Idol_ellen Ellen has finally taken her spot on the panel and she's…subdued.

Sure, she's funny and quick and brings a whole bag of zany antics to the show, but in a very low key way. I wasn't expecting a Robin Williams-esque "I forgot to take my meds" performance, but maybe a few more zingers, or perhaps a trademarked Ellen dance to liven things up.

Personally, I'm holding off on making any judgments right now. I'm still on the fence. Her credentials for judging a singing competition seem to be "I've been on stage before." Using that logic, the next "Idol" judge can range from a homeless person who once hit an open mic night at the Largo to ASU's Ms. Wet T-Shirt 2008.

However, her humor might be exactly what the show needed. Paula was funny, but in a more laughing "at" than "with" situation. At least they brought in someone likeable who is meant to be intentionally humorous.

In Hollywood Week, Ellen seemed a bit mellow, but I'm willing to wait until the show gets going to see if she will shine.

And now, on to Hollywood Week.

On the first day, 85 kids were sent home in the sudden death round. Former "Idol" character studies Skiibowski the Arrogant, Vanessa the Country Gal, Cornelius, Maegan and Amadeo & the Family Stone were all cut during this round. On the bright side, Andrew (who helped the "mention Paula" drinking game by singing a grand version of "Straight Up"), Haeley, Mary Benatar, Casey the Objectified, Didi the Waitress, Crystal the Tatted Mom and Ashley R. all made it through.

On the second day, we had the dreaded group round, where great talents are paired with their uber competitive counterparts and are forced to harmonize and dance. I completely forgot who that blind guy was ever able to make it through last season.

So, the best part of the group round? The horrible, horrible group names, like Destiny's Wild, Faith, the Denver Mighty Rangers and Team Awesome (with Daddy Mike). Also included where the Dreamers and Phoenix, because those are super original names that no one has ever used before.

About half of the 96 singers survived the cage fight that is the group round. Two men in, one man out! Welcome to the Thunderdome, kiddies!

– Erin Maxwell

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