50% off! I’m not talking about the down-but-still-strong ratings for “American Idol’s” Season 12. It was the logline as last week’s newly minted “Top 20” became the “Top 10” in a brisk 90-minute live-results show Thursday night.
(Above: The singer who only stutters when he talks, Lazaro Arbos, learned his favorable fate on Thursday night.)
Inside the studio and at the after-party, here’s what you didn’t see on TV.
Glam Squads and Hand-Held Mirrors at the Judges’ Table
During the first commercial break, before she said anything and having only been escorted to her seat by fellow judge Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey’s glam squad descended for immediate touchups. Later, while the show continued shooting a “reveal” of a finalist backstage, Carey fiddled with her cell phone as the action was transitioning to the front of house.
Two seats down, Nicki Minaj kept a hand-held mirror at her chair and used it frequently. With Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe (always) and Fox President of Alternative Programs Mike Darnell (usually) briefing the judges during the breaks, Keith Urban is the only one perpetually in first gear. He must have abstained from the Coca-Cola cups, which are each placed by prop masters on elevated Lucite pedestals for camera angles.
The company move
After wrapping a live broadcast at 8 p.m. PT Thursday night at the Mirage in Las Vegas, the show was back up on its feet live at 5 p.m. PT from the CBS lot in L.A.
(Above: Executive Producers Trish Kinane and Ken Warwick)
Why did they attempt the high degree-of-difficulty in the overnight company move? Despite all the hospitality and branded set-up shots in Sin City over the past two weeks, the visiting production had to cede position to the “The Beatles Love” to return on Thursday night. “Love” is only dark on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Fox’s Mike Darnell (center) and Fox COO Joe Early surrounded by finalists. Early favorites include pianist/songwriter Angie Miller (top left) and country breakout Janelle Arthur (bottom right). Devin Velez is in the grey vest and yellow shirt in the back row.
Barstow and Victorville by Bus
Finalist Devin Velez’s mother ended the day on live national TV, accepting eye-shadow compliments from Ryan Seacrest. It began a lot less glamorously -- at the Las Vegas bus station at 6 a.m. The finalist’s mother drove to Las Vegas for Wednesday night's live show, but took a bus back to L.A. Thursday morning to make the 4 p.m. call time at CBS eight hours later. She was in heels but said there was no way she was going up on stage in them. Barefoot, she went up to congratulate her son and hug Seacrest.
Forget “American Idol’s” studio neighbor, “Dancing with the Stars.” The best choreography on that lot is between host Seacrest and long-time stage manger Debbie Williams. Their shorthand -- via a quick whisper or even a glance just beyond the cameras’ angle -- had them toggling between front of house and back of house live shots, juggling family members on stage and nudging departing contestants as if this was not their first hour on a redesigned stage.
It’s a “Girls” Year
Industry watchers and the blogosphere commenters are aligned -- the female contestants are stronger than their males counterparts.
This bore out in the room. During the guys’ performances and reveals, the contestants on the “winners’ bleachers” looked stoic and almost bored. When the female contestants started taking the stage in the back half of the show (Janelle Arthur, above), the onstage energy picked up, and so did the crowd. During the female announcements, the contestants were usually up on their feet talking and hugging.
The 2013 “Top 10” pose with Ford’s Debra Hotaling and an actual "Fiesta" at the after-party on top of the Grove’s parking garage (a totally under utilized and panoramic Hollywood event space, even on a rainy night.)
After a decade as one of the trio of ingrained brands in the show, what used to be "the Ford music video" will evolve this season. In the off-season, Seacrest and Joel McHale fronted a series of non-“Idol”-related comedic ads for the auto brand. Now that the show is back, this year, there will be “missions” built in to the show. With a completely crowd-sourced print and broadcast advertising campaign now launching for the Fiesta, Hotaling noted the complementary nature of the show's crowd-sourced singers.
Back in the Crowd
From the crowd they came, and to the crowd they returned. Quickly.
For the 10 contestants who were cut on air after making it through several untelevised rounds stretching back to last July, the end came swiftly. They exited house left and did not get to attend the after-party.
Meanwhile, the divas-to-be were still doing their first-ever press interviews two-and-a-half hours after Idol's “Glee” lead out (finalist Kree Harrison, above).
They also had newly minted official twitter handles from Fox and were signing radio personalities’ faces.
(Here, @AngieAI12 -- Angie Miller, the Miley Cyrus look-a-like who writes her own songs -- signs a KIIS FM 102.7 personality)
Gordon Ramsay and “Masterchef” judges Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliiot, as well as cast members from Fox's “Touch” walked the blue carpet and lounged under the tents as the rain started to fall. There was no Kiefer Sutherland.
The After Life
Meanwhile, just a few blocks away on Melrose, an “Idol” alum was signing on stage, foreshadowing a potential career arc for the newbies.
Nikki Reed and husband Paul McDonald performed together at an intimate kick-off gathering of a Joe Fresh (top, and below with Joe Mimran, the Joe in “Joe Fresh”) at JC Penney pop-up shop. The flash-store across from Fred Segal at the corner of Melrose and Crescent Heights is up for this weekend only.
Safe For 6 More Months
Going right to a Top 10 (without any judge-added “wildcards”) there was more at stake for the singers than just a spot on the main stage and the end-game. A favorable vote on Thursday guaranteed a spot on the lucrative and limelight-prolonging summer tour, without the risk of any more cuts.
For these ten, it didn't just buy them one more week. It bought them 6 more months of work.
The "American Idol" Season 12 Top 10:
Janelle Arthur, 23, Oliver Springs, TN
Lazaro Arbos, 21, Naples, FL
Curtis Finch, Jr., 25, St. Louis, MO
Candice Glover, 23, St. Helena, SC
Kree Harrison, 22, Nashville, TN
Amber Holcomb, 18, Houston, TX
Paul Jolley, 23, Palmersville, TN
Angie Miller, 19, Beverly, MA
Burnell Taylor, 19, New Orleans, LA
Devin Velez, 18, Chicago, IL