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Hollywood nights for Idol hopefuls

The big show truly gets going

No more freaks in funny costumes, goofy storylines or Ryan Seacrest sandwiching himself between mountainous mommas. With six shows in our television spectator rear view mirror, it was finally time for some business.

For contestants who thought trying out for country's largest reality show was a yeoman's task, they tasted a dose of reality during American Idol's version of hazing called Hollywood Week.Paddling and egg swallowing weren't the protocol, but a few hopefuls appeared to have swallowed their voices.The 164 contestants appeared tense and ready to "throw down." So was lead panelist Simon Cowell, whose body language screamed, "There are new rules, your chances are slim, and most likely, we aren't going to like you."Cowell cut to the chase and so did producers by slicing out excessive, catty back-story. Watching singing instead of quibbling and sniping gets this writer's thumb up.The inclusion of musical instruments, the "fast pass" for exceptional early performance, a second chance for those who stumbled out of the gate and alleviation of group performances were changes made by the Idol competition committee.

Bummer about the latter - check last year's tape of BeeGee's "How Deep is Your Love" and you'll understand why.Brooke White did her best "Where's Waldo" imitation, replete with bombastic striped gear. White's self-accompanying try at "Beautiful" supplied some warm-n-fuzzies. Brooke has singer/songwriter type skills.David Hernandez fought off some backstage nerves, before "Love the One You're With." The panel was loving David with a "trazillion percent yes" response. Wow, how many zeros is that?The "rock-n-roll nurse" Amanda Overmeyer lived up to her name with a lick of Doors' "Light My Fire" that growled. She is impressive and intimidating at the same time.

A few didn't heed Cowell's annual Hollywood Week battle cry, "Don't forget the words." Cardin McKinney, who many report to have a huge fan following, was one of theme Suzanne Toon, Amy Flynn, and Pierre Cataldo were also bid adieu.Josiah Leming is enjoying the housing upgrade thanks to hotel stay on Fox after spending the past year living in his beat up Nissan. The rest is serving him nicely, as he nailed "Grace Kelly" from Mika.Carly Smithson can really blast, but she sounds so much like Kelly Clarkson. We'll see how that fares. I bet a load of others wish they had such problems.Michael Johns is the complete package: the looks, the vocals and the motivation to go a ways. For Michael's sake, I hope one of the theme weeks does not include Minny Ripperton, David Cook, has an oddness and roughness that makes him a curiosity. Who's putting everyone up the the Bryan Adams tunes?Kyle Ensley, who hopes to someday be the governor of Oklahoma, lacks the "juice" necessary to go any distance. David Archuleta hit pay dirt with "Heaven." Guess who the song writer was? Bryan Adams. Ughhhh! Looking forward to what tonight brings? You should, because this year has a roster jammed full of talent. Tune in this evening at 8 p.m on Fox, to see who makes the Top 24  and who goes home.

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