American Idol: What You Don't See on TV

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My American Idol viewing experience has been altered inexorably, as I have now bore witness to a live studio taping of the show we all love so much. Yes, the curtain has forever been pulled back on the magnificent Sapphire City, exposing the lumpy white men who furiously pull the levers to keep its illusion alive. Here are some lingering memories from my face-to-face Idol experience. If you’d prefer to preserve your innocence, read no further...

1. Clapping Instruction
In the minutes leading up to the live broadcast, a warm-up comic breaks a sweat trying to get the audience pumped for the action to come. He didactically explains that applause on TV is different from regular applause: You must clap at head-level on TV so the cameras can capture it. He then makes us all clap at head-level. It’s an oddly Abdulian behavior that I never want to partake in again.

2. J-Lo’s Personal Hairsprayist
At home, you see a beautiful woman—The World’s Most™—offering sugar-coated critiques to a fresh-faced group of rising singing stars. In the studio, you see the same thing, but you also see what it takes to make sure her hair stays in place: At every single commercial break, a shaggy-haired attendant magically appears in a puff of chlorofluorocarbons, then proceeds to futz-and-spray, futz-and-spray, futz-and-spray with Ms. Lopez’s hair until airtime.

3. Randy’s Personal Forehead Dabber
And yet whatever ozone-depleting efforts are required to give Ms. Lopez that carefree, windswept look, they pale next to the manpower required to reduce the blinding shine on Randy Jackson’s forehead. During one four-minute commercial break, a woman dabbed his skull with a white cloth approximately 700 times.

4. Judging the Judges
Between performances, a huddle develops around the judges’ table. Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and Fox’s reality TV czar Mike Darnell both chatter excitedly and demonstratively, as if they were laying out the next down’s game plan. What are they saying? Sadly, I don’t read lips. I imagine it was something like, “Be even nicer!,” “Love everything!” and,“Use the words ‘beautiful’ and ‘goose pimples’ a lot!”

5. Pump Up the Volume
Maybe I’m old and deaf, but I could barely hear a word Ryan Seacrest or the judges were saying throughout the entire taping. The singers performances were miked adequately...however...

6. The At-Home Advantage
You know how they always say, “Maybe I’ll listen to this again on my TV and think differently, but DAWG WE GOT A HOT ONE TONIGHT!” Well, there’s definitely something to that, except in my case, it was the reverse. Songs that didn’t make much of an impression during the taping were actually better than I’d realized when I watched them later on my DVR. James, however, pretty much blew the back wall out of the place during his performance. Having watched him live, I’m beginning to think he poses a strong challenge to the contestant I previously thought was the frontrunner—good ol’ boy Scotty McCreery.

What did you think about last night’s performances of 21st Century Songs? My top three were James Durbin’s “Uprising” by Muse, Haley Reinhart’s “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, and Casey Abram’s “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5. In the bottom were Scotty McCreery’s “Swingin’” by LeAnn Rimes, Jacob Lusk’s “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross, and Stefano Langone’s “Closer” by Ne-Yo.

Bottom Three Predictions: Jacob, Stefano, and Lauren.

Eliminated: Jacob

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