TV Recap

'Idol' Worship

The 12 finalists put on a great show. In the first week of the finals, Jessica Shaw says the singers finally raise the bar -- exactly as Simon, Paula, and Randy have been asking all along

American Idol | CLASSIC MOMENTS Who of the remaining dozen will have their dreams dashed?
CLASSIC MOMENTS Who of the remaining dozen will have their dreams dashed?

The 12 finalists put on a great show

You know how people say the NBA playoffs are a whole other game than the rest of the season? I think the same probably holds true for ''American Idol.'' Now that our final 12 have been chosen, it’s a whole other TV show. And finally, it’s becoming as compelling as it should have been all season long.

Not to make anyone exceedingly jealous, but I had the privilege of watching Tuesday night’s episode live from sunny Los Angeles. I got to see Simon do 7 push-ups on stage during the commercial break (in response to Josh the Marine’s goading). I got to see far too many people show interest in when Paula’s next CD is coming out. I got to hear Randy say "dog" 10 million times in any sentence he could work it into. I got to see Evan "Joe Half-Millionaire" Marriott walk in late and get plum seating. And I got to see a tragic dye job chick practically proposition Ryan Seacrest. Ah, the joys of being in the studio audience.

But no amount of off-camera antics could top some of the stellar moments on stage. It's becoming all about Clay and Ruben. Maybe it was the time change affecting my tear ducts, but I actually got misty eyed when those two sang. And amazingly, people like Carmen and Trenyce, who I thought would be aural disasters, were among the strongest performers.

And what about the Olympic-esque mini-movies about the finalists' lives? Off camera, Simon said of those home movies, "It’s a bit Miss World, don’t you think?" but I couldn’t get enough of them. It was also nice to see where Julia DeMato works in Connecticut (Accente) so I never mistakenly go there. Who needs the attitude? Clearly, when Julia pulled a Justin and asked the audience what they thought after being dissed by Simon she forgot about the fact that such arrogance almost got Mr. Guarini voted off.

I wouldn’t be too sad if Julia was sent packing. From where I sat, it’s either going to be Charles, Kimberley with an "e," Julia, or Corey who get the boot this week. Hopefully, people will respect Kimberley’s hot red outfit enough to overlook that poor song choice. By the way, Lamont Dozier is a major songwriting talent, but he should not have been sitting up there with the judges. Could his criticism have been any blander?

Will the show continue to surprise us? Hopefully. As long as I get to hear Clay and Ruben on a weekly basis and the "dawg" mentions are kept to a maximum of four per episode, I’m there.

What did you think of the show? Post your comment, and we'll publish the best ones in our Thursday ''American Idol'' column on EW.com.

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Originally posted Mar 12, 2003