Sure, for most people, "American Idol" is a fun way to spend two nights a week on the couch, groaning at every off-key note and appalling fashion choice. But for the studio audience, it is a lot more

Sure, for most people, "American Idol" is a fun way to spend two nights a week on the couch, groaning at every off-key note and appalling fashion choice. But for the studio audience, it is a lot more intense - a combination of a live concert, a sporting event and a glammy movie premiere. Billboard.com was in the audience at the results show on March 12 (we barely avoided being stabbed by Jim Carrey's elephant ears) and got the inside scoop on what goes on behind the scenes of a taping at CBS Television City. To up the dramatic tension ala Ryan Seacrest, here are Top Ten Secrets You'll Only Know If You Were At AI Live.

10. The new set is huge.
Imagine your high school gymnasium, and double it. The previous incarnation was pretty cramped, but double-decking the main stage with the orchestra really makes it feel like something momentous is about to unfurl. And the rotating globes on the sides are pretty creepy - especially since the one on the left was stuck. Kind of makes you wonder about the electrical wiring.

9. The audience is part of the show.
Before the show and during commercial breaks, audience members are invited on stage to make fools of themselves to win $10 iTunes gift cards. Many people, it seems, will sell out their dignity for a $10 iTunes gift card. And moonwalking is still in, did you know?

8. Simon doesn't rile the folks.
Actually, this one may not be surprising at all: the family members of the contestants don't react to Simon Cowell, at all. It's like he's already crushed their souls. They are seriously unamused.

7. The musicians only dress their upper half.
The orchestra wears sparkly blouses and proper dress shirts; their upper bodies are all that can be seen on camera. Below the line of sight they're wearing jeans and Uggs.

6. Pressure? What pressure?
Despite Ryan Seacrest's dramatic insistence that the bottom three were very (very!) nervous that their time on "Idol" might be coming to an end, both Syesha Mercado and Kristy Lee Cook seemed to be handling the pressure pretty well. They spent the first commercial break giggling and spinning around and around on the chairs they were relegated to on the side of the stage.

5. McPhee wardrobe malfunctions? No way.
Katharine McPhee's performance was carefully choreographed so as to not show the back of her dress to the cameras. It was wispy and white, and you could tell that it risked becoming totally transparent under the stage lights.

4. The judges have bodyguards.
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon each have their own bodyguards who escort them in and out of the stage area during each commercial break. When the camera pans to the "mosh pit" on the sides of the judges' table, you may notice some burly gentlemen watching the show. They're actually making sure no one takes a dive towards the judges.

3. Being in the bottom three is no fun.
Before the final member of the bottom three was selected, Ramiele Malubay seemed truly worried that it was her time to go. (Judging by her positioning, she was sitting in the same spot - fourth from the end - that Syesha and Kristy were before they were nudged to the side.) Amanda Overmyer and David Cook came over to comfort Ramiele during a commercial break, and she went a little fetal.

2. Jim Carrey wasn't just there to show off his Seussian elephant suit.
Yep, Carrey stayed to watch the entire show - none of this do-the-promo-and-cash-the-check movie star behavior. After the intro, he popped off the main soundstage to lose the "Horton Hears a Who" costume, then he came back in to wait and watch in the wings until his second go-around onscreen.

1. "Taped Live" is an oxymoron.
The segment with the phone calls and McPhee's performance? It was taped before the show started, requiring audience members to be there at 4:15 p.m. before the live part of the show started at 6 p.m. It might not be a surprise to eagle-eyed viewers out there, who could have spotted the incongruity of Syesha and Kristy being back on the couches when they panned over the contestants.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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