American Idol: Group Night, Part 1
What are they doing to those poor kids, I was thinking as Idol's second Hollywood episode began.
There were glimpses of people being tended by medics, Ryan Seacrest racing for the stage as a woman collapses and of our old friend Symone Black, lying apparently unconscious after falling off the stage.
The good news is that Symone got back into the competition after a visit to hospital where she was diagnosed with dehydration. Not drinking and eating enough made her black out as she was answering Randy Jackson's question (no, no, she didn't nod off in anticipation of another season of meaningless catch phrases; shame on you). And she even made it back in time to find a group for the infamous Group Night challenge.
In case we had any doubt, Ryan reminded us off the top that Group Night is "the hardest part of Hollywood Week; the most intense, stressful, punishing night of their lives. With one casualty already (cue shots of Symone) the night is only going to get worse."
And it did, not just for the competitors but for the viewers, too. We had to slog through an hourlong episode filled with angst, personality conflict, illness and exhaustion only to be told we won't get our reward - the group night performances - until next Wednesday night.
At this rate, Hollywood Week will be more like Hollywood Month.
Before Group Night got started, we saw the last of the eliminations from Day 2 of the individual auditions.
Lauren Mink, the woman who works with adults with developmental disabilities, was sent packing. So was Ethan Jones, the St. Louis auditioner whose musician dad was in rehab. Guess Steven Tyler won't be meeting him now when he gets out.
Jeremy Rosado, whom I'm not fussy on, did make it through, along with someone named Neco Starr (I think I spelled it right), whom I have no recollection of seeing.
Ryan told us there were 185 contestants left. And those 185 were very happy to have survived the cut. We know because we saw them singing "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" together in the holding room while Adam Brock played piano and some people paired off to dance.
But here comes Ryan "The Grim Reaper" Seacrest: "By the end of tomorrow night, almost half of them will be gone, having failed the tried and true Idol nightmare that is about to come." Spoilsport.
It began with executive producer Ken Warwick telling everyone to form groups of four or five people, with combinations of Day 1 and 2 auditioners. That set off a chaotic scene as people wandered around the auditorium trying to hook up. The groups had just one night to learn one of 20 songs and figure out how to stage it, including choreography.
The most hard-done-by were St. Louis cop Alisha Bernhardt, whose aggressive demeanour and rigid insistence on singing the song "Joy to the World" (the Three Dog Night version not the Christmas carol; Alisha will get angry if you call it a Christmas carol) scared people off.
Amy Brumfield, a.k.a. the woman who lives in a tent in the woods, was also in a bad way, mainly because she was so sick with the flu she could barely stand up.
Country singer Richie Law was also groupless, as was Brianna Bell, who kept turning her nose up at people's song choices with an emphatic "Oh no," until she joined up with The Betties.
And then, once everybody had finally found groups, we had the usual personality clashes plus some added fun as the flu made the rounds.
Brielle von Hugel's stage mom hovered and clucked while Brielle bossed her group around, because mom didn't think Kyle Crews had a strong enough voice to start the song.
One of the girls from The Betties upchucked in a plastic bag, while Amy, still feeling really ill, got some heat from music director Michael Orland for crying.
Meanwhile, who knew cowboys could be such divas as Richie browbeat the guys in the MIT group, including ailing Phil Phillips (kidney stones), Jairon Jackson and Heejun Han, into attempting four-part harmonies and complicated choreography so they wouldn't be boring.
"I don't know how they do it in Cowboy Town, but this is not how we bring it down, man," protested Heejun.
"Now I have a very, very bad perspective toward cowboys, even Dallas Cowboys. Freakin' cowboys."
The group that Alisha joined, Four Girls and a Guy, was without the guy, as Christian Triplehead retreated to his room to barf. He made it back down but ended up collapsing onto the carpet, too weak to stand. And then Alisha went off to sleep, so I bet that group will do real well.
Diva Brianna decided to sleep too, which left a girl named Jennifer crying. Eventually everybody in The Betties abandoned Jen, until sometime between 2:35 and 5:11 in the morning, when Brianna returned, apparently panic-stricken when she realized other groups were still awake and practising. So she helped Jen with her dance steps and Jen tried to help her remember the words to "Hit 'Em Up Style." That last bit looked pretty hopeless to me.
But guess what? The Betties are first up when we finally get to see some performances ... next week. Because you know, Idol is a singing competition, not a puking, arguing or collapsing competition.
For those of you who enjoy watching people collapse, there'll be more of that to come too, including the woman in the red jacket whose tumble caused Ryan to sprint from the backstage area, swearing and shoving some woman out of the way. Apparently, besides being a TV host, radio host, producer and very, very rich, Ryan is also an emergency responder. Does that mean he can yell "Medic" louder than Nigel Lythgoe?
Sorry, I lapsed into sarcasm there for a moment.
You can tune in again next Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CTV. It's a two-hour show, so I'm pretty sure there'll be actual singing.
What there won't be is a recap, at least not right away, since I'll be away next week. But I'll be back and posting as soon as I can.