- - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

‘American Idol’ kicks off with men’s performances

Jermaine Jones has a second shot at becoming an “American Idol.”

The 25-year-old so-called “gentle giant” of Pine Hill, N.J., was given a last-minute spot among the male semifinalists Tuesday after the Fox singing contest’s judges had dismissed him in Las Vegas. Mr. Jones was lauded for his bass-fueled take on Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father” during Tuesday’s performances from the 13 male semifinalists.

“Thank you so much for proving why we asked you to come back,” judge Steven Tyler said.

Many of the guys were praised by the panel after crooning a song of their choice, including 27-year-old new father Adam Brock of Washington, Penn., with Aretha Franklin’s “Think,” 20-year-old musician Colton Dixon of Murfreesboro, Tenn., with Paramore’s “Decode,” and 28-year-old street performer Creighton Fraker of New York, with Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.”

“I don’t want you to go home,” judge Jennifer Lopez told Mr. Fraker. “I want you to stay.”

Several singers soared with vocal acrobatics, including 19-year-old receptionist Jeremy Rosado of Valrico, Fla., with Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity,” 19-year-old crawfish lover Joshua Ledet of Westlake, La., with Jennifer Hudson’s “You Pulled Me Through,” and 17-year-old student Deandre Brackensick of San Jose, Calif., with Earth Wind & Fire’s “Reasons.”

The curvy new “Idol” stage seemed to swallow a couple of contestants. Only 22-year-old vocalist Heejun Han of New York and 15-year-old Eben Franckewitz of Loveland, Ohio, received criticism from the judges. They disapproved of Mr. Han’s song choice of Robbie Williams’ “Angels” and chastised Eben for a rocky start on Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain.”

“It wasn’t all perfect, but at the end, you really brought it home,” judge Randy Jackson told the youngster.

The top 12 female singers were to perform Wednesday, and then all 25 semifinalists will learn Thursday if they received enough votes to be among the viewer-selected top 10 or one of the three “wild-card” finalists to be determined by the show’s judges.

‘Awake’ keeps viewers guessing at reality

NBC’s new drama “Awake” has the kind of intricate, high-concept premise that can test viewers — but that’s nothing compared with what its producers face.

Howard Gordon, a master at juggling challenging plots (“24” and “The X-Files” among them), puts it flatly: “I learned nothing, and nothing I experienced prepared for me this.

“This is a vehicle that no one has driven before and has no operating instructions.”

The series, debuting at 10 p.m. Thursday, stars Jason Isaacs as police Detective Michael Britten, a man living in two worlds. A car accident has claimed a family member’s life: his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen), in one, and his teenage son, Rex (Dylan Minnette), in another.

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