Greatest Idol Results Show Ever

As overproduced as “Idol” has become in many ways — the gospel choir coming out on stage way before the Final Four, for example — tonight’s results show was produced so well from top to bottom that it was actually a thrill to watch, not just to fast-forward through. I like a lot of what Nigel Lythgoe has added back to the show. Putting the contestants in a house together and watching them interact more is cool. I like all the talking heads interview stuff. I liked the package tonight where Marc Anthony showed them how to use their IADs. (Sorry, “In Ears.”)

And, of course, the surprises were fun to watch. First, the group singalongs are miraculously improved when the mics are live, and it’s not all lip-synched. This year, it’s made a major difference. I don’t cringe at watching the contestants put on a happy face and cover their mouths with the mics to hide their poor synching skills. Second, bringing out Stevie Wonder was certainly a coup. It looks like they kept Steven Tyler in the dark about that. Don’t know about the other two judges. I presume they were in on it to help sell the birthday surprise for Tyler that came next.

The Hulk Hogan appearance was pure gold. Yeah, I hate wrestling, too, but to see James collapse with that big a smile on his face was fun.

The whole show tonight had the air of a season finale, with surprise after surprise.

And speaking of collapses — I was nearly certain we were going to have our first live on-air casualty on reality TV. Casey is not a well man. He’s been in and out of the hospital a couple of times since the series began. I think they’ve officially blamed stomach issues. I thought Ryan was giving him a heart attack tonight. It was almost uncomfortable to watch.

Also, I presume they reset the seven second delay at each commercial break? Those contestants all have quite the potty-mouths. Lots of audio drop-outs tonight, and they didn’t come from Steven Tyler’s seat.

Also, it’s nice of the producers to put a silver box around the bare speakers that sit atop the judges’ table now. I don’t know if they’ve been there all season, but I first noticed them last week. Those two big black boxes looked a little unfinished. I guess they need them at the judges table with the contestants using in-ears so there isn’t any feedback or something? Don’t remember seeing them there before, ever. The judges have always said that it can be tough to judge the live performances with all the audience noise, so maybe those speakers are there to help?

In any case, great results show tonight. Looking forward to next week now. Will they be eliminating two contestants next week, still?

Now, the only question is, did they do the right thing in saving Casey? I’ve championed him in the past, but to be honest, I’m not sure it was such a good idea. They should have saved it in case something tragic happened like Pia landing at the bottom due to fan complacency. Or what about Jacob or James? Should Casey win this whole thing? No. He’s entertaining, but he’s not the Idol. Ditto Paul McDonald, who might be the weakest guy, vocally, though he’s always interesting to watch and had a very good song this week.

And just when can we rid ourselves of this year’s most annoying contestant, Haley?