"American Idol": Jessica Sanchez saved by judges on crazy, crazy night

AMERICAN IDOL: Jessica Sanchez is saved on AMERICAN IDOL airing Thursday, April 12, (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. L-R: Jessica Sanchez, Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Seacrest (R). CR: Carin Baer / FOX.
Jessica Sanchez is saved on "American Idol," April 12, 2012.

(CBS News) There was the smallest inkling that this might be the week when the "American Idol" judges would bring out their save. They only had a couple of weeks left to use it.

The truly entertaining element of Thursday's night's results show was who was anointed with their indulgence.

It was kind of Ryan Seacrest not to begin the show trying to sell any potential shocks. It made what followed a little more delicious.

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After the group "singing", we spent a while watching the contestants opening their mail - yes, of the snail variety. We had a jewelry moment, too, with Elise Testone slipping a very fetching earring onto Steven Tyler. It was good of him to have his hair pulled back for the occasion.

First to have the lights dimmed upon them were Hollie Cavanagh and Jessica Sanchez.

Of Cavanagh, Uncle Jimmy Iovine said: "Hollie has learned a lot of habits that make her look stiff and calculated."

Sanchez, on the other hand, is utterly natural. At least in Iovine's clear eyes.

Cavanagh was sent to one side of the stage, Sanchez to the other. Surely you remember this. Seacrest leaves it for the masses (or the lone, odd-numbered contestant) to guess which group is safe and which has been deemed potentially surplus to requirements.

James Durbin - last year's fine, sincere metalhead - entertained in his own style. He seems to have joined an "Idol" fan club. Billy Idol, that is. His blond hair, short and pert, allowed his screams to emerge healthily from his mouth without obstruction.

Phillip Phillips and Elise Testone were next to be invited - and then, surely, divided.

Iovine described them both as "character singers." Phillips, he said, was so influenced by Dave Matthews that any song he sang effectively became a Matthews cover version. Testone, too, was good but not that good. Iovine had them both in the bottom three.

But they were divided. Phillips was sent to sit with Cavanagh. Testone joined Sanchez.

Jennifer Hudson and Ne-Yo tried to create a pleasant interlude for the nervous nation. Hudson has won more significant awards than any "Idol" alumna. She has an Oscar and a Grammy. Yet she never got anywhere near the final two of "Idol." She came seventh in 2004. What greater beacon of hope could there be for the worried?

Colton Dixon and Joshua Ledet were next to hear their verdict. Iovine deemed that both of them had done well in their performances. Ledet was sent to Sanchez and Testone. Dixon, to the other side. What could this possibly mean? Surely Cavanagh's had been the weakest performance of Wednesday night.

Finally, Skylar Laine. Iovine is afraid that Laine could get left behind. He feels many people miss her subtleties. However, she was immediately told she was safe. But then she was asked to pick the group that she thought comprised the saved.

She refused. Seacrest put her with Dixon, Cavanagh and Phillips. Clearly, all the little girls in pink pajamas had kept Dixon and Phillips alive. All of Texas - and all of her family's native Liverpool, England, perhaps - must have voted for Cavanagh.

Ledet, Testone and Sanchez were the bottom three. Iovine was stunned. He said he must need a new flat-screen, as this didn't reflect any truth he had ever seen.

"This is a ridiculous bottom three," added Randy Jackson. Tyler simply declared that the judges would use their save. So what were we still doing, baring our angst at our own flat-screens?

Nevertheless, Testone and Sanchez were told they were the bottom two. Extraordinarily, it was Sanchez who was asked to sing for her life. (But not really.)

The judges only allowed her a few bars before mounting the stage. Jennifer Lopez grabbed the mic. She said: "This is crazy." Well, indeed.

Jackson took the mic from her: "We are saving Jessica Sanchez without a doubt."

He then begged America to please vote for the best. But was the alleged voting really all that crazy? Sanchez is a 16-year-old who doesn't necessarily appeal to little girls. She isn't Miley Cyrus. She's a little bit too focused. She's desperately trying to be older than she is. She wears her ambitions atop her very high heels. She doesn't have a repository of silly. Worse, she keeps talking about having worked all her life. Who says that at 16?

It may well be that the little girl voters just don't relate to her at all. This isn't a singing competition. This is a popularity contest.

On the other hand, it could be anything. Reality shows don't reveal the numbers of the votes. They don't reveal how close it all was. They don't reveal too much at all about the voting process. There is always the suspicion with every reality show that puppeteers are playing out a script.

Now that we are done with the save, the show must go on. Here's something to remember, as you breathe your own sigh of relief - the average age of an "American Idol" viewer is 48. How many 48-year-olds do you think are sitting up and voting countless times for their favorites? If only Fox would tell us.

  • 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.