It generally happens at least once a season, though perhaps not this early. A front-runner was voted off of "American Idol" on Thursday night, April 7, 2011.
With nine contestants remaining, Pia Toscano was eliminated from the competition.
Most bloggers who write about the show regularly characterized Toscano’s elimination as a huge shock.
The judges were clearly surprised and angered by the elimination, and there were tears in Randy Jackson’s eyes.
Judge Jennifer Lopez said, "I — I have no idea — I have no idea what just happened here. I’m shocked. I’m angry. I don’t even know what to say."
Judge Randy Jackson said, "Dude, I’m never upset on this show and I’m never really mad, but this makes me mad. It’s like, ‘What is going on?’ "
Judge Steven Tyler said, "I don’t know America, man. A mistake is one thing, but lack of passion is unforgivable. They’re wrong. I don’t know what happened with this."
At least one "Idol" blogger, Carla Patton at BuddyTV, writes in her blog that the judges shouldn’t have to look too far to figure out why Toscano was eliminated: "Here’s the thing: It’s obviously not Pia’s fault that she was eliminated. She was one of the strongest voices in the group, and she gave us something up-tempo, which we’d been asking for for weeks. But the judges aren’t differentiating her that much from say, Haley Reinhart, Stefano Langone or Paul McDonald, when they’re all wildly different as contestants.
"When Simon was around, things were pretty cut and dry. He got booed a lot, to the point of tedium, but he always gave a bold, blunt opinion. No one wants to be ‘the mean one’ this season, so all the contestants are getting largely positive feedback every week from all three judges."
Patton continues, "So if everyone is doing so well each week, (barring a major musical disaster, which has yet to happen this season), what are the judges there for? Encouragement? It really is all up to America this season, and I won’t speak for the entire voting population, but personally, I’m confused….I miss the excitement of Simon Cowell saying what nobody else had the guts to say. A shocking elimination was the only way to keep us interested this season. I never thought I would miss all that stuff, but now that we have what I’ve always wanted — a real singing competition — I’m disappointed."
Likewise, over at The Hollywood Reporter, Shirley Halperin listed five theories why a singer clearly as talented as Toscano was eliminated, and one of those theories echos BuddyTV: "Lack of guidance by the judges: With the new judges so positive pretty much all the time, the audience seems unsure of who to vote for. It’s not like the show needs a bully to function, but when you’re faced with the decision of choosing the best in a group of greats, some professional insight is called for and these judges are failing on that front. Suggestion: let Jimmy Iovine have a turn to tell it like it really is. Even a short segment at the end of the live show running down his thoughts on all of the finalists would work, no matter how disjointed it might turn out."
Some of Halperin’s other theories about why Toscano received the lowest number of votes this week include "Girls don’t like girls: It’s a longstanding trend on ‘Idol,’ whose audience is overwhelmingly female — girls don’t vote for the female contestants," and "Presumptive Winner Syndrome: Or PWS, as I like to call it — it’s when everybody is so universally convinced that a contestant will win, that they basically neglect or forget to vote for that finalist."