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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Didi Benami ejected as American Idol fights perception it has jumped the shark

31

March

Didi_281 Watch closely, and you can see a one-time TV powerhouse working just a little too hard.

Forget about the nine hopeful singers still struggling to win American Idol's top prize -- often it seems the show itself is trying WAY too hard to prove it's still tops at its game.

Increasingly, the fates of the actual singers of the show feels like an afterthought, drowned out by the  desperate clowning of host Ryan Seacrest and the judges.

As poor Didi Benami endured the interminable process of landing in the bottom three, then seeing moppet Katie Stevens sent to safety, leaving her matched against himbo Tim Urban -- like the show's teenybopper fans were sending this Zac Effron clone home early -- Seacrest seemed more interested in joking with judge Simon Cowell.

Didi-benami-photo True enough, no one but Benami was likely surprised by her exit Wednesday. Still, isn't the show supposed to be about the singers?

Indeed, as Stevens was sent to one of the Bottom Three stools -- a heartbreaking outcome that could foreshadow ejection from the show -- viewers were distracted by judge Kara DioGuardi arguing over whether Cowell was gloating over the predicament, given that she hadn't been following his advice.

Too many times, Idol begins to feel like a grownups dinner party where the kids are trotted out as entertainment. But mom and dad are too busy drunkenly arguing over the guest list to notice what the kids are actually doing.

The dynamic grew even worse with an ejection episode Wednesday packed by rap and R&B stars -- Usher, P. Diddy and the Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am included -- performing overlong songs filled with lots of explosions, strobe lights and bowler hats (??).

Ironically, Usher offered a vocal performance so flat and monotone, you wondered why the show bothered having him coach the aspiring Idols for Tuesdays show. Turns out, most of them sounded better than he did, despite backing by a cast of thousands and years more experience working the big stages.

Seacrest, who seems to feel compelled to get in everyone's face this season, also ate up precious airtime joking with Andrew Garcia's mom, joining DioGuardi in chiding Cowell and pulling Michael Lynche onstage to stand next to the last big black guy to do so well in the competition, Season Two winner Ruben Studdard

(My mind boggled upon hearing Studdard announce he was starting a tour with the guy who placed second his year, Clay Aiken; it was like hearing Luther Vandross and Barry Manilow were storming the shed circuit this summer).

Lynche Bottom line with Idol -- this year, there is one really great singer and performer in the competition, St. Petersburg's Lynche, with trippy bohemian Crystal Bowersox a close second. Whiskey-voiced rockers Casey James and Lee Dwyze are one tier below them and the rest of the field follows. Unless Lynche falls off the stage or catches that laryngitis that put Paige miles out of our misery, he and Bowersox will likely fight for the crown.

So, faced with an increasingly predictable contest, Idol is piling on the distractions, making the live shows so long that the end is cut off. For fans watching by DVR, that means the suspenseful moment when an ejected contestant must sing for the judges and try to earn their save is ruined -- clipped off because Seacrest had to share a joke with Mrs. Garcia.

I think it's time for the judges to take their own advice. Idol needs to get back to being Idol -- an amped-up showcase focused on finding the best undiscovered singer in the country.

Anything less is waste of talent.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:06pm]

    

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