pitch-black on stage or in the audience or wherever they
are, but it's at least clear that Seacrest has
been replaced this week by a hologram of Rod Serling,
hands clasped, talking about how, for the Idols, this
is "the most important night of their lives."
Sez you, Rod Serling.
The audience is a
celebreteria. The camera cuts to Mandy Moore, star of
the Idol parody film American Dreamz, the one
that tanked. Cut to Ben Stiller, whose job it is now
to go from concert to concert just being
filmed--he was in the audience for the Beastie Boys
concert film called Awesome! I F***in' Shot
That!--and likes to make weird jerking moves
when the camera hits him. Seacrest decides to take an
informal poll. "Who is the next American
Idol?" he asks the giant crowd inside the Kodak
Theater in Hollywood. Their answer is a clear and
resounding, "WHOOOOOOOOOOOO!" and
"AUUUUUUGGGGHHHH!" I suppose this means
they're all for Hicks.
Look! Out in the
crowd! There's Bucky! Daughtry! Constantine! (for the
30th time this season, so desperate is he for more camera
adoration) Next to Constantine is the Skateboarding
Bulldog! And next to him is a tortilla that resembles
the Virgin Mary!
Three songs again
tonight. Two repeats from each and then...their debut
single. This is always my favorite part, the crappy debut
single they shoehorn the singer into whether it fits
them or not.
McPhee is first
with a brand-new version of "Black Horse & The
Cherry Tree." It's a new version because
this time she stands up and dances instead of
lumbering around on her knees like she did before. In
the middle of the song she totally steals some of
Hicks's monkey moves. Hope it tastes good when
you bite his rhyme, Kat. Seacrest takes her to his
side and she trots out the "McPhans" thing
again and introduces everyone to the concept of
"The Kat Pack." Apparently they exist. Do they
like to add random McPhs to everything they say too?
"Living for the City" in a jacket that had to
come from the Fuck You I'm Taylor Hicks and I
Wear Ugly Shirts line. It's shiny and purple
and velvety. And it is exactly what he should be wearing. He
introduces a new dance move tonight, one I like to call
Fosse Steps, where he hops down stairs and then fakes
you out a little at a time by backtracking.
He's coming toward you! No! He's retreating!
What will he do next? How wacky can one person be?
"Come on, America!" he shouts in the
middle of the song. My first instinct is to say, "No.
I won't come on, Taylor Hicks. You
aren't my boss." But I've gone through
some radical Taylor Hicks shifts in my consciousness
lately, and I may just be willing to come on with
There's Taye Diggs, UPN's canceled Kevin Hill.
Cut to Daughtry's wife, clutching his arm. How
long before they get divorced, do you think, now that
he's had a taste of the world outside domesticity?
through "Over the Rainbow" again, not five
minutes after finishing her first crack at it, it
seems. At least Hicks reached back a little to Stevie
Wonder week. I click my heels three times, but she
doesn't disappear. The camera cuts to Leni
Riefenstahl, who's cheering enthusiastically
for McPhee. Oh, it's her grandma. My mistake. Another
cut to McPhee's dad, crying of course. I'm
glad this is almost over, because his weepy routine is
starting to creep me out. It feels more and more
"bad touch" every week.
moment: This might be her best sentence of the season. I
think she's been saving it. She says,
"Katharine, it's no mistake that
it's God-given talent that you are possessed with,
that you are possessive of,
that...you...every father around this country is
feeling the tears down their face as your father does
every time the camera goes in on him and you've
made everyone proud and every little girl proud who
wants to dream and aspire to be you." Then she yells,
"Arna!" like Jodie Foster in Nell.
Hicks returns to
Elton John's "Levon." He starts off,
bluhbluhbluhbluhbluhbluhbluhbluhbluh." I not only
have no idea what he's singing, but it dawns on
me that after hearing this song for years now since I
was a child, I have no idea what it's about. Time to
Google the lyrics like Clive Davis did last week. Here
are some of them:
Levon wears his
war wound like a crown He calls his child
Jesus 'Cause he likes the name
And he sends him to the finest school in town...
