Well here we are. The performances are over, the votes are cast, and tonight somebody is going to become the first ever champion of Celebrity Duets. I can’t wait to find out who the winner is, so what do you say we skip the pleasantries and get on with the show? Let’s!
Looks Like We Made It
“This is it!” Wayne says as he runs out on stage in his sparkly black vest. The big finale. And Wayne tells us why this finale is super big: not only will it be stuffed with your standard “all we have is results but this show still has to last 60 minutes” filler, but each of the three finalists, Alfonso Ribeiro, Hal Sparks, and Lucy Lawless, will be singing solo tonight. We’ll finally get to hear each of these voices unadulterated. No hiding behind any superstars. This? Is big people. But, wait! That’s not all! Wayne tells us we’ll also be hearing a special surprise duet, and a performance from this year’s Hey I Didn’t Know They Were Still Together Award winners, Boyz II Men. Awesome. Let the filling of the hour begin!
First up is what we all knew was coming; the “Great Eight” as Wayne dubs them are all back on stage for a group-sing. Reason Number 1,712 Why I Luurrrve This Show: they’re singing “Rock Around The Clock.” I know this song was groundbreaking and controversial in its day, but for me it is most strongly associated with crazy caper montages in kiddie B-movies. I’d expect to hear it in Kindergarten Cop II or something like that. And yet this is the song the producers chose to open the finale. This show makes no bones about its inherent cheesiness, and I just love it when cheesy things own their cheesiness. It even makes Cheech and Lea’s wack singing so much more forgivable. Also? Jai! And, Carly sounds kind of good here. Who knew?
The Great Eight plows its way through another sock-hop classic, and just as I get the idea that they’re developing a theme, well, Little Richard’s up on stage at the piano! The architect and originator straight up rocks and rolls his way through “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” Say what you will, and I’ll say what I will about his nonsensical ramblings, but Judge Beauty sure knows how to get down. I’d kill, or at least punch someone in the stomach to be able to work a piano like he can. Go ‘head, Richard.
Back from break, Wayne asks each of the judges who they think should win, and why. Marie again plumps for Alfonso, saying he has consistently delivered vocally. But she also says that she’s unsure how it’ll work out, because the audience loves Hal, and Lucy has earned her place at the table (“Yeah, at the kid’s table,” I snort, but I’m a jelus hater.) Even though Judge Beauty would love to see Alfonso win, he thinks Hal will take it, because America loves him, and he is rock and roll. David, who put his faith in Alfonso last night, turns coat and says he now thinks Lucy will win it all. One vote for each, how very convenient.
To Thine Ownself … Yadda, Yadda
The covering of bases over and done with, it’s time for the solo portion of the evening. Hal is the first of the finalists to go it alone, and he is still bent on showcasing his rock style, because it’s “truly representative of who he is.” Hey, there’s nothing like being yourself. Unless you could be a really cool superhero that could fly, and see through walls, and time travel. Man. That’d be awesome. But Hal is content just to be Hal. We get a touching testimonial of this from Hal’s former partner Wynonna, and that ushers in a slew of feel-good clips designed to melt your heart while Hal goes on about the love he has for the rest of the contestants, and all the lessons he has learned, and the dreams that have come true. Is your heart all gooey soft yet? Good, then Hal can sing now.
He’s taking an acoustic road tonight, singing “Running Away” by Hoobastank (gah, how I hate that name). At this point, it’s useless to try and critique his singing. I like Hal, and the show’s about over, so let’s just say he gives it his all. There are no real ear-smacking moments, and there are some very good phrases scattered around in the mix, including a great ending note. It’s evident that Hal has a good voice. I bet if he had a bit of training he could be really good. Plus, he already looks really good in his tight black t-shirt and jeans, and that counts for a lot with me.
Wayne asks Hal how he’s feeling about the results, and Hal says he’s both nervous and excited because he’s feeling that maybe people like what he does. It doesn’t matter if he wins or loses, because he’s just glad to be part of the experience. His exhilaration is completely palpable, and completely charming; he lauds the judges, points out all his friends and folks in the audience who’ve been cheering him on, and it’s obvious that Hal has had the time of his life here. As he says, “There’s no wrong in this.” Right on.
After the break we’re treated to an awesome montage of Judge Beauty’s Quotable Quips. Highlights include “Don’t make me scream like a white lady,” and “Don’t let your voice write a check your rhythm can’t cash,” as well as all of the contestants giving their best Little Richard impersonations. Hal particularly kills me with his tribute to “Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, and Cranberry Sauce.” Whoooooo! Apparently Judge Beauty’s gone off duty; Richard had to leave the show early. Fare thee well, good sir.
But don’t get too sad, because Wayne tells us that the time has come for the superstar duet he promised at the top of the show. Turns out it’s Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight singing the old Marvin and Tammi chestnut “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing.” This is like, the best filler ever. It goes without saying that Gladys and Smokey sound wonderful, and it’s a pleasure to see them sharing the stage, giving a real touch of class to the whole show.
But now it’s time for Lucy’s solo. I think she was set up, personally. Sucks for her having to follow two of Motown’s greatest living legends. But continuing the train of poignant reflections that Hal started, Lucy is all positivity. In her words, this has been “the funnest gig ever.” She spreads more love for her fellow competitors, and even sheds some tears as she goes on to say that this tops every professional experience she’s ever had. Sorry, Xena co-stars, you’ve been outclassed.
