We're willing to forgive American Idol for experimenting with its format. After all, we're twelve seasons deep and you've got to keep this thing interesting somehow. But the whole "reveal the finalists while they're sequestered in rooms backstage" was awkward on screen — and 10 times more awkward in person, Hollywood.com can officially report.
There was already an inherent sense of excitement built into the show, considering that after two months, we would finally find out our top 10. Corey, the longtime Idol warm up guy, got the audience excited — the only notable difference in his routine is that the Harlem Shake has replaced "Sexy and I Know It" as his song of choice to get the crowd up and dancing — only to have the air and energy sucked out of the room as the camera at home cut to Ryan Seacrest announcing the first finalist...and the feed in the studio went silent like some ultra horrible technical difficulty.
We'd been sort-of warned ahead of time that the finalist would be a surprise to the judges (and thus the studio audience), but for the first 10 seconds before we realized what was actually happening it seemed like something had gone terribly wrong. It was a little less jarring the subsequent nine times, but something tells us that's not something they'll try again.
Usually it's easy to tell who the fan favorites are by the loudest screams, and during the first 15 minutes of the show, which consisted of a ton of pre-cut packages detailing our semifinalists' journeys, the only one to get an audible reaction from the audience was Lazaro. (Basically a bunch of "awww"s.) So it wasn't all that surprising when he was the last boy called.
The girl who garnered the most reaction? Candice. Not only did the audience go nuts, but plenty of her fellow finalists lost their minds too. They even got yelled at for getting carried away hugging each other during the commercial break.
For the first live show in American Idol's regular home (Stage 36 at CBS Television City in Los Angeles), this one was a real downer. It could've been so exciting, but those awkward pauses in the studio really sucked the energy out of the room.
The judges were on their best behavior, waving to the crowd, talking to their bosses (Nigel Lythgoe and Mike Darnell) during the commercial breaks, and definitely not fighting with each other. No diva behavior really showed through, but here's a telling story about Mariah Carey:
Although game to wave at her fans, she isn't a toucher. Corey brought down a little boy to say hi to his favorite singer during one break, and she gave the probably 7-year-old kid a great big...handshake. Nigel popped over to snap a picture for the kid on his cell phone, and Mariah didn't even put her arm around the boy. Come on, you've got to try a little harder than that, M.
How did the backstage experiment work out on screen? Was Seacrest running back and forth as funny as we imagine it to be? What did you think of the way the finalists were announced?
Follow Jean on Twitter @hijean
[PHOTO CREDIT: Frank Micelotta/FOX]