Notes after the jump ...
I have at least one major reservation about the current season of "Idol," in the ongoing promotion of Carly Smithson, whose professional background is both considerable and well documented.
[ADDENDUM, WEDNESDAY MORNING: My colleague and friend Alan Sepinwall has made a reasonable argument that "Idol" could put aside some of the concerns about too many professionals simply by disclosing their backgrounds on the air and in cast bios. After all, he notes, the ringers mean that we're going to hear a lot more good singers this year.
[Every now and then the show has acknowledged some pro connections, such as one contestant's boy-band past, but it still seems more comfortable with a pretense of amateurism. And I would be less uncomfortable if the show practiced full disclosure with the contestants. But the Smithson situation will bother me even if the show comes clean; I can't tell you exactly where the line is that I don't want "Idol" to cross, but she seems to be on the wrong side of it. Even if she is a very good singer. And now back to the earlier post.]
That said, the two-hour reduction of the cast -- with the top 24 to be announced on Wednesday -- was very well done, especially for a show notorious for padding.
No group sings. Almost no scenes of the wild overnight rehearsals. No bickering among singers. Instead, lots of vocals, judge comments and the occasional personal story. It kept me attentive throughout.
Making me even more optimistic about what is to come: Some of the people eliminated were good, or had compelling stories, and that didn't keep them around. Sure, there were others whose continued survival is a bit puzzling. But "Idol" seems genuinely intent on assembling an eclectic group of really good singers.
And Biker Nurse is still in it.