Now there are 20. "American Idol" booted four contestants Thursday night — two men and two women — in the show's first elimination round of the new season.
Television's top-rated show tallied viewers' votes and scratched off the bottom two of each sex — Becky O'Donohue, Stevie Scott, Bobby Bennett and Patrick Hall.
Judge Paula Abdul's eyes brimmed with tears when O'Donohue, 25, got the cut after receiving the lowest number of votes. The New York native, who sang "Because the Night," made other news this week when Maxim released some sexy photos of her and her twin sister, Jessie, it had taken a couple of years ago.
"I think you're going to be a very successful model," said acerbic judge Simon Cowell.
Scott, a 19-year-old from Fair Oaks, Calif., drew criticism from Cowell, who said her performance of "To Where You Are" was "forgettable."
"You just got it wrong," he said.
Bennett, a 19-year-old Barry Manilow fanatic from Denver, endured criticism from Cowell as well for his theatrical rendition of "Copacabana."
"It was a nightmare that would have Barry Manilow screaming in horror," Simon said.
But Bennett shook it off.
"I will always like Simon," he said. "He was a little rough, but that's okay."
Cowell also scolded Hall, a 27-year-old from Gravette, Ariz., for his "average" rendition of "Come to My Window."
"It's a lesson learned," Cowell said. "You have to stand out in the crowd."
"American Idol," which has been soundly beating NBC's Olympic telecasts in the ratings, has been drawing about 30 million viewers per telecast this season, its fifth.
Host Ryan Seacrest said on Thursday's telecast that the show had received some 40 million votes from its viewers.
Judges Simon, Abdul and Randy Jackson had plucked the 24 hopefuls from thousands of Idol wannabes across the country.
Men and women have been competing separately since the Fox blockbuster returned Jan. 17, but a cross-gender sing-off featuring the last 12 performers will begin March 14.
The show, now running three times a week, will return to a twice-weekly schedule for the elimination of the final dozen. The finale is slated for May 24.