'American Idol' season 9: 24 semifinalists, no 'Wild Card' round, and a Feb. 23 voting kickoff | EW.com

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'American Idol' season 9: 24 semifinalists, no 'Wild Card' round, and a Feb. 23 voting kickoff

Goodbye, Wild Card round! Welcome to Hollywood Week, Ellen DeGeneres! And everyone mark your calendars for Feb. 23! Those were among the major bullet points released when Fox announced key dates and details for American Idol’s ninth season this afternoon.

Idol’s ninth season is slated to begin on Jan. 12 (8-10 p.m. EDT) focusing on the show’s Boston auditions, and will continue the following night (8-9:15) with a pit-stop in Atlanta. The remainder of the audition-show slate will include: Chicago (Jan. 19), Orlando (Jan. 20), Dallas (Jan. 26), Los Angeles (Jan. 27), Denver (Feb. 2), and a non-city-specific compilation of the remaining best-and-worst auditions called “The Road to Hollywood” (Feb. 3). During the tryouts, the Paula Abdul Memorial Chair will be occupied by a rotating roster of guest judges, including Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris, Joe Jonas, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, and Shania Twain.

On Feb. 9, Idol switches focus to the Hollywood round, and that’s where Abdul’s permanent replacement, Ellen DeGeneres, will make her first appearance. “Hell Week” episodes will continue on Feb. 10 and Feb. 16, and the Top 24 semifinalists will be announced on the Feb. 17 episode.

The 24-semifinalist format marks a return to the game-plan that Idol favored in seasons 4-7 – whereby female contestants perform for three consecutive Tuesdays, and males perform on three consecutive Wednesdays, with the two lowest vote-getters of each gender getting cut each Thursday until the show is left with 12 finalists. The ladies’ semifinal performance episodes will air on Feb. 23 (AKA Power to the Idoloonies Day), March 2, and March 9; men’s semifinal performances are slated for Feb. 24, March 3, and March 10; and the semifinal results shows will produce copious tears on Feb. 25, March 4, and March 11. Absent from the Fox release is any mention of a “Wild Card” round, a controversial tool producers used to put more power in the judges’ hands during the show’s first, second, third, and eighth seasons.

The competition obliterates its gender divide on March 16, when all the show’s finalists will take the stage for a two-hour episode, and one unlucky singer will receive the Vanessa Olivarez Award for the Season’s Hastiest Finalist Dismissal during the March 17 results show (9-10 p.m. EDT). As previously announced, Fox will air all one-hour Wednesday Idol episodes at 9 p.m. beginning Jan. 27.

Below is the full slate of Idol dates leading up to the first week of finals, as announced by Fox. (All times are ET/PT.)

Tuesday, Jan. 12 (8:00-10:00 PM) Boston Auditions Episode
Wednesday, Jan. 13 (8:00-9:15 PM) Atlanta Auditions Episode
Tuesday, Jan. 19 (8:00-9:00 PM) Chicago Auditions Episode
Wednesday, Jan. 20 (8:00-9:00 PM) Orlando Auditions Episode
Tuesday, Jan. 26 (8:00-9:00 PM) Dallas Auditions Episode
Wednesday, Jan. 27 (9:00-10:00 PM) Los Angeles Auditions Episode
Tuesday, Feb. 2 (8:00-9:00 PM) Denver Auditions Episode
Wednesday, Feb. 3 (9:00-10:00 PM) “The Road to Hollywood” Auditions Episode
Tuesday, Feb. 9 (8:00-9:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 1
Wednesday, Feb. 10 (9:00-10:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 2
Tuesday, Feb. 16 (8:00-9:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 3
Wednesday, Feb. 17 (9:00-10:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 4 (Top 24 Semifinalists Announced)
Tuesday, Feb. 23 (8:00-10:00 PM) Top 12 Female Semifinalists Perform
Wednesday, Feb. 24 (8:00-10:00 PM) Top 12 Male Semifinalists Perform
Thursday, Feb. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM) First Results Show (ET live/PT tape-delayed)
Tuesday, March 2 (8:00-10:00 PM) Top 10 Female Semifinalists Perform
Wednesday, March 3 (8:00-10:00 PM) Top 10 Male Semifinalists Perform
Thursday, March 4 (8:00-9:00 PM) Results Show (ET live/PT tape-delayed)
Tuesday, March 9 (8:00-9:00 PM) Top 8 Female Semifinalists Perform
Wednesday, March 10 (9:00-10:00 PM) Top 8 Male Semifinalists Perform
Thursday, March 11 (8:00-9:00 PM) Results Show (ET live/PT tape-delayed) (Top 12 revealed)
Tuesday, March 16 (8:00-10:00 PM) Finalists Perform (ET live/PT tape-delayed)
Wednesday, March 17 (9:00-10:00 PM) Results Show (ET live/PT tape-delayed)