He was born a
pauper to a pawn on a Christmas Day When The
New York Times said God is dead And the
And he shall be
Levon And he shall be a good man And
he shall be Levon In tradition with the family
cartoon balloons in town His family business
And Jesus he
wants to go to Venus Leaving Levon far
behind Take a balloon and go sailing...
So there you have
it. Levon is about balloon animals. Cut to several
discarded contestants from this season whose identities
I've already forgotten. Randy says it was
pitchy. Paula, on a roll, says, "Pitchy to you
is the essence of who Taylor is."
with, "It doesn't make any sense what you just
Constantine. His face says, "You want my look? You
want my signature Constantine look? Yeah, you do! Here
it is! My signature look!" Then he arches one
eyebrow and continues looking as weird as he ever did.
time for McPhee's single, called "My
Destiny." Ever since Kelly sang "A
Moment Like This," the Idol producers have
tried desperately to recapture the thrill of that few
minutes of television. From that point on every single
winner and runner-up have been saddled with a
thematically similar song, a love song that doubles as a
contest winner's testimonial, one seemingly
composed by the same Fox lot-sequestered manatees that
write Family Guy. Here is the theme:
"Holy shit! It's happening! It's
happening to me! Can you believe it?! Now! Right here!
To ME!! You all love ME!! I'm FAMOUS!!!"
But McPhee gets
it all wrong. She hits about six really sour notes and
you can see the panic spread across her face, even as she
smiles broadly. Then the choir lurches in. Cut to
McPhee's mother with her hands to her face. I
can't tell if she's thrilled or if
she's freaked out and wondering who this gang
of robe-clad people are who've come to kill or,
worse, upstage her golden child. The song over, I wonder how
hard the judges will be on her. I wish right now that
Pick Pickler was a judge, so she could go, "You
butchered eee-yit!" Randy, Paula, and Simon are
gentle with her, of course. Simon tells people to vote
and to remember "Over the Rainbow."
It's his gift to her, that comment, heaving one last
gasping attempt to stave off Hicks's inevitable
Hicks is next.
His song is called "Do I Make You Proud." He
starts off shakily as the camera pans across the
judges to reveal that Simon and Paula are not paying
attention at all. They're having a playful little
push-fight. And aside from his luck at being given a
marginally less shitty song, Hicks is just flat-out
better, happier, and more confident than McPhee.
Technically she's the superior singer, but
he's has been a bar belter for years now,
dealing with drunks and wet T-shirt contests and
having to play gross street fairs. So he knows how to work a
crowd. He knows how to entertain. And while McPhee
seemed scared of the choir, Hicks is emboldened by
them. He is excess. If they'd said, "Yeah,
we're going to get Cirque du Soleil out here to
turn themselves inside out and display their glittery
internal organs for the entire country and then some
specially trained dancing kangaroos are going to be let
loose in the audience," Hicks would just go,
"All right! WHOOO! Soul Patrol!" You can
see how happy he is to be there. I haven't voted for
a single person all season, not even Paris or Elliott,
who were my personal favorites, but I may vote for The
"You have just won American Idol,"
which sets off a series of blood-curdling shrieks from
Paula. Both she and Randy go ape-shit, wanting credit
for seeing Hicks's talent early on. The audience
is deafening. The clouds have parted and the trumpets sound.
The Rapture is taking place. Pickler begins speaking
several languages and inventing new laws of physics.
Oh, how I wish for a camera to cut to McPhee right
now, mewling, "That's not McPhair! It's
not my McPhault!" before finally whispering a
tearful "Kat Pack..."
to stand on opposite sides of Seacrest for what will be the
final plea for votes. And here's what a major dude of
gallantry Hicks has turned out to be. He reaches
across Seacrest to hold McPhee's hand. To quote
Kelly Clarkson, "I can't believe it's
happening to me," but I am now officially 100%
on The Gork's side.
One more thing. I
was wrong about being finally emancipated from the
hideous, barfy "Bad Day" song. The guy who
sings it is going to perform it live. They
couldn't get Kenny Rogers back out there? The
You're All Dead reel of losers plays and
whoever cut it together has an evil sense of humor.
Interspersed with the final 12--heavy emphasis on
Daughtry's stunned kicked-off face--are
snippets of the serious lunatics from early auditions.
