Two episodes ago, American Idol Season 18 country contenders Grace Leer and Lauren Mascitti were sitting pretty in postcard-pretty Hawaii — way less than six feet apart, holding hands — as they found out that viewers would decide which one of them would advance to the top 20. So, it must have been difficult this Sunday for both women to learn the result of that tie-breaker vote while self-quarantining — Grace in San Ramon, Calif., Lauren in Nashville — as host Ryan Seacrest revealed the news from his home in Los Angeles.
“During this uncertain time, we’re committed to bringing some sense of normalcy, some sense of community and hope, through the stories of our contestants,” Ryan declared at the start of Sunday’s part two American Idol: This Is Me special, which featured unseen footage of Grace, Lauren, and some of the other hopefuls who’d already learned their fate back when the “Final Judgment” Hawaii episodes were taped this past January.
“And their journey is about to take a historic turn, because next Sunday, this competition will continue, as the top 20 compete for your vote with epic performances,” Ryan continued — referring to last week’s official bombshell announcement that the rest of this Idol season will be conducted remotely, starting April 26, due to coronavirus concerns.
While it still confuses me that Idol producers didn’t think there was room for two female country singers in the competition — when this season’s top 20 boasts two female singer-songwriters, eight male singer-songwriter types, and eight female pop divas — that was their executive decision. And, as it turned out, America’s decision was… Grace. (She was my pick too, but I feel both women could and should have made the cut.)
Ryan read this result under “unbelievable circumstances” and admitted that he was as nervous as the contestants, saying, “I’ve never done anything like this.” Grace was understandably excited, as her mother sprinted into the living room to give her a congratulatory hug, but she also seemed frustrated that she could only virtually embrace her friend Lauren from thousands of miles away. “I wish I could hug you! I love you! I love you so much. I’m going to make country proud, I promise,” Grace told Lauren through tears.
So, now Grace is through... but not “through to Hollywood,” of course, because she will be sheltering in place in San Ramon while continuing to compete for America’s votes. As the credits rolled Sunday, we caught a glimpse of what appeared to be other top 20 contestants’ already-submitted home performances for next week. These clips varied in production value (some of them could have definitely benefited from a ring light) — which only compounds my concerns regarding just how “epic” these performances will be, and just how even the playing field will be for contestants of different genres and ages with different degrees of experience, wealth, and technological know-how.
But as Ryan emphatically promised, “We are determined to stay on the air from home, in the safest possible way” — and, so, I am determined to see this landmark season through to the bittersweet end as well.
“Be here as we come to you from our contestants’, judges’, and my home, in 25 different locations across North America, as you witness television history,” Ryan stated as he teased next week’s “must-see, first-time Idol event. … Remember, this is where you create superstars. And this is American Idol.”
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