"American Idol" elimination: Blame the viewers or the judges?

Pia Toscano is eliminated on "American Idol," April 7, 2011.
Michael Becker/FOX
Pia Toscano is eliminated on "American Idol," April 7, 2011.

(CBS) You always know the results show will be full of amusement when host Ryan Seacrest promises a shock within his first five breaths.

A shock? What could this be? Would Casey Abrams finally pass out? Would Stefano Langone find a decent stylist? Pia Toscano wouldn't be out, would she? No, that would be ridiculous.

As it turned out, the proficient but ballad-crazed Toscano stared into space, begging for a save from on high, as there was none left down low.

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Could it be that she didn't find enough older ladies to vote for her? After all, her very traditional act wasn't exactly the sort of thing James Durbin's fans might have enjoyed.

Or could it be that the judges simply didn't do their job?

Some viewers might have felt on Wednesday that they had stumbled into a strange psychological reinforcement class somewhere in Marin County, Calif. Egos were being soothed, stroked, oiled and lifted, as if this was the Hollywood Aspiring Singers Spa and Clinic.

It seemed that every performer was "in it to win it". It seemed that every performer was wonderful. Not to mention beautiful. So, for those at home, it might have been difficult to discern what the experts thought at all.

Naturally, it's possible that Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson all talk in a lissome code. It may well be that when Jennifer Lopez told Pia Toscano to study the great performers, what she was really telling her is that she needed to be more sexy. A lot more sexy.

And it may well be that this was the only piece of judging that influenced those at home.

Those who come from Eastern parts might have almost confused this judging panel for the Politburo. There was no one who seemed to be prepared to take off their shoe and bang it on the table to offer a direct opinion.

They nod their heads - or bow them - and fawn.

It doesn't necessarily mean that everyone in America is hankering after Simon Cowell - though the launch of his new talent show will offer a simmering contrast in judging style. But if the judges are meant to be a guide, an indicator of who might have performed at their peak and who might have stretched beyond the range of their talents, can they really be said to be doing their jobs?

Russell Brand, in a brief appearance desperately flogging his new movie "Arthur", suggested that to be a great performer you had to "take your clothes off." Every performer has to find a way to make an impact on an audience that is jaded by so much media, so many songs, so many supposed stars.

The judges are there to help these young kids find a way to cut through this clutter - to take their clothes off. They are surely also there to be some sort of guide for the viewers at home.

Instead, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez have seemed more concerned with being nice than either objective - or subjective. Even when Randy Jackson offered Stefano Langone the mildest of criticisms Wednesday, he pulled such an embarrassed face, as if he had suddenly realized he had mislaid his pants.

Toscano, who was dressed Thursday in a purposely sexed-up black, seemed stunned that she was even in the bottom three. And if you watched Steven Tyler's lips very closely, he mouthed that this was "f----d up."

After presenting the lukewarm talents of former Idol contestant, Constantine Maroulis, the show filled up with a visit to TMZ, so that the contestants could learn a little more about creating a profile.

But, as the superb Jacob Lusk was also thrust into the bottom three, perhaps some at home might still have been wondering if it was Tyler and his fellow judges who had messed by not offering anything that remotely suggested real criticism.

The show's tension was cheerily increased by the sight of Iggy Pop, who has assisted his continued fame by, indeed, taking his clothes off. But there were surely still enough who believed that it would be Langone, not unfamiliar with the bottom three, who would be ousted.

Seacrest tried to prolong the agony like a dominatrix being paid double time. He told Lusk that he would be "leaving go back to the couches."

When Seacrest dropped the painful news upon Toscano, she clearly couldn't believe what was happening. She looked almost resentful.

"I'm shocked. I'm angry," muttered Lopez, through tears.

"A mistake is one thing. A lack of passion is another," offered Tyler, somewhat cryptically. Some might say that it was judges' lack of passion that influenced things here.

Perhaps, though, it was merely that too many people at home thought that Toscano - and Lusk - were obviously safe, so why bother casting a vote.

It was left to Toscano to sing "I'll Stand By You". The viewers didn't stand by her. Some might wonder whether the judges, regretfully, also lay down.

  • Chris Matyszczyk

    Chris has been a multi award-winning executive creative director with some of the most celebrated advertising agencies in the world. His creative work has been recognized at the Cannes Advertising Festival, the New York Festivals, Clio, the One Show, as well as many other festivals around the world. His writing has appeared in such publications as the Financial Times, the European, the Sacramento Bee and The Singapore Press Holdings Group.

    He currently advises major global companies about content creation and marketing, through his company Howard Raucous LLC.

    He brings an irreverent, sarcastic, and sometimes ironic voice to the tech world.