One would think that at some point, during weeks of combing the country and listening to each contestant sing countless times, that the judges would have come to terms with what is expected of them - namely to make decisions. This week, viewers had to endure three hours of listening to the judges lament over and over about how difficult their jobs are. While it is true that this pity party has become an annual event on American Idol, this season it reached its crescendo. Maybe it is because this panel holds so much promise it is infuriating to see them effacing their potential by committing the sins of their predecessors or maybe we're just getting tired of the cat-and-mouse games that Idol seems to think we all want to play.
On Wednesday night, after Idol dragged out the two-hour episode and only completing half of the task at hand, our patience was wearing thin - surely two-hours is more than enough time to announce thirty finalists - but we shrugged it off, chalking the delays up to Idol just being Idol. On Thursday night, the second night they began a show with the promise to announce our top thirty, Idol pushed the envelope just a little too far with their delay tactics. The show slowly rolled along with its usual assembly line of contestants sitting in the director's chair, waiting for the judges to get to their point, each judge taking turns churning out more unoriginal monotony until finally we had reached the finish line; one space left and two guys to fill it. A typical Idol conundrum.
In fact, that's how they ended Wednesday's episode - Idol essentially manufactured a phony cliffhanger only to"surprise" viewers with the anticlimactic decision to let both Casey Thrasher and CJ Harris through to the top thirty. A theme they repeated later with Brandy Neelly and Briana Oakley, both who made it through. So to have two contestants sit before the judges together was pretty old news but Idol, like the petulant child who can't understand that her antics have ceased to be entertaining, kept trying to sell it.
Neco Starr and Ben Briley were the final two contestants left in the holding room on Thursday, meaning that both of them were sitting in anguish the entire day waiting to learn their fate. As they stepped on the elevator they knew that they each had a 50/50 chance of being sent home but one can imagine that regardless of what the decision was going to be, in some way they were just ready for it to be over.
Unfortunately, Idol opted to not uphold its end of the bargain and punted. Instead of finalizing the top 30, Idol opted to turn the decision over to America to decide between Neco and Ben, keeping the poor contestants in purgatory until next week. The judges played along with the bogus sham, attempting to make it seem like they were incapable of doing the precise thing that they are paid multi-million dollars to do, make decisions. Jennifer made a weak attempt to justify it, "Because this is the first time that something like this has ever happened in Idol history . . ." What exactly has never happened in Idol history before, Ms. Lopez? Judges having to decide who stays and who goes? Nope, we've been doing this for thirteen years. Or did you mean this was the first time you were forced to make a tough decision? Nope, pretty sure that each of you has spent the last three hours telling us how each and every decision was gut-wrenching.
The look on the faces of Ben and Neco made it crystal clear that neither one of them perceived this stay of execution as a gift and neither will the viewers. While we can appreciate the difficulty of keeping 13 seasons of a predictable format fresh, failing to deliver the very thing people are tuning in to see, probably isn't the best approach.
Next week, Idol returns on Tuesday night to finish what they started. After squandering our time in their two-night format, coming back for three nights a week is a daunting prospect, indeed; but that's precisely why you have a trusted writer who valiantly goes into battle when you find yourselves too weak to go on.