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American Idol recap: Big Mike survives, Aaron Kelly goes home, critics pounce

Aaron-kelly It's been a white-knuckle week for Tampa Bay area reality TV fans.

First, Tampa-raised Erin Andrews inexplicably landed in the bottom two on Dancing with the Stars, then St. Petersburg's Michael "Big Mike" Lynche takes the same spot Wednesday on Idol -- for the second week in a row.

But Big Mike earned another reprieve, as 17-year-old moppet Aaron Kelly got the hook, instead. The unpredictability of the voting this year -- Kelly wasn't even in the bottom three last week and fellow contestant Casey James took the brunt of judges criticism Tuesday -- hints at a pretty evenly-divided group of voters, which numbered about 32-million, according to host Ryan Seacrest.

Kelly's loss likely hit some Tampa Bay area fans hard; he was born in Sarasota and lived in Haines City until about five years ago, check the St. Pete Times story on his Florida roots here.

Michael-lynche-ratpack Big Mike's victory also raises hopes he'll make it past next week and participate in the tradition of Top Three contestants going home for highly-publicized visits. Rumors persist that Lynche, who now lives in Astoria, N.Y., would come to St. Petersburg, where he attended the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School.

Such visits, typically scheduled on the Friday after the Top Three are announced -- May 14, this year -- usually include a stop by the local Fox affiliate, a stop by their old high school and a free, relatively brief public concert.

Critics of Idol note the show is down in the ratings and has been beaten by perennial rival Dancing with the Stars (which may see its own tabloid-fueled ratings dip, now that chatter magnet Pamela Anderson has been ejected). This year, the show averages 24.4-million viewers, down 7.5 percent from 2009; among prized 18 to 49 viewers, the show is down 8 percent, according to Reuters

Even longtime fans say the show has responded by trying too hard, with host Seacrest bouncing off the walls in an attempt to stay unpredictable and judges squabbling with each other at the expense of attending to the show's contestants. See my pal Andy Dehnart's Reality Blurred blog for an excellent recap of the Idol carping.

Fox executives may console themselves with the notion that most TV viewing is down this year, as it was the year before. But there is no denying the lack of pop culture buzz surrounding the show these days, and the one announcement which might restore that luster -- the revelation of who will replace departing top judge Simon Cowell -- isn't likely to come anytime soon.

Tampa Bay area fans must resign themselves to the mix of pride and tense anticipation that comes with seeing a local guy inch a little closer to Idol's crown.

Get the antacid ready; next week is gonna be another nail-biter.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:07pm]


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