It's a bitter narrative in which Daughtry and Elliott
come off weighing exactly the same as that freak with
the matching plaid shirt, shorts, and hat from the
first round of auditions.
The Last Chop and Final Screw...
it's time for LIVE FROM THE RED CARPET OF THE KODAK
THEATER ON BEAUTIFUL HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD!! I am
writing this recap as it happens and because I live
about 10 minutes away from this place I can hear the
helicopters buzzing all over the city. It's Day of
the Locust about three miles to the east of
me. I'm on the couch in my pajamas eating an
Otter Pop. Lime.
know what version of this other people in the country saw,
but the local L.A. Fox people, including Jillian
Barberie, the only person I know by name out of the
whole bunch, wrangle various Idol-related
personalities for mini-chats on the red carpet. Bucky, Ace,
Elliott, and Pickler stop by. Pickler has on a tight
red dress and soccer mom short hair, looking like she
just picked up her four kids from an after-school play
date. Carrie Underwood takes two minutes out of her boring
career to be boring for Jillian Barberie. Hicks and
McPhee make an appearance. McPhee says she's
"at peace" with whatever happens tonight, then
adds, in a smiley but pissed-off way, "Simon
did say he's the winner,
Bo Derek shows
up--someone I haven't spent a second thinking
about in years--to talk about her confusing new
fall TV show called Secret Obsessions: Fashion
House. Daughtry pops by with his gabby,
microphone-hogging wife, and then McPhee's parents
rave about how everyone wants to work with their
daughter. "She has such a huge celebrity right
now..." says the mom.
And on to the
show. It's a night of tiny little clumps of activity,
most of it filler with no real meaning or
through-line, unless you count the overarching story
of "Wow, We, the American Idol Finalists, Have
Worked Hard at Being Talent Show Contestants, and
It's Like We Just Fought a War or Something and
Have Emerged Braver and Stronger, Deserving of
Celebrity." Add to the activity clumps one entirely
hermetically sealed celebrity cameo, a.k.a.
"Prince Deigns to Show Up After All the
Speculation, Negotiation, Hateration, and
Holleration." So what follows is a list of
discrete items that make up the finale.
McPhee and Hicks come out dressed in white, doing "I
Made It Through the Rain." They're
joined by all the discards for a group sing. Barry
Manilow's longtime companion settles in for an
evening of online shopping.
2. Seacrest and
all the judges are wearing black and white and it looks
like they've all tagged their chairs with
"East Side Locos."
3. Cut to Ben
Stiller and Heather Locklear. All celebrities are friends.
Except for Heather and Denise Richards, who are not.
4. Seacrest asks
the crowd a second time who's going to win. Because
that was so effective last night.
5. The judges
each get a reel showcasing their specific personality tics.
We see endless loops of Randy attempting to create a
catchphrase, Paula slapping people, freaking out, and
crying, and Simon fondling himself.
6. Cut to
Birmingham, Ala. A crowd of people scream for Hicks. Some
former Idol discard whom I recognize but whose name I
forget is the emcee.
7. Cut to
Universal Studios City Walk, which is basically a dumb
touristy mall over near Burbank, and a crowd of people
who happen to wander past season 1 discard Tamyra Gray
all feign interest in McPhee so they can be on camera
and throw gang signs.
8. Paris sings
"We're in This Love Together" with Al
Jarreau. It's like what would happen if a Bratz
doll had a grandfather and they performed a creepy
love duet. Al is wearing a knit cap because you start to get
really, really cold when you reach 80.
9. Commercial for
Coke, the first of 30 during this broadcast. A friend
just showed me the new hot book The Omnivore's
Dilemma last night and we had a very interesting
chat about high fructose corn syrup, which for me is
The New Terrorism. I'm obsessed with hunting it down
and avoiding it. I want to live to be Al
10. Daughtry gets
to sing with Live and it's like Narcissus reaching
out to touch the water. Goodbye annoying wife.
