American Idol: Mark LaBriola gets the Heisman, Haeley Vaughn advances and the rest, well ...?

Did you catch Idol last night? Cripes, How annoying was that? Just this side of insufferable, really. Still Hollywood week. Group day: The whole concept is counter-intuitive. Idol, like golf, is an individual sport, right? So what's the point of lumping the contestants together? We're guessing it's for the sake of creating faux unwarranted dramatic tension.

Unfortunately, though, it was more tedious than tense. Watching the starry-eyed hopefuls trying to pull together routines in the midst of domineering personalities and unfounded ego clashes (they're all sheep being led to the slaughter, for chrissakes) as the clock ticked was simply exhausting. An makeshift, impromptu glee club sans the glee.

And the subsequent performances, which were all permeated, of course, by a thick air of longing and trepidation, were only made palatable by witnessing the dependably surly contempt of Cowell. Only this time around, his scorn seems less inspired by the contestants and more by the process. Cowell, it seems, can't barely muster the energy these days to hand down a proper insult. "There isn't going to be any of this step forward business," he chirped at one point. "It was horrific."

You can say that again. Watching the consecutive pile-ups as one group after another spun out of control on Gwen Stefani's baseball stadium anthem "Sweet Escape," was cringe inducing. And we only had to endure group day for the better part of an hour. Can't imagine what is was like for Cowell and company killing an entire day sitting on the other side of the table. Not for nothing, but that girl who bailed before her crew even took the stage -- she was on to something, we think.

All right, now on to the dramatic centerpieces: First up, a dude named Big Mike (C'mon now, is there any other adjective that goes with that name? Seriously. A drinking game could be created with the number of people who answer to that -- and that's just in Denver!) breathlessly awaiting the birth of his child, tethered to his beloved by a wireless phone, fueled all the while by the uncertainty of whether or not he would realize his chance to move on and become the next AMERICAN IDOL.

Spoiler alert: He does. Move on, that is.

The same cannot be said, unfortunately, for Mark LaBriola from Aurora and the parade of other dejected teary-eyed also rans. While the girl with the eyeliner smudged all over her cheeks kind of cracked us up, we genuinely empathized for Jason Cain's Bizarro World doppleganger (who, incidently, has some decent K-Love-worthy Christian pop posted on MySpace page) when he lobbied them (unsuccessfully) to give him another chance. "This is it for me," he croaked despairingly. "I don't get to come back next year!"

Can't tell you if LaBriola's local counterparts suffered the same fate. Although Haeley Vaughn got another nod, we didn't see hide nor hair of Lilly Scott -- except when they showed her pogoing emphatically in response to one group's performance. Wish we knew why Scott hasn't garnered more face time. That girl's got some serious pipes. Tayler Bledsoe and Blake Marvin, meanwhile -- faces on a milk carton. American Idle, apparently.

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera