It's a shame that last night's very special mini-telethon put on by Idol wasn't intended to benefit those afflicted with a severe calcium deficiency, because the volume of processed cheese oozing over the airwaves could've strengthened the bone density of of every inhabitant of North America with plenty of goo left over to cover enough nachos to feed China.
We knew it was an important (self-congratulatory, assuaging white-guilt) night when we saw Seacrest insist on a second take after he stumbled over his opening line, and then caught a glimpse of Cowell all fancied up and squished into a suit jacket, because you just can't save the world without proper attire and unflubbed opening lines.
Much to the dismay of the majority of the audience, when Ryan later fell upon a small technical glitch, so eloquently and subtly pointed out to him by the stage manager shrieking "NOT YET THERE'S A PROBLEM," -- twice -- he then tried to ad lib his way through it by asking the sartorially fluffed Cowell how much he'd personally given tonight. Wisely, though, Simon refused to answer and was quickly rescued as Ellen (I pledged $100,000) DeGeneres came back onscreen at a separate location to introduce another act. I know the cynics were salivating like Pavlov's dog to know the exact number from Simon, but, honestly, him answering that would be as futile as a woman telling her fiance her number of past bedmates. There just isn't a right answer. Any number would drive the pack into a rabid frenzy both ways. Half the people would find the amount condescendingly, tightwad low, and the other half would deem the number to be egotistically, show-offy high. That's just the price of charity in our society.
What Simon did do is make the trip to Africa to film some scenes, while Paula staggered around the corner to visit the local Boys & Girls Club. I can't fault Paula for not making the trip, though. After all, the latest federal aviation regulations don't allow liquid carry-on items of greater than three ounces. So how would a sentient, five foot bottle of vodka make it through security anyhow?
Besides, the biggest laugh of the night was compliments of Lisa Simpson's Paula impersonation. While the cartoon of Cowell singing the Pussycat Dolls "Donchya" should've been giggle-worthy enough, Lisa's flamboyant and dead-on portrayal of Paula quite nearly redeemed the evening.
But that Simpsons skit was intentionally funny. Paula also stole the evening with unintentional laughs as she defined irony when she did a voice-over, script read -- complete with stilted, halted phrasing and over-enunciation -- about illiteracy! For crying out loud, do the producers enjoy making her sound stupid or did they condescendingly think that her "focused" delivery was the proper delivery (as compared to normal, meandering blatherings) to convey the gravity of the situation of Appalachia Kentucky?
But the judges weren't the only Idol crew to make asses of themselves. Carrie Underwood delivered a charming Jesus-take-the-lip-synch version of "I'll Stand By You." And, admittedly, Kelly Clarkson did steal the show and prove why she was the first Idol when she sang a mostly restrained number with Jeff Beck accompanying her. Though she looked like Valerie Bertinelli and did regress to Yelly Clarkson for a short interlude, overall she was the classy fromage in this dairy-fest celebration.
Not faring quite as well? Earth, Wind and Fire did a medley. A medley! I thought those went out of style with Barry Manilow. But the best part is that this section was the first foray into Scientologic overtures, with their bass player being a damn near dead ringer for Travolta's psychlo in "Battlefield Earth." He was only lacking the codpiece.
Plenty of stars made an appearance, either by phoning in pre-taped messages or participating in the humiliating train wreck montage set to "Stayin' Alive." I thought for sure that this fucking laughable disaster was going to be the zenith of the night's bad entertainment, with Keira Knightley wiggling and Hugh Grant blushing with embarrassment and Terri Hatcher having to do the payback promotion to Idol from last year's media frenzy over her "kiss" with Seacrest as they all grooved silly to the Bee Gees.
There was something vaguely amusing about Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell when they'd bump heads to "What is Love" ten years ago, but even Kattan hanging on the sidelines couldn't make this skit intentionally funny. Which is exactly what makes it cringe-worthy hilarious.
