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I was going to start my first season 11 post with a dramatic reminder of how long it had been since I last last laid eyes on American Idol’s forever home, stage 36 at CBS Television Studios. Only it hadn’t been that long. Barely five weeks, to be exact, dating back to the pre-Christmas final showdown of The X Factor.
That drama feels like forever ago, and while Tuesday’s Idol showed plenty of its own, it had little to do with judges’ swipes or backstage fights, and everything to do with presentation. Fittingly, this all falls in nicely with our behind-the-scenes theme. What didn’t you see on the broadcast? Read on…
1. Talk about a brand new set, as the audience was filing in for episode 1 of season 11 (1-1-1, for the numerology-inclined), stagehands were still pulling off chunks of the plastic seal covering the ultra-shiny stage. Even as close as 10 minutes to airtime, drilling was taking place on the judges’ table. Not that’s what I call the 11th hour. (There’s that number again!)
2. Among executive producer Nigel Lythgoe’s many responsibilities (besides, you know, running the show), he’s Idol‘s official Twitpic-er. The results of his efforts on Tuesday night: this shot from the front of the house, this one facing the audience and the photo above with season 10 finalist Pia Toscano.
3. Speaking of Pia, she wasn’t the only pretty girl sitting in the first five rows. Members of Idol’s audience casting crew were exceptionally busy moving attractive female crowd members around and inserting a few in the newly placed mosh pit. One dad seated in the second to last row even cracked to a neighbor, “They stole my daughters” as he pointed to his girls giggling from front and center.
4. The Top 24’s march to center stage, even after a full dress rehearsal, is one of bewilderment and awe. Like 10 seasons before them, these contestants walked out wide-eyed, excited and maybe a little freaked out. The loudest applause at the top of the show? Heejun Han, ‘natch.
5. Ryan Seacrest, perhaps feeling the ratings pressure, gives the audience a brief pep talk before the show goes live. “Everybody’s on the air tonight,” he said (foreshadowing Phillip Phillips’ song choice?). “We’re all in it together.” It’s a smaller group in the studio this year, though, to make room for that dramatic — and ginormous — new set.
6. Unlike the finalists’ stomp to center stage, the judges’ is a much slower stroll, as Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler are no doubt still getting accustomed to the newer, rounder stage layout. Plus, the last thing J. Lo needs at this point is any phrase ending in “malfunction.”
7. Reed Grimm looked the part of a male Taylor Swift as he dropped to bended knee and took in his surroundings with mouth wide open. He may have even said thank you, to no one in particular and everyone at once. But with a kick and a shake, he was ready to get the party started. (Read THR’s full recap here.)
8. If a judge glances at his/her iPhone or, even worse, yawns during an audition, you know you’re in trouble. I believe the same theory applies to J. Lo talking mid-performance, as she did when Deandre Brackensick had his turn. No doubt it was relevant chatter with Steven Tyler, but it still gives off the sense that someone is tuned out.
9. In other surprising J. Lo movement news, wouldn’t you know the insanely gorgeous judge sometimes does her own makeup touch ups? Hair is another matter, but color us impressed.
10. You knew big things were in store when the see-through stairs that step up to the judges’ table were moved towards the piano on center stage. Sure enough, Colton Dixon did not disappoint. And there was a lot of love in the room, not just from his sister Schyler who screamed, “I love you Colton,” but from Jeremy Rosado, who gave Dixon a giant Jer-bear hug after his piano-top performance (see video below).
11. Between the saxophone, the set and the reminder of Risky Business’ iconic sex scene set to the tune of Phillips’ song choice, “In the Air Tonight” by another Phil — Collins — you could practically feel the studio’s temperature rising. Phillips was sweating it, too, so much so that he had a hard time hitting his mark, as they say in Hollywood.
12. The award for most enthusiastic applause was a near-tie between Phillips and Heejun Han, who also received a standing ovation. But when it came to fist pumps, a standing ovation and hands-to-the-sky worship, Joshua Ledet had the judges in his corner. During the break, Ledet’s mom got to see another dream come true when she was introduced to Jennifer Lopez and the two clasped hands.
13. The episode’s funniest moments were also its final ones, as Ryan Seacrest leaned against gentle giant Jermaine Jones — squint your eyes and the blades of swaying grass coupled with the height-challenged twosome started to look like a scene out of Jack and the Beanstalk. Further down the line, Heejun Han took a bow when his recap performance popped on screen while Phillip Phillips got mocked for the deafening cheers his received (Adam Brock even waved a white handkerchief in a faux-gesture of surrender).
Who will be smiling next week? We’ll find out soon enough. The girls compete on Wednesday and Idol results are on Thursday, including a wildcard pick by each of the judges.
In the meantime, who are you rooting for, Idol Worshippers?
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