American Idol picks 14 of Top 24, including Jessica Sanchez

American Idol: The Top 24 includes 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez. Other American Idol finalists include Heejun Han and Reed Grimm. Has your favorite made the cut?

Chris Pizzello / AP Photo
Jennifer Lopezand Randy Jackson, judges on the FOX series American Idol, chat during the FOX Broadcasting Company Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif. last year.

On Wednesday, American Idol producers essentially recreated the Horcrux Cave scene from Harry Potter – because nothing conveys drama quite like contestants crossing a moat onto an misty, blue-hued island of judges.

The deep, dark abyss of the Cirque du Soleil waters churning away restlessly as the American Idol contestants wait with baited breath to learn their fate.  If only they had Inferi pulling rejected contestants into the black lake it may have made for a more compelling show. But alas, there were no Inferi in this cave, just three judges intent on dragging out every possible second of the 3,200-second episode. 

Had the Idol judges cut to the chase, rather than forcing viewers to listen to the canned speech they recite to Every. Single. Contestant, the Top 24 would be revealed by now. Well, officially revealed, anyway – not the bootleg Top 24 spoiler list that has been circulating the Internet.  

But after all these years together, viewers have learned to accept – or at the very least, tolerate – the imperfections that help make American Idol the show it is today.  Like any relationship there will be great days (Paula Abdul judging a performance that hadn't yet happened) and there will be tough days (Adam Lambert losing the title that so obviously belonged to him). Wednesday was one of the tough days.

And not tough for the right reasons.  It wasn't the eliminations that caused the angst; instead it was the entire cadence of the show: painfully slow and mercilessly repetitive.  Of course, it doesn't help that there are two new, younger versions of Idol (The Voice and X Factor) to flirt with now.  Let's face it, its easy to take the good things (like Ryan Seacrest and less reliably, Steven Tyler) for granted when $5 million recording contracts, blind auditions, and spinning chairs are distracting you.

Still, there are the contestants to consider.  The innocents in all of this treachery.  

And as the judges mentioned, once or twice, this is the most talented group they have ever seen!  (This may be the only thing that means more coming from Randy Jackson than the other judges.)  So how did this uber-talented group fare?  Well, standouts like Colton Dixon, Phil Phillips, Heejun Han, Erika van Pelt, Bailey Brown, Jessica Sanchez, and Reed Grimm secured their places in the Top 24 while others, like cowboy Richie Law rode off into the sunset.  Thursday night will reveal the entire Top 24 of Season 11.  Maybe once the live shows begin some of the magic can be rekindled?

Until then, it is important to treasure the unexpected moments.  Moments, that in one second make you believe that the other 3,199 were worth it. Like the exchange between Ryan Seacrest and Heejun Han as he waited to learn his fate:

 Ryan:  "So you said you're sweating, Heejun."

 Heejun: "Yeah.  But . . ."

 Ryan: "What are you sweating?"

 Heejun: "Mostly water."

Heejun could teach the producers a thing or two about timing.

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