''American Idol'': Some of the worst survive
Is it too late to demand a recount? Yeah, I know A.J. Tabaldo, Nicholas Pedro, and Leslie Hunt were never going to be the next American Idol, but they certainly would've made for a more intriguing or at least a more tuneful final 12 than some of the folks who got an inexplicable ''free ride'' into the third and final week of the season-6 semifinals. (Nope, I still can't get Rudy Cardenas' oddball song choice from last week outta my head.)
Now we'll have to endure at least one more week of Sanjaya Malakar performing with the confidence of a baby deer trying to cross an eight-lane highway, Brandon Rogers bringing human form to the word ''disappointment,'' and Haley Scarnato fine-tuning what's sure to be a killer closing number for the 2008 Miss San Antonio Pageant. And of course, there'll be future Oscar winner Antonella Barba out to prove that Simon Cowell really has a tin ear. Maybe she can sing a little somethin' from Dreamgirls to prove her point.
As for A.J., well, at least he'll never again be forced to declare, ''You know I love the lay-dees!'' during a group rendition of ''Joy to the World.'' As he proved with his performances of ''Never Too Much'' and ''Feeling Good'' during the last two weeks, he's way too talented for such blush-inducing bunk. The kid may not have the star quality of a Chris Daughtry or the vocal power of an Elliott Yamin, but he brought some much-needed exuberance to this year's semifinals, even if the show's judges never could bring themselves to treat him like he was more than Idol cannon fodder.
Nicholas' elimination, meanwhile, while thoroughly predictable, was also kind of a bummer. Really, of the 12 male semifinalists, his voice was one of the most distinctive. Yeah, last night he dressed like a stunt double for Ugly Betty's Henry From Accounting, but even now, when I close my eyes, I can actually remember the tone of his voice, and better still, the memory doesn't make me reflexively wince.
I shan't be wincing over tonight's doomed women, even though I kinda wish Leslie had outlasted the thoroughly abysmal Haley and Antonella. In Leslie's case, I'm guessing voters were so weirded out by the awkward way she signaled ''seven'' with her hands last night as her Idol number flashed across the screen that they couldn't bring themselves to cast votes in her direction. Also disconcerting: Leslie's woeful attempts at scatting on Nina Simone's ''Feeling Good,'' and the shiny red footwear that stuck out like sore thumbs-down when paired with her black leggings and brown tank top. Girlfriend's boots were made for walkin' all right straight back to Anonymousville!
And finally, this week, we bid adieu to the sweet, if not particularly gifted, Alaina Alexander. How cruel was it for Ryan to first announce her elimination, then remind her of the judges' brutal evaluations from last night, then ask her to sing ''Not Ready to Make Nice,'' a song that even Alaina must know by now is out of her vocal and emotional range? No wonder the girl broke down crying and couldn't get through the song! And then, on top of it all, to have to endure Paula's patronizing remarks about how it was clear the other contestants cared for her? It might've been more humane to stuff Alaina into a cannon and blast her out into the Hollywood skyline.
Then again, no one ever said eliminations were supposed to bring on a case of the warm fuzzies. Certainly not TV Watch readers, who amused me to no end this week with their patented brand of snark. One of my favorite observations came from a reader going by the name of Wondering, who asked, ''Is charisma a banned substance in the male competition?'' Then there was Bud, who argued that ''Sanjaya and Brandon should go...or maybe they should just kick off Sanjaya twice.''
Finally, there was Crapalicious, who wrote, ''This season, ehhh...they set the bar too high with last season's great bunch of singers. I never thought I'd be missing Pickler's calamari comments.''
Lucky for Crapalicious, Kellie was back tonight although with her Mama's Family hairstyle, dreary ballad, and alarmingly in-your-face breasts, she cut a very peculiar, and strangely fatigued, figure. Even her ''gold-hearted rube'' shtick seemed worn to a disheartening nub. Let's hope Golly Mae gets a couple weeks' rest before she starts her upcoming tour.
Anyhow, back to the important stuff: What did you think of America's choices for elimination this week? Why did Paula make the universal symbol for ''loser'' the thumb-and-index-finger L across the forehead as Ryan introduced her tonight? And who do you think was the winner of season 6's inaugural cry-off: Sundance ''It's Just My Allergies'' Head, or Gina ''Two Hanky'' Glocksen? Be sure to weigh in on our message board, and to check out the newest episode of Idolatry, which will be playing all weekend at EW.com.