April 14, 2011: ‘American Idol’ Punts Paul McDonald on Elimination Night

Fox, 8 PM (ET), April 14. 2011 “American Idol” dropkicked Paul McDonald back to Nashville on tonight’s elimination program. (The daughter and friend Emmie Futrell actually know the young man slightly.) There were also musical performances by Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldini, Rihanna and contestants Lauren Alaina and Scott McReery, dueting on a Lady Antebellum song, Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams on a jazz number, and James (Durbin), Jacob (Lusk), Stefano (Langone) and Paul (McDonald) singing Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence.”

Rob Reiner also dropped by to chat with the contestants, declaring himself “a big fan.” Rob Reiner once hugged me at a Howard Dean rally. He is a veritable bear of a man. He hugged a few of the contestants, as well. He’s the sort of guy who does hugs well. Near the end of his remarks, Reiner declared himself happy to be the oldest and baldest one on the stage. He also ad-libbed a reasonable facsimile of the theme song from “Chariots of Fire,” a capella. (Way to go!)

With 53 million votes cast after Wednesday’s performance, the lowest three vote-getters came down to Stefano Langone, Haley Reinhart and Paul McDonald. While I had expected the first two, I actually enjoyed Paul’s up-tempo number (“Old Time Rock ‘N Roll”) more than almost any other song performed on Wednesday night’s show, but, after Pia Toscano was kicked off last week, everybody is at risk and I even wondered if Casey Abrams (arguably the best of the bunch) might, once again, end up in the bottom three because he sang a very old Nat King Cole song, “Nature Boy.” (over the advice of handlers Jimmy Iovine and Will. i.am.).

Fortunately, Casey’s return to the bottom three did not happen. Paul’s departure in the not-too-distant future was a foregone conclusion; I’m just happy it wasn’t Haley Reinhart, who received the harshest criticism of the night on Wednesday from the judges.

I would not rest too easy were I Stefano (Langone) or Haley (Reinhart), however, as their presence in the bottom three seems to be a weekly occurrence. Jimmy Kimmel did a hilarious skit involving the 13-year-old girls he claims are the bulk of the voters for “American Idol.” While not necessarily agreeing with Kimmel’s conclusions, the skit was actually funny and it does point up a problem with the “let the audience decide” method. All audience demographic groups are not represented. Young teen-age girls do rule the roost, (which I pointed out in the discussion of Pia’s dismissal.

At least the 2 remaining girls still remain in the competition, and that is a good thing.