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Idol Season 9: Top 24 -- The First Elimination

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RATINGS UPDATE: The Olympics beat an American Idol results show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This is only the second day the Olympics beat Idol, which is a testament to the strength of Idol and the poor ratings of this year's Olympics. The Olympics -- highlighted by the most popular event, the women's ice skating finale -- scored 22.9 million people on Thursday. Idol's results show hit a season low of 17.8 million. Four years ago at Turin, the Winter Olympics were historically low. But eight years ago on US soil in Salt Lake, the Olympics were drawing 30 million+. Perhaps because no women were medal contenders, this year's finale for ice skating was down 10% even from low-rated Torino.

SHOW COVERAGE: American Idol contestants faced their first possible elimination on Thursday night and no wonder so many of them looked freaked: very, very few of them have given performances that stand out. Going home are Janell Wheeler, Ashley Rodriguez, Joe Munoz and Tyler Grady. When each one was paired off with another singer and they knew one of them was going home, three out of four times the person saved looked genuinely stunned.

When Janell said goodbye, young Katie Stevens was probably too shell-shocked to react. But when Ashley Rodriguez was paired with Didi Benami, Ashley looked confident and Didi looked miserably resigned to going home. It's hard to say which one of them was more surprised.

Joe Munoz and Tim Urban were told one of them was going home and, again, Tim looked crushed. When Tim was told to sit, he dropped down so fast it was hilarious. For the next minute the camera kept cutting back to him because his look of disbelief (and almost embarrassment) was priceless.

Finally, Tyler Grady and Alex Lambert were paired off. Alex had a woebegone, hangdog expression. When Ryan announced in fact it was Tyler going home, Alex was anything but speechless: he freaked out and then wrapped his arms around Tyler and said something expressing his amazement that was so colorful it had to be bleeped. Thank goodness for five second delays, right Fox?

The group sing-along at the beginning was lip-synced which is disconcerting and wildly out of whack with everything the show stands for. Is it just impossible to get 24 people to rehearse and perform a song decently? If so, don't do one. Allison Iraheta sang her single "Scars" with a good amount of style, proving this young singer could still develop into a real artist.

Kris Allen did a cover of the Beatles classic "Let It Be" (quite a good one) while footage showed him visiting Haiti. (The song is a benefit single available on iTunes.) By the way, his new tune "Live Like We're Dying" just broke into the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it sits at #19. So Kris's benefit single isn't just pro forma niceness. If people buy the "Let It Be" cover and ignore his hit, that could stall and never make the Top 10, not to mention weaken the album in the eyes of some. So if you're a fan, buy both.

All the acts saying goodbye performed one last time and reinforced the idea that no mistakes had been made. Sure, some of them deserved to hang around for another few weeks -- there were certainly worse performers -- but none of them seemed destined for the top 4. Tyler was especially stupid in blaming the judges for his early exit. Way to blow any good will you might have, Tyler.

I'd studied the Facebook and Twitter rankings of the contestants to see if that could indicate strong grassroots support...and it was a bust at predicting who would go home. However, John Park's huge online following is one indication of why the worst performer of the week gets another shot.

Thanks for reading. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his weekly music radio show at Popsurfing and enjoy the weekly pop culture podcast he co-hosts at Showbiz Sandbox. Both available for free on iTunes. Link to him on Netflix and gain access to thousands of ratings and reviews.