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The devil makes work for Idol (stage)hands

NEW SET! American Idol, ITV2, 8.00pm

American IdolHow peculiar - we'd assumed that the Idol-on-Thursdays thing was temporary, for the auditions, at first. Then we assumed it would be just while the semi-finals were on, to save trying to screen everything until the wee hours of Saturday morning. And yet, what fuckery is this? ITV2 are carrying it on right the way through to the competition proper, with the main performance show on Thursday and the results on a Friday. Not that we object to getting the main show a day sooner than we're used to, since we're usually champing at the bit by this point anyway, but it does rather play havoc with our tradition of coming back from work on a Friday night, ordering a takeaway and collapsing on the sofa for an excess of American Idol. Nonetheless, we must learn to adjust.

There are many things to be excited about on Top 12 night (which is tonight, by the way):

- After aeons of trying, the producers have finally secured the rights to the Lennon/McCartney back catalogue. Um, yay?
- There's a new set, which is apparently so elaborate that it only just fits into the studio; the hardworking tech people have done their utmost to get it in and working to a punishing deadline, and apparently are now fretting how they're going to get it out again for the Grand Finale in May, which is held elsewhere.
- Season five runner up (and lowculture favourite) Katharine McPhee is appearing on tomorrow's results show, having been somewhat snubbed last season
- Someone always forgets the lyrics at this point every year - in season five Melissa McGhee ended up singing "hope my redeliction nishes" to Stevie Wonder's 'Lately', and last year Brandon Rogers and Haley Scarnato fell victim to marblemouth disease. Where will the virus strike next?

Obviously we don't get a say in the voting, but that doesn't mean we don't get a say in who sucks and who rocks. And handily, the lovely and talented forum poster al has compiled this cut-out-and-keep* guide to the Top 12 of 2008, where we've added a few thoughts of our own:

"The auditions, the Hollywood juncture, and the ever-peculiar Top 24 episodes have been and gone, and we’re down to the live finals. And the final list has thrown up a few surprises, or more fittingly, surprise omissions. Mind you, Danny Noriega’s finger-snapping and Valley Girl cadence were never going to trigger dialling-induced RSI around the Bible Belt, whilst Asia’h Epperson frankly paid the price for displaying the revered American institution of nonsensical forename apostrophe use normally reserved for Ricki Lake guests.

So what are we left with? According to Ryan Seacrest, the most talented Top 12 in the history of American Idol. Meh. What does he know? Hey, fancy a significantly less obsequious rundown of who to put your money on..?

Ramiele Malubay
RamieleAiming to go one better than fellow Filipina finalist Jasmine Trias (you remember her, all Hawaiian flowers and twee), Ramiele’s quite the belter, and more importantly, managed to get Simon Cowell on side early on. But then again, so did Raquelle from Hope, and it’ll be a dowdy day in Sinitta’s wardrobe before we hear from that one again.

David Cook
David CookPseudo-rocker whose inexplicably thick neck makes him appear deceptively fat. Having already gotten Cowell’s back up with a textbook “I’m not doing this for you, I’m doing this for America! Yeah!! U-S-A! U-S-A!” retort, it looked unlikely that David’s brand of watery McRawk would take him very far, until a surprisingly decent take on Lionel Richie’s 'Hello'. No, really. (Though he really needs to finish following Chris Daughtry's example and get rid of that awful combover by shaving his damn head altogether. - Steve)

David Hernandez
David HernandezBarman and go-go boy (if the internet is to be believed – and when has it ever been unreliable?) from Arizona, it seems Middle America is experiencing a second dose of Antonella Barba Syndrome and are up in arms at the mere idea of previous nudity. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to detract from an admirable confidence and impressive vocals (though the overplucked eyebrows go some way to managing it).

Brooke White
BrookeWholesome, virginal Disney princess with a substantial talent. As happy to bang away at a piano or strum a guitar as she is trilling like a nightingale, Brooke musically bridges the gap between Karen Carpenter and Alicia Keys. And as her in-show USP was that she’s never seen a porno, she’s got the Christian vote if nothing else. A strong contender for the Top 3. (And for what it's worth, she's my favourite contestant this year, which means that she almost certainly will not win. - Steve)

Carly Smithson
CarlyTattoo parlour proprietor from Cork, who has had America’s gums flapping over the fact she released a major label album in 2001, a chunk of which went on to be recycled and caterwauled by Kelly Clarkson. Apparently, this also means she’s been shagging all three judges, founded freemasonry, and shot JFK. Still, ‘controversy’ aside, Carly displays the most impressive pipes in the contest. Cailín maith!

Chikezie
ChikezieSerial auditionee who finally made it to a stage where anyone begins to give a crap. Powerful voice and killer stage presence are nullified by atrocious velvet suits, and that’s before you even consider Simon Cowell’s ongoing habit of calling him “Jacuzzi”. Accidentally, of course, and not for the purposes of contrived televisual hilarity.

Kristy Lee Cook
KristyDainty country ‘n’ western songbird with little else of note. Simon has already decreed Kristy will be hard pushed to make it beyond the Top 10, so we shouldn’t have to endure her quarter-arsed LeAnn Rimes schtick for much longer. If only the same could be said about the blubbery scutter bellowing 'Love Machine' in the Chicago Town sponsorship bumpers.

Amanda Overmyer
AmandaSomewhere between Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin as performed by Cheryl Baker, nurse Amanda boasts a seasoned rock growl, comedy scat vocals, clumsy stage-trudging and hair like a petrified skunk. By far and away the most unique contestant, but America would be more likely to deport Oprah than crown Amanda their next Idol. (And I'm waiting for just the right occasion to crack an "Overmyer dead body!" joke. - Steve)

David Archuleta
David ArchuletaChannelling a particularly squidgy compound of early Gareth Gates and a Labrador puppy, make way for a nation of females reaching screenwards to pinch his cheeks. In fairness, he also possesses one of the competition’s best voices, so expect a landslide victory followed by a lukewarm second album and a lengthy spell in drug rehab.

Michael Johns
MichaelWhile Carly flies the Irish flag, the considerably-gifted Michael Johns is the second contestant threatening to be a non-American American Idol. Hailing from Australia, Randy’s already likened him to Michael Hutchence. We’d have dismissed this as a lazy comparison relating solely to geography, though given it came off the back of a Simple Minds cover, it seems Paula’s been sharing her sweeties around the judging table.

Jason Castro
JasonDreadlocked muso who’s previously snuck into the spotlight as co-bumper-of-uglies with tweenage Lilith Fair fodder and MTV reality urchin, Cheyenne Kimball. Jason certainly displays a sizeable talent behind the mic, yet appears incapable of stringing a sentence together. Still, seeing Ryan Seacrest try to cope with the awkwardness of a one-word answer guarantees a few chuckles.

Syesha Mercado
SyeshaClaims to be an actress, though a glimpse at her CV suggests she’s been as much of an actress as Jordan has a recording artist. Nevertheless, Florida native Syesha boasts a genial quirk, a decent pair of lungs, and one hell of a barnet. Additionally, she’s already got a hefty online army of supporters calling themselves “Faneshas”, which may well be the most gag-inducing name for a collective since “Fearne & Reggie”."

*lowculture accepts no responsibility for damage caused to your monitor or other technological equipment by foolishly attempting to cut out a page of the internet. We mean, really.

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According to Marxist theory, cultural forms such as opera, classical music and the literary works of Shakespeare all fall under the heading of high culture. Low culture refers to a wide variety of cultural themes that are characterised by their consumption by the masses. We might not be Marxists, but we do know we loved Footballers Wives. If you do too, you'll know what this is all about.

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