11. I had almost
forgotten how dispiriting it is to watch Pick Pickler
actually exist and react to the world, but they remind me
with a segment called "Puck &
Pickler," where Wolfgang Puck tries to get the
willfully ignorant wretch to try new foods that she's
never heard of and can't pronounce when written
out for her on a menu. She tries on his glasses and
says, "Do I look smart? Maybe people will take me
seriously now!" I'm honestly surprised
she knew to use the adverbial form of that word. She
takes one bite of escargot and spits it out into her napkin.
I'll say it for the last time, and hopefully someone
will read it aloud to you, you problematic young
woman. It's not cool to be stupid. It's not
funny and it's not adorable. It's especially
not cool, not to mention monumentally rude, to spit
out food that Wolfgang Puck's team of cooking
slaves has prepared for you. You're young. Go out and
experience life; try new things without scrunching up
your face; don't be the worst America has to
12. Meat Loaf is
here to sing "It's All Coming Back to Me
Now." He has a red rag to wave around
dramatically and probably also to mop up the buckets
of sweat. Why they never let Ruben Studdard have his own
sweat rag I'll never know. Mr. Loaf has
officially lost his ability to sing live but that
doesn't stop him from trying. When McPhee takes her
part he stalks around the stage, glaring at her like a
pro wrestler about to devour a 48-ounce rib eye. And
then he moves in for the kill. She better watch out or
he's going to start mauling her McBoobs. I do not
want to imagine these two engaged in anything
resembling the song's reference to "the
flesh and the fantasy."
moments. Oh, good. I was just saying how that was what this
show needed: "bits" from Seacrest. It's
"The Golden Idol Awards." They trot out
early-round audition freaks and mock them some more. So just
remember, kids, when you try out for this show it's
FOREVER. You might as well have done porn. One of the
"winners" is some guy named Dave Hoover
who makes Hicks at his wildest look like Perry Como after
popping two Ambien.
14. More Coke
commercials. This one for the Blak version, with coffee in
it. Because America wanted more diarrhea.
15. Puck &
Pickler, part 2. I boycott.
16. The guys all
come out to sing a medley of songs that make no sense as
a medley: "Takin' Care of Business,"
"Tobacco Road" (featuring Hicks on
harmonica) and "Don't Stop." I'm
happy when they do.
17. Next Coke
commercial. A girl and guy on a bench. The guy is behaving
weirdly, pretending his bottle of Coke is a cell phone. Then
he hands it to her and she drinks it. Girls,
here's a tip: NEVER DO THAT. EVER. Men are no
damn good and will try anything to get you into bed,
including putting knockout rape drugs in your
delicious soft drink. Do not take a petite little swig
of anything a stranger gives you, no matter how cute
18. Final Ford
commercial. Hicks and McPhee at the drive-in. They watch a
blooper reel of old Ford commercials, basking in the glow of
the screen and silently plotting to destroy each
gives Hicks and McPhee their own Ford Mustangs. McPhee is
pageant-happy. Hicks acts like he's been taking the
bus to gigs and whoops it up.
"Golden Idol Awards." Claudette,
Elliott's mom, is given an award for being
better than both of McPhee's parents with one hand
tied behind her back.
21. Elliott sings
U2's "One" with Mary J. Blige.
He's out of his mind happy to be doing this,
but who wouldn't be, really? He stands at one
side of the stage and lets her rip it up, something
she's incapable of not doing. I call a friend
on the phone to talk about it and discover that
someone I know and love is a Mary J. Blige hater. I'm
going to seriously reconsider this friendship. I enjoy
imagining Mary J. Blige at restaurants, singing her
order for the waiter, or renewing her tags at the DMV
and belting out her license and Social Security number,
turning every moment of her life into a "Come
to Jesus" altar call. When Elliott rejoins her
toward the end of the song, she grabs him and holds up his
arm like they're about to do a victory lap.
22. Bringing the
room down, Carrie Underwood performs her latest single,
a country music form letter that includes the following
words: "Mama, Chevy, Bible, Mee-maw, Daddy, and
Praying."And that's pretty much all you
need to know.
performs "In the Ghetto" with Toni Braxton.
