American Idol Season 9: Ellen Degeneres Makes Hollywood Week Slightly Bearable

Hollywood Week
Hollywood Week
Michael Becker / FOX

We're almost in real-time now--the Hollywood round began taping only a few weeks ago. That gives the show a slightly fresher cred; for instance, contestants are now singing "Bad Romance" instead of "Poker Face." And what's more of-the-times than placing a married butch lesbian on a formerly closet-happy show, even when she has no background in music whatsoever? This week, Ellen Degeneres began her tenure as the new Paula Abdul, and it wasn't as painful as expected.

I was excited about Ellen's new job because she was so much fun last year as a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance. But that stint lasting one night, and Idol most likely lasting the rest of our lives, I quickly feared for the worst. Would Ellen's off-topic wisecracks start to grate on me? So far, no. All she's really doing is making fun of Idol and that's certainly acceptable. One example: During the elimination portion for one group, she told individuals awaiting their results to step forward, then back, over to the left, forward again and quickly back, and so on. Super cute, but I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, in two episodes, more than half of the Golden Ticket auditioners were sent back to their sad lives in the Midwest after embarrassing themselves on the Kodak Theater stage--which looked surprisingly like an open mic night at a Bleecker Street club, what with the exposed brick and the bad singing. None of those sent home were at all memorable or even recognizable from auditions, except for that one country girl with the really big teeth who'd never been on an "air-o-plane." She got the boot in the first round.

Those who made it to Group Night brought surprisingly little drama, and what there was of it wasn't at all captivating like Tatiana's meltdowns from last year. But there was a little of last year in the "Phoenix" group, a girl named Moorea who sang with Danny Gokey in Hollywood during Season 8. Moorea seemed to think that because she already lost this game once before, she had any idea how to play. Under her direction, the group lived up to its name by going down in flames after one member quit the competition entirely. But it did not rise back up, and Moorea was once again ejected from Hollywood.

The closest thing to a villain came in the form of Mary, self-appointed leader of "The Dreamers." Mary did quite well the first day of Hollywood, looking like a mini, red-headed Ellen and singing powerfully. But promising turned to annoying when she tried to get her group in line--to her credit, though, they did seem terrible to work with. Mary did make it, so she's got one more shot to try to be likable.

The other form of conflict had to do with two groups singing Lady Gaga a cappella and accusing each other of stealing the other's ideas. Both were good, so who cares?

There was also good news for a waitress named Janelle, Casey (the blonde guy Kara and Victoria Beckham made take his shirt off), and this one dude who amazingly sang an acoustic version of "Straight Up" the first night. "Big Mike" Lynche, a personal trainer with the thunderiest thighs I've ever seen, meanwhile, is having a baby.

But there's bad news for several groups who butchered "Sweet Escape." The cancer survivor who looks like Cheyenne Jackson didn't make it past the first day. And ex-con Matt Lawrence was sent home. Looks like he'll be back to getting rejected from fast-food restaurants when he fills out the criminal history portion of his application. Hollywood is indeed where dreams go to die.


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