Kate Ward
April 11, 2008 AT 04:00 PM EDT

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

Underneath those Crest-approved pearly whites and nice-guy veneer, Ryan Seacrest is one cruel dude.

Here I was, toasting what I figured would be Syesha Mercado’s inevitable exit with a cold, refreshing Sam Adams (hey, filling in for the mighty Mr. Slezak takes a wee bit of liquid courage, so please bear with me until Tuesday, when he’ll return to fulfill your American Idol needs), and Ryan has to go and tell me — in a notably brutal fashion — that Syesha would not be dancing out the door to the stylings of Ruben Studdard. Historically, Idol‘s eighth-place finisher has always been a contestant who is likable enough to cruise through the semifinals, but underwhelming enough to finish just below the middle of the pack (see: Turner, Nadia; Covington, Bucky; Scarnato, Haley). Syesha would have fit in perfectly with such a group — her respectable vocals, polarizing performances, and slightly off-putting personality practically screamed eighth place.

But holy cravats, Ryan! We were caught off guard by one of the first big surprises of the season (and no, I’m not counting David Archuleta’s Lennon-McCartney lyric botching, which the cynic inside me still maintains was a ploy for votes). Despite relentless producer pimping and a pair of bulging muscles the size of David A.’s head, Michael Johns drew the lowest number of votes and was sent home to rethink his fashion choices.

So what happened, TV Watchers? We can’t really blame the cravat, can we? Maybe it was the fact that the sexy Aussie’s performance was middling at best (that falsetto was more painful to hear than a Robin Williams comedy routine). Maybe it was the fact that Michael perpetually chose the wrong song. Or maybe Idol‘s big stage just isn’t kind to a contestant who performs best with a screen of fire backing him (to remind viewers, of course, that he’s HOT, HOT, HOT!). On top of all that, Michael was forced to sing in the dreaded opening performance slot, so perhaps it’s not too surprising that we lost season 7’s main piece of eye candy. Ryan, of course, didn’t help matters with that merciless little psych-out moment: ”Now, last year during Idol Gives Back, we didn’t eliminate anybody at this stage of the competition. Tonight…we’re going to say goodbye to Michael Johns.” Oh, Ryan. Who knew you were more deceptive than a pair of Carly Smithson false eyelashes?

Certainly the Aussie’s ”Dream On” song choice did him no favors, but maybe Michael’s ouster came down to his rock persona — which, judging by his performance record, seems as genuine as Robbie Carrico’s hair (maybe Robbie should have lent Michael his skull bandana for some extra-hardcore rock cred?). Reader To Steph wrote, ”The reason Michael Johns doesn’t work is that he’s TRYING to be a rock star, instead of BEING it. He’s putting up an act as real and I, for one, ain’t buying it.” Michael’s attempt to establish himself as a rock frontman is particularly puzzling when you consider his success during Dolly Parton week with the bluesy ”It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right.” And with the judges constantly pushing him to embrace his soul vibe, why in the world would he try to tackle Aerosmith, of all bands? I mean, even Kristy Lee listened to the judges and attempted to countrify herself during Lennon-McCartney week, albeit with disastrous consequences (though the performance did prove that she could adequately front a jug band).

NEXT PAGE: The ”pompous” David C. avoids the bottom three

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