Six years from now we’ll be looking back on this week, thinking about how Idol cured poverty and saved Africa with 5 million dollars, and being all inspired all over again. Well, everyone except for the unlucky soul who gets the axe tonight. She or he probably won’t be remembering this circus so fondly. Or are I? But let‘s dwell on the now. Last night gave us inspiration on top of inspiration all covered in a delicious cheese sauce: Crich sucked less than usual, Phil did his best Murph and the Magictones impression, and Ryan kept talking about life anthems or something; I wasn‘t completely listening. LaKiki busted out Fanny’s old coronation song, and Melinda and Jordin blew two different roofs off of my building. My managers are way mad at them, but hopefully they were inspired enough not to press charges. All in all, a night of serious upliftment. But it’s nothing compared to tonight, in which BIG STARS will give of themselves while reminding us that they exist. Also, a shocking elimination which, if I know this show at all (oh, and I do know this show) won’t be so much shocking as silly. I know you’re excited now, so let’s all jump in the inspiration pool and swim around until we save the world.
The Power Is Yours
There’s our old familiar ominous lighting of results doom, but hey! The kids are all dressed in white, like angels even, and Ryan is saying something about changing people’s lives. This is going to be specialer than I thought. Ryan stumbles a bit over his intro though, and charmingly asks the camera man to go back to the beginning. Aw, this is Ryan’s little “go-down-in-history” moment, so yes, it ought to be perfect. He does it again, and it’s good this time, also there’s the first mention of Africa and bam! Idol Gives Back is officially a go. Although sadly, there are no special credits with like smiling children and money falling from the sky. Missed opportunity there.
So last night, Idol got a record 70 million calls, which translates into the 5 million dollar maximum that Newscorp was willing to give, which is way more than I was willing to give so I’ll just let that be. Our judges are all spiffed out like it‘s the finale -- Simon even almost has his shirt buttoned up, and he’s wearing a jacket. Ryan introduces Ellen DeGeneres who’s going to be simul-hosting at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (incidentally, the most boring place on earth -- seriously, never go on the tour) for the folks who wouldn’t be caught dead on the Idol stage. Well. Ryan hosting one place and Ellen another; this should unequivocally prove that they are not in fact the same person. Ellen’s all hyped and ooh, there’s an orchestra, also an awkward time lag or something which doesn’t quite make communication possible between the two. She babbles a bit and starts to sing “Shoop,” but cops out in the nick of time and then introduces Earth, Wind, and Fire. Yay! I love the elements. And any chance to see Philip Bailey’s epic dredded po-hawk and Verdine White’s super-perm is all right with me. Only I wish they’d brought Captain Planet with them. EWF go through some of their hits and, it is to be assumed, get the crowd up and moving.
But Where’s The Big Board?
Back in the studio, Ryan introduces our first heart-string tugging video package of the evening -- it’s Randy reminiscing on the lovely times he’s had in New Orleans, and urging us all to remember the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Billie Holiday plays and it’s all very poignant, especially since I have friends still living in FEMA trailers. Randy speaks to a little boy about his wanting to leave the trailer park and gets him to talk about guns and drugs because New Orleans is OMG so violent, and we quickly step away from what an irresponsible statement that is, because tonight is all about the charity and the goodness, and there’s this awesome community center that’s letting the kids be kids and wow. They got my heart-strings already. Well done, Idol. Well done.
Also, Quincy Jones teaches the Idols his new anthem, “Time To Care,” which you can download from the show’s site. But why do that, when you can hear it for free! The Idols sing it as stock video of children everywhere smiling and overcoming plays in the background.
Oh, What A Circus
Ben Stiller is on now and I had no idea he was going gray. That makes me feel so young. He cracks wise about his stardom in a self-deprecating way and it’s cute and stuff, then he says he’s going to sing a song called “Reminiscing” by a group called The Little River Band, and he won’t stop until we’ve raised $200 million dollars. I wait for him to tip his pinky to the corner of his mouth and laugh evilly, but it doesn’t happen.
