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A First-Timer's View From Inside the 'Idol'-Dome

Idol Worship sends the THR intern to his first 'American Idol' elimination show -- and he lives to tell the tale.

Michael Becker / FOX
Season 10's Top 11

I attended my first ever taping of American Idol on Thursday, and honestly, I can’t complain -- it was pretty fun and exciting!

When you first step into the Idol studio, it’s impressive. You immediately think, this set had to have cost a decent amount of coin -- from all the lights to the spinning American Idol logo globe thing. Everyone knows the show brings in a lot of money, and it’s clear that some of that money goes back into the show. 

  Well, wait a minute. The audience seats really kind of suck. They are generic, uncomfortable, and crammed together. Kind of like flying Southwest. And I get it; it’s a music show and they want to encourage the audience to be on its feet, rocking out, but come on! Like the warm-up guy said, some people have waited for months to get their Idol tickets -- at least make those two hours comfortable.   That said, it’s still a very loving and excited crowd, despite the lackluster chairs. When the contestants come out to the stage, it’s exactly what you imagine it would be like: Girls, both young and old, are fawning over the male contestants and the male audience members drool over the female finalists. Women hold signs confessing their love for the awkward, bearded Casey Abrams, and men profess their love for the beautiful Pia Toscano. Hell, there was even a marriage proposal thrown out to that Stefano kid. These 12 individuals truly are idols in the eyes of this audience, and are worshipped accordingly.   And while they love the contestants, this crowd also loves their judges. And who can blame them? All three are something. Randy Jackson has that laid-back air about him that you can’t help but envy. Jennifer Lopez, even if you’re not a fan of her movies or music, you can help but be star-struck. Not only does “Jenny from the Block” still have it, she’s beautiful as ever. And I was pleased to see that she opted for a sleeker, pulled-back hair do and short dress rather than jungle cat get-up she was sporting the night before. However, tonight’s look wouldn’t come easy for J-Lo, which became abundantly clear as her glam squad made multiple visits, armed with satchels of hairspray and hair brushes ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.   As for Steven Tyler? What can you say other than he is the quintessential rock star icon -- a completely different breed that you can’t even explain. The man just has this cool aura that radiates off of him.    To start the night’s performances there was a musical mash-up sung by the Top 12 that mixed Steppenwolf’s classic “Born to be wild” with Lady Gaga’s new single “Born this Way.” It was a nice light-hearted way to kick off what would normally be a pretty nerve-wracking show.   The next performance by last year’s winner, Lee Dewyze, brought the crowd to its feet again. These audience members don’t forget their previous Idols, that’s for sure. After a few words of encouragement to the contestants, Lee was gone and the Black Eyed Peas took the stage. They sang their new song, “Just Can’t Get Enough,” generously donating proceeds from download sales to help the relief effort in Japan.   After all the performances, it was time to face the reality of the night; someone was going home and Ryan Seacrest finally revealed the bottom three: Haley Reinhart, Naima Adedapo and Karen Rodriguez. In the end, it was Miss Rodriguez who didn’t make the cut, despite a valiant encore of Mariah Carey’s “Hero.” Sadly, it was not enough convince the judges that she deserved one more shot, though, like the first time Karen sang it, she did a really good job.    And so another one bites the dust. The Top 11 will return to their new home in the Hollywood Hills, where they will have to wait another week until they can descend from the mountaintop to be worshipped by their fans. The finalists can only hope these standing fans truly rock out to the music, not just to escape the horrid seats.