It seems that without Simon Cowell on the dais, the American Idol judges are reluctant to give a judgment on anything.

This season already had the most contestants make it through to Hollywood Week ever - about twice the regular amount. And on Thursday night, they reluctantly dwindled the last 100 contestants down to the Top... Five Dozen?

Yes, instead of making the cut to the Top 24 at the end of Hollywood Week - as has been the custom in recent years - the judges said they struggled even whittling the remaining contestants down to what appeared to be about 60.

This means we will have to wait until next week when the contestants try not to butcher The Beatles' catalog and the judges get yet another opportunity to cut the Idol field to 24.

And from the preview clips at the end of Thursday night's show, it appears that we'll have to sit through even more pointless group performances before that happens.

Fun.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the season (only two blogs ago), I was worried that Idol would lose its edge without Cowell. But I never expected that his replacements wouldn't be able to make a decision between them.

Cashier: Paper or plastic?

Randy: Yeah dawg, way to bring it!

J. Lo: Does my butt look big in these pants?

Cashier: Umm...

Steven: This one time, in Reno...

Even worse, the trio of judges sent through at least two Idol contestants - Ashley Sullivan and Scotty McCreery - who "bombed" their solos by committing the Idol no-no of forgetting the lyrics to their songs.

And country boy McCreery even admitted after he destroyed a song in his own wheelhouse - Lee Ann Womack's sappy country hit "I Hope You Dance" - that he did not deserve to advance. "I don't deserve to be here. The only reason to keep me in here is my deep voice," he said. He was right.

Sullivan tried to calm her manic nerves by reading from the book "Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul." But, as usual, she burst into tears after her performance. This time for losing the lyrics to Michael Buble's "Everything" - a song she said she sings to her boyfriend all the time. Poor guy.

After exiting the stage, Sullivan immediately started bawling as she was met by a waiting Ryan Seacrest and a hug from her boyfriend.

"You did good," he told her.

"You're a liar," she replied. She too was right.

Every year the judges warn the contestants that forgetting the lyrics to songs will result in almost certain elimination. This year, however, it seems that doing so wins them a pat on the head and an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas. It's like having a losing lottery ticket and a lottery commission official saying: "It's alright mate! Here's $2 million just for trying."

Unfortunately, overshadowed by weak competitors advancing were several great performances. Most of these, interestingly enough, came on the same song - the classic "Georgia on My Mind," which Ray Charles made a hit in 1960.

Sophia Shorai and Kendra Chantelle each sang distinctly different, but beautiful versions of the song back-to-back to advance. And Seth Rogen look-alike Casey Abrams wowed during his rendition of it with his surprising vocal range and impressive stand-up bass playing.

This year's villain, Clint Jun Gamboa, also sang the song, to earn a trip to Vegas and the following praise from J. LO: "Very nice, baby. Very nice." But I honestly couldn't stand his performance. He over sang it with incessant and unnecessary vocal runs that were too often out of tune. And by the time he shouted, "Just an old sweet song..." I was hoping someone from Georgia would show up and start pelting him with peaches for making a mockery out of their state song.

I planned on giving you my "pre-season" prediction to win the entire competition tonight. But when the judges failed to reduce the field to 24 and the producers surprisingly failed to show, or even mention, the solo performances of some of the front-runners, it forced me to hold off making my prediction until next week.

But I will give you a little taste:

It will be a female. The northeast has its best chance ever to claim a winner. And it will be someone that J. Lo can relate to vocally.

That is unless Jacee Badeaux pulls a Susan Boyle and makes American fall in love with him.