Instead we get another video montage of “Adventures in Africa with Rymon!” But this time there’s an actual place -- a neighborhood called Kabira in Nairobi, Kenya. They talk to a 12 year old boy who takes care of his 7 year old sister. The child cries while Ryan tries to comfort him, and that image gets at the exact disconnect that makes this whole thing so unsettling to me. But again, charity. Good-doing. Nice. Simon waxes nostalgically about how wonderful all the people are there and how much he was moved by them. The tenderness of all this is somewhat diluted by the sight of a scarily made up Teri Hatcher taking us out to commercial break.
It’s all good, because Forest Whitaker brings us back with some kind words. Woohoo! What can I say; I’m a fan. But, lest we all get swept away by fandom, or you know, giving, and forget we’re here tonight to do a television show, Ryan brings us back to earth with the first mention of voting results. They’ll be in random order tonight -- there can be nothing like a “bottom” on a night so noble and pure. So Melinda is very quickly declared safe. She seems pleased.
But we’re moving on to Paula’s contribution to the good tonight. She visited the Hollywood area Boys & Girls Club and met with tons of screaming kiddies who I assume from my own memories of this org have been drinking orange drink in the gym and waiting for anything to happen. Good times. Paula talks about having dreams and is very sweet relating to the children on their level about having working parents and getting involved in good things and not bad. Also there are the obligatory tears and hugs.
Back in real-time Ellen introduces Il Divo to sing something from West Side Story, but … I have an allergic reaction to them so I have to skip it. No, really. I even have a note from my doctor. Just don’t look too closely at the signature.
“And we’re sending our love down that well …”
Hugh Laurie brings us back from break, and he is very gorgeous, and he should speak in his normal accent more often. Like, always. Lots of singing going on in this segment. Ryan pimps out the chance to be on the Idol stage for $50, and wouldn’t you know, the seat number drawn turns out to be Jack Black. Amazing! He plays the fool with Ryan a bit and sings “Kiss From A Rose” and is funny, I guess. The judges play along; Randy tells him he should’ve worn stretch pants, and Simon says Jack was better than Sanjaya. Ooh, ya burnt! Cut to Sanjaya in the audience roaring with laughter. What a well-adjusted kid. Jack Black mouths off about the judges being stupid, and he’s right, and even Seal himself who’s there right behind the judges, surprise! eventually says that Jack was awesome. Things kind of start getting crazy and falling apart here, but Ryan reins it in by going back to the contestants and telling Blake he is safe.
Meanwhile, Carrie Underwood went to South Africa and hugged babies and picked flowers … for graves … while singing “I’ll Stand By You” so fricking beautifully I’m sure Gina Glocksen is somewhere pulling out all of her hair.
Ellen dishes on Sanjaya’s hair care secrets and urging people to donate more, and then here come Rascal Flatts. They sing. I don’t know much about them at all so this is pretty unremarkable except, this is the guy people are comparing Crich to? Not even close.
The MySpace guy is in the audience, and I find it hilarious that we see him right before the segment about illiteracy in the United States. But seriously, folks. Paula narrates a trip to Appalachia, and talks about how the children want to learn if only you would help them. Kids rattle off their favorite books, and their accents are so precious and totally make me homesick. On stage after the clip, Paula exhorts people to give, and Ryan calls her short, which I imagine is thrilling for him after being dwarfed by Jordin all season long.
It’s pimpmercial time! Not even saving the world can get in the way of Ford’s marketing power. Ryan mysteriously hints that this is the best pimpmercial evar, and sure why not. It starts with all the Idols stopping at a filling station in the New West, singing “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Blake plays with a hose and millions of people take a drink, LaKiki is in a crazy polka-dotted blouse and leggings for no good reason at all. Jordin drew the short straw and has Phil in her scene. Melinda plays housewife or something in a checked dress, and Crich has to deal with the fact that a doggie is way cuter than he is. All of a sudden they’re at the drive-in, and who’s on screen? BIG STARS, of course. So big I can’t place ¾ of them, but that’s cool because they care. And I get the feeling there’s no way a regular old Ford commercial could top this celebrity-driven thing. Not even if they rubbed the engine with cheetah blood. Everyone lip synchs and dances to “Staying Alive.” Hugh Laurie is funny, and Lisa Kudrow too. Shaq doesn’t know the words, Dr. Phil is creepy. Hugh Grant’s face always has the same expression so I love that he can mock himself here. Kirstie Alley’s got a new show to promote. Goldie Hawn looks great, Gwyneth Paltrow not so much. Helen Mirren’s totally slumming it, and ooh, Miss Piggy. She made it worth sitting through for me.
