrated at the arrangement. The Dreamers need to figure out their stuff. Big Mike’s team is already done. They got their act together. He’s now in his room keeping track of how his wife is doing with her delivery. Other contestants are passing out at tables. This part of the show hurts the East coast kids cause 3 a.m. in Los Angeles is 6 a.m. inside their bodies. A really upset pianist can’t deal with the kids not listening. They’re going to be singing Lady Gaga. These kids sound horrible working out the song. Why not have them singing the hits of Krafwerk or King Diamond?

During breakfast the kids keep rehearsing. I barely recognize most of these people. The groups keep botching the words. Why does this group part of the show matter anymore? Remember last season when they had the group songs during the show pre-recorded so it was merely lip-synch action? The kids are loaded into the theater. Big Mike gets the phone call that his baby is emerging. Big Mike is missing out on the fun of a modern delivery room. My wife’s room had a DVD player and an HDTV. I was watching Ice Road Truckers and Battlestar Galactica while she was going through the contractions. Big Mike is now a daddy and ready to spank Simon.

The first group is a trio going as Faith. Ashley Rodriguez is part of them. The trio have the same range and work well off each other. Ellen puts all three girls through. Big Mike’s quartet does “Get Ready.” They’ve got a good Motown soul sound going with the harmonies. We get a flashback to Seth Rollins and his autistic son. He’s kept in the back while Big Mike is told to step to the front. Before Randy says what’s going down, we get another commercial break.

We’re back. Randy puts the front row through. So Seth Rollins loses. Big Mike shows off a pic of his baby on the iPhone. Neapolitan do Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” Another group is upset since they stole the a cappella arrangement. Simon shuts them off, but he’s happy with it. Ellen has all four step forward to be sent through. The second group does it. They’re much better at the song. Plus they have a better dancing skills. They dominate. Ellen says it was weird since they look like Cirque De Soliel. She’s calling it surreal even though it’s from Lady Gaga. Has she seen how that woman dresses for concerts? All four get sent through, but their still bitter at their concept being pinched. The next group of four goes through without a lose. Same with the following trio. And another quartet. And another quartet. How many people can make it into the next round? The Mighty Rangers arrive after this hot steak. Mark Labriola (the Jack Black lookalike) and a girl completely lose the lyrics to the point that Ellen shuts them down. Only two survive. Mark begs for one more chance since he’s hit the age limit. There’s major tears as Mark’s dream gets stomped.

As 5 p.m. hits, Moorea’s group has a problem when Kat Neisel walks out. She knew she was going to mess up so she just quit. The pianist attempts to calm them down. This only works if he’s giving them booze to calm their nerves. They deliver a version of “Carry On” that sounds like a zombie chorus. Mara blows her lines. That should be death. Simon says that the struggle was them having 12 hours to learn the song. He doesn’t buy the member leaving as a trouble. Moorea is cut. Two guys make it. Moorea swears she won’t try out next year.

Gwen Stefani’s “Sweet Escape” is the big group killer. Lyrics get botched all over the place. There’s just too many words. Matt Lawrence gets a recap of his time in prison. Amanda, the Boston plea, also gets his time. Both of them botch the lyrics. Why did they choose this song? It’s a difficult song. And they do a horrible job. Simon won’t even make them step around. It’s the end for all of them. They give us a montage of people cut who had their stories told during the auditions. It’s all tears from the losers. They promise us amazing performances, but there’s less than 10 minutes to go. Here comes another commercial break that is long enough for me to get the oil changed in my car.

There’s six minutes left when they cut to Jannell’s “Middle C.” Casey James sounds good in the trio. Andrew Garcia’s Three Men and a Baby also get raves. The last group of the day is The Dreamers. They are getting nasty in their last minute rehearsals. I smell meltdown. Mary Powers blows the first line. They get horrible as the song goes on. Alex Lambert looks comatose. Randy views it as painful. Hope Johnson and Mary Powers are asked to step forward with Alex. They get through to the next round. The two girls in the back are kicked to the curb. They didn’t kill too many dreams. Of the 96 that woke up, 71 will return to sleep in the hotel. It wasn’t that nasty of a blood bath.

Next week is a two hour special on Tuesday followed by Wednesday’s 9 p.m episode. Stinks to be a Lost fan. This will be a DVR night. Tuesday is a solo performance with a band. Wednesday is the selection of the 24 semi-finalists. Tonight’s episode kept the judges to a bare minimum. It’s hard to really tell how Ellen is fitting into with Simon, Kara and Randy. There was reports that Ellen was ticked off when Simon showed up 90 minutes late for one of the Kodak Theater sessions. But they edited away any tension between the duo. A couple voice tonight emerged as contenders, but I’m reserving judgment until Tuesday’s solo night.

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