Clown time is over.

American Idol

began in earnest this week. The season doesn't officially start until Randy Jackson describes a performance as "pitchy." For those of you keeping score at home, that honor was claimed by Brandon Rogers, the second singer out of the chute.

It was a sad serenade for Paul Kim, Amy Krebs, Rudy Cardenas, and Philly girl Nicole Tranquillo. But you know who had a really bad week on Idol?

Ryan Seasick, er, Seacrest. Idol aired over three nights, and he took a savage beating every time.

On Tuesday, after Chris Sligh's performance, Seacrest made the moronic mistake of engaging Simon Cowell in a battle of wits. What a monumental mismatch. "You do the links, sweetheart," Simon said dismissively. "I'll do the judging." "Don't call me sweetheart!!" squawked Seacrest, a reaction that was seriously out of proportion.

On Wednesday, Seacrest repeatedly badgered the judges to say something positive about Alaina Alexander's abysmal rendition of "Brass in Pocket." Simon erupted, "Are you trying to date this girl? [Because your comments are] a little overbiased." Seacrest went ashen.

Finally, on Thursday, Quincy Jones was in the crowd, the only true musical giant this silly show has ever had grace its studio. Seacrest asked Q how he thought former Idol winner Fantasia Barrino would do on Broadway. Just as Jones began to answer, Seacrest abruptly cut him off.

The gods of music will make you pay for that hubris, Seacrest. Perhaps an arranged marriage to Alaina Alexander. Then you can spend all eternity shouting: "Don't call me sweetheart!"

Below prime. Speaking of Idol, did you notice that on Tuesday's show, as they recapped the 12 guys, the segment was scored with a choppy version of the Stones' "I'm Free." Yes, it was the credit-card commercial remix. That's a first. (The Chase spot it originated in aired about 20 minutes later.) We're not far from a theme episode of Idol in which the contestants sing only commercial jingles.

Beautiful dreamer. Come on. Did you really think that Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) would die on Grey's Anatomy? So she spent five hours without a pulse. Larry King does that every week and he's still on the air.

But his hair was perfect. I was always told that the moon was made of cheese. Wrong. It's Las Vegas that is composed of that dense dairy product. Did you catch Wayne Newton warming up the Sin City crowd for the NBA All-Star Game on TNT? Surrounded by showgirls, he sang a medley that took in "Viva Las Vegas," James Brown's "I Feel Good," and the creepy Newton classic, "Danke Schön." Put this footage in a time capsule. Pop culture will never produce a moment this fabulously grotesque again.

Doubling up. Watching Brothers & Sisters this week, I was startled when the credits revealed that that was Joel Grey playing Joe and Sarah's marriage counselor. Because I assumed that was cast member Ron Rifkin (Uncle Saul) taking a quick shave to play a dual role.

Why doesn't TV try to pull that off more often? Hey, if Eddie Murphy can do five characters in the same movie, I'm sure William Petersen could pull off at least three on an episode of CSI.

Best quote of the week. On The Late Show, David Letterman observed, "People in show business are so competitive. One day Britney Spears gets her head shaved. Not to be outdone, Rosie O'Donnell today shaved her back."

Contact TV editor David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://www.go.philly.com/hiltbrand.