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Brian Dunkleman, Where Are You Now That We Need You?

Oh, for the good old days — two hosts, Clay & Ruben, no Oprah interrogations

Don’t let the Fox synergy machine fool you. Despite the clever juxtaposition of “American Idol” and “Clash of the Titans” in the opening bit, there is nary a Titan to be found on this year’s program. (OK, I take 90 percent of that back. I will grant you that Simon does make a rather sexy Kraken.)

Crystal Bowersox is, of course the closest thing we’ve got (and I’m not just talking about her Medusa-esque hair). Following close behind is the more exciting yet less consistent Siobhan Magnus. A finale with these two would be the closest we’re going to get to a “Clash of the Titans” this time around.
As for the rest, I think that by now we’ve all accepted the fact that there are not going to be many powerhouse breakouts this year — no Kelly Clarksons, Carrie Underwoods or Chris Daughtrys. Heck, at this point, I think we’d settle for a Kellie Pickler. In fact, I’m starting to reevaluate my all-too-casual use of the word “Idols” (with a capital “I”) as it refers to this season’s contestants at all.
This season is just like a results show except on a larger scale. On result nights, we’re used to trudging through publicity-hungry celebrities (Watch out for that Ke$ha!) and awkward group numbers to get to the meat of the episode — the eliminations. (BTW — where was the cheesetastic group number this week?) As for the entire season, it just feels like we’re marking time until we get to the real competition — the finale.
Yes, Tim Urban and Katie Stevens were unjustly safe this week. But unless they channel John Lennon himself during Lennon/McCartney Night next week, they will be the next two to go. Didi Benami (one of my favorites) would’ve left eventually, too. My only regret is that I didn’t get to hear her do something like “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” or “The Fool on the Hill” next week, as I think she would’ve been one of the stronger performers for that theme. 
So, no, I’m not happy about the departure of Didi. As I’ve stated several times, I think that she was criticized far too harshly by the judges week after week. Then again, I would expect nothing less in this season of confusion and mediocrity. Once Lilly Scott, Alex Lambert and Katelyn Epperly were voted off, the show pretty much lost me. (And, yes, I’m still dwelling on that. Sue me.)
The judges could’ve at least paid attention while she was singing “Rhiannon” for the save. They didn’t even pretend to be discussing her performance; instead, it looked like they were chatting about which bar to hit up after the show.
As for the filler part of the episode, Season 2 winner (and vegan?!) Ruuuben Studdard performed “Don’t Make ‘Em Like U No More” and sounded great. Not really my thing (the song and the veganism), but I have to admit that I voted for him several times back in 2003. Of course, these votes were quickly canceled out by the ones I cast for his rival Clay Aiken. (The fruitfly and the Alabamian in me were warring). That being said, how happy was I when it was announced that Ruuuuben and Gaiken would be performing together on something called “The Timeless Tour”?
Guest mentor Usher also graced us with a performance of his single “OMG,” alongside will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas. While I was not blown away by Usher’s voice, I have to give him props for actually singing. (It is kind of a sad state of affairs when you commend a “singer” just for singing at all, poorly or well.)
will.i.am, on the other hand, sounded kind of like Stephen Hawking, if Stephen Hawking were a rapper. In his defense, Usher is a good singer but it’s difficult to sound great when you’re executing a lot of impressive Michael Jackson-type moves. (Mainly, though, it just made me miss Michael Jackson.)
The third guest performer was Diddy, who performed “Hello, Good Morning” with some people called “Dirty Money.” Or maybe that’s his latest moniker? Diddy Dirty Money? Regardless, it was all very … Diddy, complete with writhing dancers and strobe lights. At one point he even told me to turn my television set up and turn my lights down and rock with them … but I was in the middle of a game of Bejeweled.
I was pleasantly surprised at how gracious he was to the cast and the Idols, though. This was not the same Diddy who would make you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get him a slice of his favorite cheesecake!
Even more annoying than will.i.am was Seacrest. He lost me the second he referred to Tuesday night’s episode as “a great great show.” Then he just kept going with the dramatics and the prodding questions, as if Tuesday night’s awkward interrogation of Didi weren’t enough.
He put poor little Aaron Kelly on the spot, asking him if he’d ever been in love and if not, how he could sing about it. When Simon teased Seacrest that it wasn’t the “Oprah” show, Ryan then employed the week’s requisite Seacrest Stare-Down.,
Oh, get over yourself already! He then continued to antagonize Simon by accusing him of gloating over Katie Stevens’ position in the Bottom 3. Don’t even get me started on how he asked physical trainer Big Mike to give Ruuuuben some diet and exercise tips … Awwwwkward!
I am really starting to miss Brian Dunkleman.