From the longshot the cameras give us, I experience a little spark of terror thinking it’s Beyonce doing her patented Tina Turner impersonation on top of that tall pedestal onstage, but thank goodness it’s only Lucy, in huge blond hair and a gorgeous gold sequined mini-dress, getting out all the go-go in her system. She’s working her legs like crazy, and as a chorus of GoGo-ettes come out to join her, she begins wailing on Etta James’ growly classic “Tell Mama.” I’ll say this, Lucy would make a better Tina Turner II than Beyonce anyday. She’s a little out of breath at the end, but I’ll cut her some slack because I know she’s just burned off a million calories whipping herself across that platform. I think this was Lucy’s best performance ever. Way to go out with a bang. Time is running short, so Lucy only has time to thank all of her fans before the break. Yes, it seems cruel, but we have to save time for these Duracell commercials, or else we’ll never know what batteries to buy. And I for one don’t want to live in that world.
Wayne II Men
Marie brings us back from the commercials, which sort of ruins the surprise that Wayne is about to sing. But it’s okay, because he’s singing “I’ll Make Love To You” with Boyz II Men. I’ve always hated this song, but something about the inescapable camp of this show makes it all right. It’s a magical show, people. Wayne takes over most of the singing, with the boyz az backup. Then they segue into “End of the Road” and Wayne fills in for bass Michael McCary for the breakdown, and urges all the ladies to call him their chocolate bunny, saying, “Don’t call Cadbury; call Brady.” How could something that corny crack me up so completely? I told you, magic.
Alfonso’s Place in the Sun
But, we’re back to the game now, and it’s time for Alfonso’s final song. Adding a commitment to this show on top of his other work has been a pretty stressful row to hoe, but Alfonso says it has been one of the greatest things he’s ever done. And he adds the requisite sentiments about new friends, and great experiences, etc. But that’s nothing new, so let’s move on.
Go back in time with me for a moment. Remember that night in late August, when you were sitting on your couch eating popcorn, and watching some fantastic FOX primetime programming? And you suddenly saw a flash of a commercial for something called “Celebrity Duets”? If you’re anything like me you instantly put on a scoff face, and said “Not this again,” or something similar. I was actually wearing my heavy duty scoff face for a good 15 or 20 seconds, but then there was a brief clip of Alfonso in the studio, belting out a line from Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” And verily, my scoff face fell away, my eyes were opened unto the glory of this show, and I became a true believer.
Why the trip down memory lane? Because for his final solo performance, Alfonso is going out with the very song that brought me to this show in the first place. We’re coming full circle y’all, and closure is a beautiful thing. His performance is also a beautiful thing. He sounds excellent, and looks so content on stage that I’m getting all farklempt, doing the beauty queen tear fan and everything, because I’m happy for Alfonso. Even if he doesn’t win, he’s done a fantastic job. Wayne asks if Alfonso’s is happy he did the show, and Alfonso says of course he is, just being here has made him feel like a huge winner.
How Else Would You Fill Ten Minutes?
There’s some jazz about David and Marie’s faux-antagonism, but that’s not really that important. More crucial to this night’s being a great success is another performance from the Great Eight, which is an awesome excuse for giving Jai more time to shine. The G8 are singing a medley of David Foster songs, accompanied by the Dave himself, which means every judge but Marie has participated. No gold star for her. Anyway, Alfonso, Hal, Lucy and Jai lead off with “Hard To Say I’m Sorry.” Very nice of the producers or arrangers or whoever to stick Jai in with the finalists. Not that that could really be a balm for being kicked off so early, but still it was a nice gesture.
But hold on, all of a sudden Marie jumps out from backstage and joins the song. She sings beautifully, and I will now gladly eat my words and give her a whole sheet of gold stars. Marie very coyly tries to rib David into singing something, but he says “Not a chance.” Thanks for thinking of the viewers, Dave! Next the rest of the gang trades lines on “Got To Be Real” and reminds us why we are happy they were eliminated. My poor ears may never forgive me, especially since I rewound and rewatched this two or three times just for the heck of it. Heh. Good times.
The moment of results has arrived though, and Wayne quickly ushers the also-rans off the stage to get down to the business at hand. Lucy, Alfonso, and Hal line up on the stage, and Wayne has a warm-fuzzy moment of his own, taking the time to say how much he loves them, and how much he has enjoyed working with them and watching them. He wishes them good luck, and as the tension mounts … well nothing really remarkable happens, but I just wanted to use that phrase. Wayne tells Lucy that she is safe, and then drops the bomb that Hal has been eliminated. He gives a very gracious concession speech, and throws up the horns one last time, as the audience applads him. So our top two are Lucy and Alfonso, but if you think that Alfonso is a shoo-in, you are underestimating the power of rabid sci-fi fans, who just may have voted their Battlestar Galactica queen into the champion’s seat. It’s anyone’s contest, and as the tension mounts (for real this time) Wayne breaks for a fakakta commercial. I can’t stand the suspense!
When we return, Lucy and Alfonso are locked in a tight embrace, and Wayne enjoys toying with my emotions some more by slowly listing everyone that both Lucy and Alfonso have sung with throughout the course of the show. But before I can tear out my hair in agony, Wayne reveals that dreams do come true: Alfonso is the winner! Yay! I feel like I just won something. *does Carlton Dance in joyous fashion*
A shower of confetti falls, Lucy jumps for what seems like genuine joy, Alfonso’s parents are going crazy in the audience, and everyone rushes on stage to congratulate him. Alfonso says he will be making his $100,000 donation to a charity he is involved in called Fresh Start, which helps fund corrective surgeries for children with physical disabilities. A great winner helping a great cause, what a great way to end the show.
And last but not least, a great big shout-out of thanks to Critical and PhoneGrrrl for their fantastic work exploiting all the cheesy goodness this show had to offer, much to our enjoyment and entertainment. Cheers, everybody!
It’s been a whole five weeks, and I still don’t speak fluent Little Richard. Send any translation tips to firstname.lastname@example.org om