Ah, me. Here we are at the final performance episode of Celebrity Duets, and although this season has been filled with thrills and laughs – some of those even good-natured – as the long-awaited finale approaches I find myself very torn. I’m beyond delighted that my sentimental favorite Alfonso Ribeiro has well-earned himself a spot in this final showdown, but a part of me is still smarting from Jai’s
extremely shockingactually kinda predictable elimination last week. I thought that wearing black armbands and rings on my typing fingers would help me over my grief, but all that’s done is slow me down to approximately 14 words per minute. So, I’m typing this recap sans mourning raiments, but my heart is still heavy, and my grief has a tendency to turn to bitterness. Woe to those lesser competitors who unfairly knocked my second-favorite out of this charity/vanity competition! I shall not soon forget your wrongs.
Ahem. That exercise in melodrama out of my system, on with the show! We get the obligatory rehashing of all that’s happened in the previous weeks, and everyone has a chance to vaguely recall that wrestler guy who was kicked off the first show, and then Wayne comes bounding out on stage looking ready to get this over with. There’s at least a minute of pre-show excitement applause, and a cameraman kindly pans past all of the losers on the front row: Chris Jericho, Lea Thompson, Carly Patterson, Cheech Marin, and Jai Rodriguez, and the delight on each person’s face is pretty proportionate to the amount of time they’ve had to get over being booted off. Wayne takes care to reiterate the finality of this finale, and the audience again goes wild cheering for their favorites. What do they, feed these people Ho Ho’s and Ding Dongs before the show? Get ‘em all hyper? The crowd screams loudest for Lucy, which I just don’t understand. But I’m told Lucy’s something like Marilyn Monroe, so maybe it’s an audience full of gentlemen. (Get it? ‘Cause Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? Ha!)
Wayne once again goes through the rigamarole of introducing the judges, and by this point Marie,
Little RichardJudge Beauty, and David all seem so well-adjusted to their roles that they’re showing none of their former shame at judging a comp for a bunch of d-list dilettantes. Good for them. Wayne informs us that tonight they’ve switched up the competition for us. The three finalists – that’s Hal, Alfonso, and Lucy; you'll remember Jai’s not in it – will each sing with a new superstar, and then in the second half of the show will reunite with a former duet partner. Maybe we’ll be seeing James Ingram again!
Lucy On The Stage With Diamonds
Lucy Lawless is tonight’s first act, and I’m sure she’s nervous, what with most people pegging her as meant to go last week. She’s been hit-and-miss throughout the show, so she has a lot to prove tonight if she wants a chance at the crown. Her song tonight is no easy shakes, either. She’s singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with Bonnie Tyler. And no, Lucy’s not really wearing diamonds; she’s in tight black leather pants and a chic black lace blouse. But her makeup is way sparkly, and I think this is my last chance to get that Beatles pun in there before the show ends. The singing is pretty good; Lucy holds her own, but she must’ve caught a case of Hal Sparks Syndrome – she gets a little shrieky when trying to rock out with Bonnie. Bonnie sounds great though.
The judges are pleased. Marie says she’s here because she’s great, but she does say Lucy needs more breath control. Judge Beauty says Lucy tonight sang better than she’s sung before. David says he loves the growl Lucy has in her voice; he hasn’t heard it before but he liked it tonight. After all that praise Lucy must be flying high. High as tangerine trees and marmalade skies, even!
I Back Banks
Now it’s Alfonso’s turn. He’s been a force to be reckoned with in this competition from the beginning, and after an amazing showing last week I think Alfonso qualifies as the front-runner tonight. But those
slimywily producers have stuck him with quite a challenge; Alfonso doesn’t really know his partner’s music, so he has to ingest a completely new song in less than two days, in order to really make it his own. [/Paula Abdul] Can he do it? Can he?
Heck yeah, he can. It turns out Alfonso’s partner is Jon Secada, whose heyday I must have missed, presumably being too busy making plastic lanyards and friendship bracelets to pay attention to Adult Contemporary radio. They sing Jon’s hit “Angel,” and yeah, I think Alfonso outdoes Jon, who seems more interested in stunning the audience with his stage theatrics and weird facial contortions than singing. Alfonso, however, sings, and he does it well. I know I’ve said a lot here about rooting for Alfonso because of a certain dance, but I do honestly think he has the best voice in this whole enchilada. Had it been Jai and Alfonso in the end, I wouldn’t have begrudged either guy a win, but I’d have thought Alfonso deserved it a scoche more. So there’s no doubt he’s the best among his current competition.
The judges agree with me: Marie again says he’s here because he’s great, and what’s funny is I believe her this time. She engages in a bit of flirtation with Alfonso, and for some reason says she’s a Chocolate Girl. Well, my stars, Miss Osmond, you do go on. Judge Beauty says some stuff about feeling it in his fingers and toes, and even though he’s totally ripping off Billy Mack, it’s all right, because at least he didn’t say anything about his booty. David Foster pays Alfonso what I’m sure he thinks is the supreme compliment by saying that Alfonso totally belongs in his world, recording real music. This obviously pleases Alfonso, and of course I’m thrilled.