But even better? Simon Cowell's brainchild Il Divo was finally unleashed to the Idol audience. Just when we thought nothing could make this year's crop of contestants look good by comparison, this went and did it. Holy. Fuckin. Shit. Obviously trying to merge 'N Sync with Andrea Bocelli, Cowell has created this pop-horror to cross capitalize on their worldwide appeal. As a proud Italian, this shit almost made me weep. Are you telling me this mutant music disaster actually MAKES money? Who the hell is listening to them? Who's enjoying them? I mean it, I really want to know. Because those dumb, listening-challenged idiots should be forced to donate double to last night's charitable causes just for making the rest of us sit through that. Out-fucking-landishly bad. And suddenly, every word that comes out of Simon's mouth henceforth in a critique is tainted with the psuedo-operatic stylings of these bozos.
We also got treated to several "stars" making an appearance and taking the easy Sanjaya jokes. The Hair Himself was in the audience, laughing louder than anyone at the jokes, but it remains to be seen if he's really a great sport (probably) or just loving every last bit of being in the limelight, happily being a mockery because it makes him famous (also likely.)
One such person involved in some Sanjaya flack was Jack Black. This was a little sad, because it means Jack Black has already become that guy. You know, a guy who was cool with his Tenacious D and zany antics but is now just mass-market Velveeta. Sadly though, he had the opposite effect of Il Divo. Though his "performance" was played for laughs, it was still far better than anything we've seen the contestants put out on the stage this year.
Then the script flipped back to serious, and we knew this because Tom Cruise in all his heterosexual, Thetan, movie-star glory popped onscreen and glared through his preternaturally perfect face for a brief moment to -- I think -- give a number of how many funerals he's attended. And the number was one that shouldn't have been given, because of his Scientological leanings, because much like a charity number or sleep-with number, there's no correct one. It was an average number, I suppose, but I was also under the impression that Thetans didn't get sick or fuck the same sex or take drugs or die once they eradicated their engrams and they just devolved back into clams or jump in a volcano or fight psychlos with Xenu or wear mock naval uniforms some other happy, unenturbulating horseshit as they ascend to Commodore, level ten status.
And that was all eventually proven out, as the husband and father to a couple of raging Scientologists then proceeded to reanimate and take the stage and sing his show-stopping '68 comeback finale number, "If I Can Dream." That's right, Elvis was back in the house. And he was doing a duet with Celine Dion. Remember when Natalie Cole did that "Unforgettable" duet with her dad? She at least had the sense to keep him onscreen and it kind of worked. Now, remember back to the second season of The Sopranos, after Nancy Marchand had died, but they still needed Livia Soprano for some scenes? So they kind of diced and spliced and used sit-ins and worked Livia into the script? Remember how god-forsaken creepy that was? TRIPLE IT.
This was, without question, one of the worst ideas Idol has ever hatched. Not only do they create a hologram of The King, they pair him up and make him duet with the queen of overblown, oversung, heartsappy Cheeze Whiz, Celine. And I swear to you, there were times when she looked over at the impersonator-stand-in-hologram and seemed pissed as though the corpse was upstaging her.
Robert Rodriguez couldn't have come up with a more bizarre, bad-taste scene than this. Which is exactly why it earns the prestigious award that I've heretofore been unable to hand out this year: The AJ Dance of Approval.
Oh yeah, and then Madge stopped by and reassured us that she's still banging Guy Ritchie because she gave a really "sincere" plea for help with her fake British accent.
And then they closed the show by having Bono mentor the kids.
Because, you know, he's just about the last credible rock superstar with relevance left in the world and he's equally known for his philanthropy and he took the time to work with the kids but as he still looks fairly normal and speaks coherently, it just wouldn't have meshed with the rest of the evening so just give him a whopping minute and a half at the end of the show. It was one last dollop of tacky shredded cheddar to put the final artery-arresting, cholesterol overloaded extravaganza of giving for the children into the Wisconsin hall of fame.
So that was it. Dead men singing. Yelly Clarkson making her comeback. Stupid montages. And no one getting kicked off, because it was a night of charity.
It was overhyped, overblown, and overproduced. In other words, it was everything that's good and pure and sane about American Idol.