(CBS) As the last 10 fortunate souls were chosen to be part of the top 24 on "American Idol" last night, money might have been on their minds. Steven Tyler's bare bottom surely was not. However, the latter might have eclipsed anyone's thoughts of the former.
Still, please try and expunge the thought of pale, male rear-flesh for the moment. I will return to it. Instead, let's focus on the contrast between the one percent and the 99 percent on this slightly paling show.
Jennifer Lopez, so rumor has it, is being paid $20 million for this series. Will any of these hopefuls hope to make even five percent of that in their whole careers?
Wednesday night, we left hanging on a cliff with 27-year-old Adam Brock. He was already weeping, already wondering whether he would be able to provide a fine, new life for his wife and tiny daughter.
"I love to watch a grown man cry," said Steven Tyler, as we returned to the scene. For a moment, he made Brock believe that the axe was already tickling his neck, ready to take its chunk of sinew. But then, aw shucks, he received good news. Naturally, after what seemed like a whole night (it was for us) waiting, Brock collapsed to the floor, as if he had been the first unseeded player ever to win Wimbledon.
Jeremy Rosado, 19, was the first - finally - to not be given the dramatic treatment. His last audition, which he performed while sporting a strikingly yellow tongue, brought the three judges to their feet. Would they have the gall to tease him when they announced their verdict?
"It was transcendental," declared Lopez. You see, it takes $20 million for you to feel confident enough to call someone transcendental to their excited face, while keeping yours straight.
Shannon Magrane, barely 16, had an effect on Lopez in her audition. "Goosies!" squealed the diva, while stretching out her arms to prove that little lumps had formed upon them.
Again, Tyler found a sudden humaneness and decided not to extend the entertainment. Magrane was anointed and she kept promising that she wouldn't let the judges down. If, somehow, she failed to fulfill her enormous promise, would Lopez have to give back a portion of her $20 million? One imagines not.
Scott Dangerfield, a man with a wobbly voice who wobbled out of "Idol" last year, surely wouldn't wobble out again. He had been one of Lopez's favorites a year ago.
She now looked at him like an ex-boyfriend. With her eyes colder than an Icelander's nose at Christmas, she told him: "I never felt that same thing that I felt the first time."
Skylar Laine, the little country girl from the deep country of Mississippi, was desperate to jump in the piranha waters around this bizarre set. Because she was out? No, because she was in.
Deandre Brackensick was another who had been dumped at this stage last year. But this time, Lopez declared that she and her fellow (and, allegedly, lesser paid) judges would be "crazy" not to let him move on.
It all risked seeming a little bland, so the cameras focused on the meltdown being enjoyed by Jermaine Jones, the large momma's boy with the deep, deep voice. While waiting for his moment in the interview chair, he began to weep, to fret, to despair and to fall into the torment of a depressive at a wake.
When he came to the island chair, he was told he had been inconsistent. His left eye lost control and allowed a large tear to course down his face. Lopez looked at him and said: "Jermaine." Then she told him he was the greatest basso profundo since Barry White.
Actually, no. For the next thing we saw was the "Idol" logo declaring we would now pause for a commercial break.
When we returned, Jones - whose chest was adorned with a Christian logo and one from Ralph Lauren - was told he was gone. While he left the island and fell into his mother's large arms, Lopez, in her "Little Mermaid" dress, bowed her head, desperate not to be seen crying.
So we were left with three girls and two boys. And only two places.
Holly, Shelby and Arielle were the three teenagers who had seemingly wafted here straight from the set of some Disney kids show in which they sang with dolphins.
Holly Cavanaugh was told she was through. The other two, who were forced to witness her joy, broke down as if a burglar had broken into their house, expressly to steal their dolls. Worse, we then had to watch the happy mother hug her successful child right next to the two other parents consoling theirs. As a spectacle, it was right up there with a bikini top on a man.
Last children standing were David Leathers Jr. and Eben Franckewitz - the former a very young-looking 17, the latter almost too angelic to be an altar boy. They sat there, as JLo channeled her finest schoolmarm and explained that there were two of them and only one remaining spot. She asked them to "do the math." One half expected them to be given pieces of paper and a calculator.
Franckewitz prevailed. Leathers gritted his teeth to stop himself from biting someone.
"I'm glad that s---'s over," Lopez said when all was done. Now that was $20 million worth of truth.
And yet the producers need you to keep watching. So, right at the very end, Ryan Seacrest announced that one more boy would be going through. Why? Who knows? Who cares? But you'll all have to tune in next Tuesday. Because it's exciting.
But enough about the poor pretenders, what about that gross ending? Well, Tyler, for no reason whatsoever, decided that he would jump in the piranha pool. So he stripped off his shirt and pants, to reveal splendidly tasteless black Vanson underwear. Could this have been an ad? Perhaps. Still, displaying his moobs for all watching their tubes, he mooned the camera and leaped in with the words: "I'm coming, Mom."
Beat that, "The Voice."
Your full list of finalists (So far):
MEN: Creighton Fraker, Joshua Ledet, Reed Grimm, Heejun Han, Phil Phillips Jr., Colton Dixon, Adam Brock, Aaron Marcellus, Eben Franckewitz, Chase Likens, Jeremy Rosado, Deandre Brackensick.
WOMEN: Jen Hirsh, Haley Johnson, Elise Testone, Erika Van Pelt, Chelsea Sorrell, Baylie Brown, Jessica Sanchez, Brielle Von Hugel, Hallie Day, Shannon Magrane, Hollie Cavanaugh, Skylar Laine.