After a two-week hiatus, American Idol returned Sunday and kicked off with the most anticlimactic resolution of the least suspenseful cliffhanger in TV history: when host Ryan Seacrest announced that last season’s runner-up, Arthur Gunn, had won the “Comeback” round and secured a spot in this season’s top 10. Yeah, that wasn’t exactly a cliffhanger of “Who Shot J.R.?” proportions. But if I can make yet another Dallas reference here, producers really should contemplate cold-opening next week’s Idol show with a scene of Bobby Ewing soaping up in the shower, assuring furious viewers that this week’s controversial top seven result was just a bad dream.
Allow me to recap what’s been going on with American Idol for those of you who didn’t watch the above-mentioned Comeback episode — which is probably most of you, since it was the series’ lowest-rated episode ever. Yes, it even did worse than the mid-season clip show that was hastily cobbled together last year while the coronavirus-derailed show pivoted to a virtual/remote format. So, when 10 of the contestants from last year’s pandemic season (including Arthur) returned in person for a second chance, on April 19’s Comeback show, it did not go over well with the fans who actually did watch. Most of those Season 18 contestants, aside from Arthur and Louis Knight, didn’t even make it into last year’s top 10. And while Louis’s Comeback performance was arguably stronger than Arthur’s lazy Goo Goo Dolls cover, the fact that Arthur ultimately won the vote anyway proved that this had just been a silly popularity contest.
And so, that brings us to this week — when Arthur, as expected, joined this season’s top nine. Those nine singers didn’t exactly welcome him with open arms, and not just because of social-distancing protocols on the Idol stage. Sure, no one could blame Arthur for seizing an opportunity to finally perform on that stage, instead of in his living room. But no one could blame the Season 19 contestants for being resentful that he’d basically stolen a spot from the singer who would’ve likely made the top 10 under normal circumstances, Ava August. Arthur even looked a bit guilty and chagrined, as if reluctant to appear too celebratory, as he sat with his sullen new costars on the set’s sofas. And the situation became even more awkward at the end of the evening, when Arthur was voted through to the top seven — thus taking a spot from either Deshawn Goncalves, Alyssa Ray, or Cassandra Coleman, all of whom went home after giving excellent Disney performances.
Twitter was not the Happiest Place Online after this controversial outcome. And viewers did not seem to agree with judge Katy Perry, who was all dolled up for Sunday’s theme episode in Tinkerbell cosplay, that this was “the best night of the year!” (And that was a shame, because I’d actually say this was overall the best Disney Night since the series moved to ABC.)
Again, this backlash was not Arthur’s fault (the blame lies with the producers, who thought this “biggest shakeup in Idol history” was such a fabulous idea in the first place). And Arthur’s “bright…