After that exercise in special effects, Ryan tells Phil that he is safe, and leaves Jordin, LaKiki, and Crich hanging. He then turns to an unbelievably sad story about a poor mother in Kabira who dies of AIDS while they are visiting, and I just … shouldn’t be hearing that right after Phil Stacey is safe on Idol. It just doesn’t go together. But whatever. Ellen is moved by that tragedy and pledges $100,000 of her own, which is awesome, and asks her rich friends to put out too, which is also awesome. She’s a little choked up, and it doesn’t help that she has to bring out Josh Groban singing the most tear-stealing song in creation accompanied by the African Children’s Choir. By the way, is that what Josh Groban looks like? I had no idea.
Some Exxon execs come on now to try to convince us that they give a crap. This introduces a clip of people talking about how many funerals they have been to, but no one has been to more funerals than John -- he counts 280 total, mainly for children, and mainly for children who’ve died from malaria, which is ridiculously easy to prevent, treat, and cure. Please help buy malaria pills and mosquito nets, while Kelly Clarkson performs at the Disney Center and shows us all how comparably silly this year’s competition is as she rules so much.
Back from commercial, Ben Stiller is still singing, but who cares, because it’s The Simpsons! It’s Simon on The Simpsons! Trying out for Idol with a PCD song as Lisa does the Paula seal clap, Marge says “Dawg” and Homer shuts his eyes in disgust. Awesome. Also, LaKisha is safe, and I bet that blooows your mind. Randy says more about playing Nerfball and helping children in New Orleans.
So at this point I’m on my couch enjoying my dinner -- a hearty stew of guilt and determination, when whoa! There’s Celine Dion singing “If I Can Dream” with Elvis who has risen from the dead. I think. I’m not sure. To be honest, I flipped on my DVR of Top Model for these few minutes. That Renee is such a jerkwad. When I get back Madonna is in Malawi, and she’s taken time out of her baby hunting schedule to encourage people to donate money for ARV drugs. It’s a worthy cause.
Some sort of technical difficulty is happening and Simon isn’t going to bail Ryan out of it with any banter, but before we get any air-filling striptease, the link is working again, and there’s Ellen saying goodbye and introducing the amazing Annie Lennox, who plays the piano and sings “Bridge Over Trouble Water” and actually succeeds in inspiring me. Seriously, by the time she stands up to really rub it in my heart is fluttering and I’m actually promising myself to be a better person and stuff. Annie wins. Also winners? The various smiling children from everywhere who each get to say “thank you” to the cameras. I think this means the giving extravaganza is coming to an end.
The Thunderbolt That Wasn’t
Oh, wow. Does that 5th grader show still really come on? I gotta watch less TV. But not until I find out who tonight’s loser is. Ryan corrals Jordin and Crich to drop the bomb and bring good charity time to and end. And he does just that, by proclaiming Crich safe. Jordin smiles hugely in the camera and looks shocked. Ryan … tells her … very slowly that … she is also … safe? This is the shocker that they promised and then telegraphed throughout the entire show, so I hope you’re sufficiently awed. Ryan informs us that no one leaves tonight, and votes from this week will be added to next, with two of our hopefuls taking their final bows then. Gee, I hope Phil and LaKiki don’t step on each other’s toes. So, Jordin’s safe, and $30 million dollars have been raised. Very incredible. And the singout is courtesy of Bono, who wrote a special song for the show. They sing it, and he talks to them, and then they’re on stage all in white singing it and isn’t it nice. A very inspiring two hours, but I don’t think American Idol is going to stop here. Look out, "Asia." You’re next.
I was waiting all night for someone to say, “Simon Cowell doesn’t care about Black people.” You? Share your disappointment with me here.