Sparks of Effort
There’s only one guy left to perform, and that guy is Hal Sparks. He’s had an odd run in this contest; he started off over-singing with soul greats like Smokey and Gladys, and then gradually settled in to a more comfortable zone of over-screaming with rock gods like Dee Snider. We get a rerun of Marie telling he’s too white, and David telling him he’s not a rock star. But, he’s here in the finale anyway, and I ain’t mad at him. It’s just too obvious that Hal is having a great old time with this show, and I’m for that. Tonight Hal is again
singingscreaming with a rock legend, one Sebastian Bach. The two trade rawker hollers on “18 and Life,” and hey, it is what it is. Sebastian sounds pretty great, and Hal sounds like he has a demon in his soul or his throat that he must set free. And isn’t that what rock and roll is all about? Also, Sebastian’s wearing a neat Brooks Brothers-esque blazer. Didn’t see that coming.
Marie gives Hal a high five for being true to himself. Judge Beauty says his grandma never hollered that hard to get the cows to come in, but for somebody hollering, Hal gets an “A” from him. David says thank goodness Hal sang that verse at the beginning and showed that he really does have a voice, because that made up for all the rockin’ he did later. Hal is actually beaming, and his enthusiasm is infectious. Good for him, I say!
Once More, With Feeling
The second half of the show starts now, and in case you don't remember, I'll remind you that each finalist has asked a previous partner to return. Lucy has chosen to sing again with Smokey Robinson, because now she has “grown into her voice,” and wants a chance to show it off to him. Smokey and Lucy do a jazzy, flirty version of “Fly Me To The Moon,” and they look as cute as penguins on stage, bopping to the beat. Lucy’s not deluded; her voice has actually gotten stronger, and she’s got more confidence in her style this time around, so it’s a pretty fun duet. But I still can’t support her making it so far. Marie congratulates Lucy for handling so many diverse genres on the show, and says that she did a great job. Judge Beauty tells Lucy “not to play among the stars,” but to stay and play down here. Guess he doesn’t want anybody crowding him out there in outer space. David gives her more props for handling such diverse styles of music, and deftly avoids saying anything about her singing. Sly, Mr. Foster. Very sly. Except I picked up on it, so I guess it wasn’t so sly after all. Meh.
Some People Wait A Lifetime For A Moment Like This ...
And now Alfonso’s back! He’s super excited about his partner, because he says America loves her, and their voices together will be beautiful. Excited yet? You should be when I tell you that instead of asking any of his old partners back (sorry, James), Al’s pulled a whammy and brought back Miss Gladys Knight. Hooray! I personally was sorry that Alfonso didn’t get the chance to sing with her the first week when he got stuck with Michelle Williams, but that’s all water under the bridge now. They jam on Gladys’ 80s hit “Save The Overtime For Me,” and Alfonso is totally into it, cutting the rug with Gladys and … wait, what’s he … It’s the Carlton Dance!! Oh, joy of long-awaited joys; Alfonso takes the opportunity to break it all the way down during the dance break, and I can’t say how happy this makes me. He’s totally into it, and it looks like he’s hepped the dance up a bit – he’s not so Tom-Jones stiff all through the torso. I shall thus rename this move The Carlton Groove, and it may not shock any of you to know that right now I feel my entire life has been merely a prelude to this moment. I probably also don’t have to tell you that the crowd goes wild for Alfonso and Gladys and The Groove, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I jumped up and down so much that I gave myself the vapors. But, I feel like sharing, so there you go.
Wayne pats Alfonso on the back for delivering on his promise to bless us all so immensely, and with real sincerity Alfonso says he wanted to thank everyone who supported him, and brought him to this point. My heart actually flutters a bit when I see him get a little misty. Aw. I’m so proud of him. Marie commends him for choosing to sing with Gladys, because they had great chemistry, and also drops the bomb of her predicting him as the winner in the very first week. Watch out, Dionne and Miss Cleo, Marie Osmond might be coming to a 900 number near you. But they probably already knew that. Judge Beauty says Alfonso reminded him of the Pips, and thinks that the white boy dance put him over the top. Let’s all hope. David says he knows he’s been hard on Alfonso, but he nailed it tonight, and David would definitely vote for him to win. Well, let’s just wrap this thing up right now, then. Screw the formalities. But that wouldn’t be fair to Hal, now would it? So, yes, the show must go on.
We’re drawing to a close now, and Hal’s the last one up. I wonder if he can hear all the brouhaha out on stage when he’s waiting in the wings. That’d kinda suck. But, Hal doesn’t seem to mind. He says he’s singing for all the underdogs, and he thinks that an underdog can win this. I say good on ya for trying, Hal. He’s invited Dennis DeYoung to return, and they do a duet of Styx’s “Lady,” Dennis sweetly serenading his wife, and Hal directing a vocal sonic boom of love directly at his girlfriend in the audience. Hal actually sounds really good here on the refrain, when he’s not straining every muscle in his throat. I swear, if Hal doesn’t win this thing he could certainly have a career stopping cannonballs with his neck, so much has he exercised it here. But, I love him anyway. The judges do too. Marie tells Hal he went out “with an absolute bang,” and Judge Beauty says he sounded unbelievable. David says he’s sorry the shows ending because he’s starting to really like Hal. But, you’ll have plenty of time to bond with him in the studio, right David? Right?
Well, we’ll leave that alone for now. Wayne cues a retrospective of all of tonight’s performances: Alfonso shines, and Hal endears, Lucy’s just kind of there. But all of this means nothing when America’s got the vote. Who will take home the gold foil crown of the Celebrity Duets Champion? Just you wait and see.