Toni's parading around in her drawers, bumping
and grinding and flipping her hair around and letting
out little "whoo!" sounds. She thinks
it's a song about being in the Sex Ghetto. She
backs her ass up to Hicks like, "Hey, white boy,
you're kinda meaty. Whatchoo got for me?" And
then the song ends, once again stripped of all
24. The ladies
take the stage for a Strong Woman medley. "Man, I
Feel Like a Woman" and "Trouble"
and "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,"
whatever that one is that goes W-O-M-A-N, I forget the
title, and then "I'm Every
Woman." The last one gives unrepentant homophobe
Mandisa something to do besides hate gays for a
moment. Why won't Donna Summer give this young
woman a call and talk some sense into her head?
"Golden Idol" award. The freaky and
gay-appearing Michael Sondecki, an early auditioner
with no talent besides a mutant resemblance to Clay
Aiken, takes the stage to sing "Don't Let the
Sun Go Down on Me" and embarrass himself. Then
Clay Aiken comes up behind him with a big surprise.
That surprise is his hair. Clay Aiken is so rich now that he
bought one of Andy Warhol's old wigs and dyed it red.
Now it lives atop Clay's skull. They turn
Sondecki's mike down to nothing, not that it
matters. He's too busy exploding into tiny molecules
of homoerotic ecstasy to keep singing. And why
would you want to keep singing when you have
CLAY AIKEN to serenade you with that bizarre Anthony Newley
voice of his?
26. Time for a
lengthy Burt Bacharach medley. It's the annual trick
they play on the Idols, who always seem to have no
idea who the man is. Then it's all, "Hey
kids, try singing one of these difficult, complicated
songs!" They struggle blindly through most of them
but sound positively competent when Dionne Warwick
joins them onstage. Her last note of the big finish
sounds like a death rattle. She and Meat Loaf need a joint
27. A final
"Golden Idol Award." And because the Clay
Aiken and stalker moment wasn't gay enough,
they pour more homo goo on everything. I like to think
it's all for Mandisa's benefit. First up are
some clips of Ace and Daughtry hugging each other. All
this time I imagined a fierce rivalry between them
(thanks for that, producers and editors) when in
reality they could barely keep their loving hands off one
another. Then we see the clip of Hicks and Seacrest
lying on the floor together. And finally they trot out
the Cowboy Trio of early auditioners, the Brokenote
Cowboys. It's a bit they did early in the season and
it wasn't funny then either. Then all three of
them come out to sing "Mamas Don't Let Your
Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys." If they'd had
balls, they'd have done "Cowboys Are
Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other" instead.
28. Prince sings
his new song. Prince dances with his two backup singers.
Prince pouts and combs his hair and casts withering sex
glances at America. Prince disappears from stage
before Seacrest can catch him. Prince has won the
battle of wills, getting his way and showing up
without ever having to touch or see or talk to any of the
contestants, Seacrest, or the judges. What you
didn't see was the cleverly concealed tube of
his own personal oxygen that doctors inserted directly into
his lungs so he wouldn't have to breathe the
same air as everyone else in the Kodak Theater.
29. Hicks and
McPhee sing "I've Had the Time of My
Life," a song that can take me from life-loving
to shoot-myself-in-the-head suicidal in three minutes.
Because it sucks more than almost any other song ever
written. Like in the history of all sucky songs.
Hasselhoff is crying. I watch this shot over and over.
Actors are special people, so in touch with their
emotions. And then Hicks wins it all. He yells
"Soul Patrol!" and sings his "Do I Make
You Proud" song while more explosions take
place and everyone screams and the choir chimes in and
joyful middlebrow delirium rains down from the skies.
It's over. Now I have to go back to paying
attention to how screwed up the country is and spend
my summer catching up on Lost and Gilmore
Girls episodes I missed so I could recap this dang show.
And I don't know how this happened and it feels
weird to say it, but somehow in the process of writing
about it I have learned to enjoy the flavor of the
Taylor Hicks Kool-Aid. My snooty music snob nature will
never allow me to declare myself a member of the Soul
Patrol, but I'm definitely putting his name on
my TiVo wish list in hopes of seeing much more
monkey-dancing from him in the years to come.
Especially after he finally takes Kelly and Clay to
lunch and finds out how they got out of their evil 19
Entertainment contracts so they could have real careers.
He'll shake a major leg then.