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‘American Idol’ heads to Hollywood

"American Idol" sent 43 people home on the first two days of the Hollywood round, but Bikini Girl and Norman Gentle are still hanging around.
/ Source: contributor

The first of "Idol's" Hollywood episodes this season focused on the first two days at the Kodak Theatre, where the field of contestants was cut from 147 to 104. Most of the hour was spent on those who made it through to Wednesday's group sing. The meek who accepted their fate quietly did not inherit much of "Idol's" precious airtime.

I know what boys like: Katrina Darrell, a.k.a. "Bikini Girl," made her return to the stage and got the expected hostile reception from Kara DioGuardi. This time, at least the judge began a bit more subtly, saying that she started off liking Darrell's version of "Breathe," before subsequently hating it. Simon Cowell made a claw motion and noises to indicate that she was being catty, and Kara didn't make Simon's actions unreasonable when she muttered "Bring your pole tomorrow" after Darrell advanced.

Get the message: Dennis Brigham made it out of the Kansas City auditions, but was a unanimous call to get sent home the first day in Hollywood. But Brigham bristled when Simon said that nobody would take him seriously, and let the judges have it as he walked off. "What kind of message are you sending to America?" he asked. Maybe that the show's only looking for people who can sing?

You're the inspiration?: For the first time ever, "Idol" gave all of its contestants an "Idol Boot Camp" complete with stylists and voice coaches. And a guest mentor — Barry Manilow. Seriously? If Barry Manilow is supposed to be the inspiration for this group of singers, the music people shouldn't complain when they get cloyish and sappy performances. No musician who's been on the pop charts in the modern era could make themselves available?

Bursting with desire: Every one of the 147 singers who made it to Hollywood wanted to win, but some were more expressive about letting the judges know it. New York's Nathaniel Marshall was equally effusive and panicky, letting the judges know "I want this more than anything. It's on my skin. It bursts out of me every time I'm onstage. I don't know why." He made it to the next round, since the Kodak Theatre isn't insured for whatever would burst out of Marshall if he got rejected.

When 'No' means 'Yes': Erica Wesley was the lone person in her group of eight to get sent home, but she didn't go quietly, pleading with the judges for another chance. Paula Abdul said that she liked Erica, but was outvoted. Simon pointed out that she had written "No" on her sheet, and Paula tried to explain that she started to write yes and then wrote something different because of a long and rambling explanation that made Simon sorry he brought it up.

Surviving a bad spell: Emily Wynne-Hughes rehearsed "I Put a Spell on You," but the rocker who torpedoed her band's European tour dreams to jump on the "Idol" bandwagon got nervous and changed to "Excuse Me Mister" by No Doubt instead. She advanced, but the judges slammed her for the change, and she learned a valuable lesson: if you're going to change up at the last minute, at least pick one of Gwen Stefani's better songs.

Do not go 'Gentle': Nick Mitchell was a huge favorite of the Hollywood audience, probably because he performed as the "Norman Gentle" character that he auditioned with. That's a moderately entertaining act, but one that has no chance of winning. But he made it to the next day despite Simon's criticism, and once again promised the cameras that he would retire the "Gentle" character. We'll see.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.