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Vidiot

American Idol Winners and Losers ...

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American Idol still worth a look

I know, I know, you only watch American Idol during the initial "audition" weeks because you like watching Simon Cowell obliterate the spirits of Idol wannabes who think they're the next Carrie Underwood but are really the next Roseanne Barr. I get that, and I enjoy those weeks, too. But there's a lot of enjoyment to be had in sticking with the show--especially this time, with a talented group of contestants and Cowell's final season as a judge.

Every reality contest on TV today lauds its newest season of participants as "the most talented group of contestants yet," but simply judging by the skills of some of the singers already sent home, this year's talented crop of AI-ers may yet live up to the billing. Granted, several of them appear to have more talent in the looks department than in the vocal department, but many a memorable performance has already been laid down in the early rounds.

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres appears as the fourth judge this season, occupying the seat vacated by Paula Abdul after the show's first eight go-rounds. Thus far, Abdul's bizarrely sympathetic criticisms are sorely missed, but DeGeneres' upbeat attitude and carefully placed wisecracks aren't so bad. Hard-ass Cowell--who boasts, correctly, that the feedback he offers is simply what the audience is thinking--is still the star of the show, but if his rumored departure come season's end is true, expect the show to fizzle and die.

I have a knack for picking singers to win who end up voted off immediately afterward, but there are a couple of contestants I'm pulling for this year who may go further in the competition than any I've championed in the past: 24-year-old California guitarist Andrew Garcia, who busted out a killer rendition of Abdul's 1988 hit "Straight Up" during Hollywood Week, and 20-year-old Jim Morrison clone Tyler Grady, whose singing is bolstered by a penchant for goofy comments.

This week brings the second round of semifinalist eliminations. The top 10 females performed last night, the top 10 males go tonight, and another four contestants will be sent home Thursday.

The rounds of the competition in which Cowell bags on the William Hungs of the world may be over, but hang in there. This year's class of Idol hopefuls will be worth continued viewing, and if you miss the end of this season, you may never get a chance to see American Idol in its full splendor again. As always, don't be that guy.

Editor's note: The Vidiot submitted his column right before last week's elimination show and, true to form, his favorite contestant, Tyler Grady, was eliminated right off the bat. He's plenty broken up over it already, so try not to rub it in.

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