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Idol GIves Back

Idol GIves Back


This week you're asked to donate what you can to end poverty. And if you're one of Ellen DeGeneres's friends, then you had especially better pony up the cash. There's also some singing...

Gotta talk about Sanjaya ("I'm the Straight Guy Who Understands Women," to paraphrase People mag's latest quote from him) My Papaya a little bit more this week. If you were sick of hearing about him, then just jump ahead a couple of inches. But one of my favorite things ever is happening-that thing being conspiracy theories about inconsequential television shows. Apparently there's a guy on MySpace who's been correctly spoiling the show's results with an unnerving accuracy, and now people are beginning to talk about his latest assertion: that Sanjaya was simply given the boot regardless of the votes. This MySpace guy (his name's Ricky and he's at isn't revealing his sources, but based on what I've read it seems like he's got a connection to someone who works on Idol, someone who's disgruntled enough to spill it on a weekly basis. Anyway, it's all hearsay, of course, but now other gossip sites are saying that if you read the entire disclaimer at the end of the show, it more or less states that votes aren't necessarily the final word in the competition's outcome. I can't back up those gossip sites, though, because MY DANG TIVO KEEPS CUTTING OFF THE FRIGGING ENDING OF THIS SHOW AND MY HUSBAND/PARTNER/WHATEVER IS FALLING DOWN ON THE JOB OF MAKING THAT NOT HAPPEN! In my husband/partner/whatever's defense, he's out of town this week, leaving me not only single and footloose but also completely technologically helpless. If he ever unexpectedly bites it, I'm going to have to hire one of those shirtless houseboys you read about in spank-it mags. I'll just have to make sure this particular shirtless houseboy knows how to make TiVo work, how to unlock my cell phone when it gets accidentally frozen, and how to make the Internet come back when it decides to simply up and take a smoke break. Also how to work the combo DVD-burning/VCR we just bought. I had to call the man long distance to ask him for directions in putting in a porn tape the other day. Spokes, naturally.

Seacrest is in the control room as the show opens, informing us that tonight, Tuesday's show, our calls will not only save contestants from going home...[spinning around in swivel chair with dramatic let's-get-serious, hand-on-knee for-realness]... "they will also save lives. This...[another slight pause] is Idol Gives Back."

Credits roll and the Idol Gives Back logo pops up over the usual American Idol blue circle. This logo is a ribbony red sash like the one Miss Hawaiian Tropic or Mr. SoCal Leather might be awarded. But my friend Sean, who, along with some other friends, is subbing for my husband/partner/whatever this week, comes closest when he says, "That thing is so Duncan Hines. It looks like it should read 'Now With Extra Frosting!'"

Seacrest emerges onto the stage wearing a skinny black tie that appears to have been dipped in blood. He's also repeating the Kenny Rogers Country Week beard growth of last season. It's a mid-season thing for him that I've not really quite figured out. I want to believe that it's a kind of code that only certain people know-maybe even MySpace Ricky, maybe Seacrest is his connection, wouldn't that be excellent? In any case, it's in keeping with his let's-hunker-down-and-save-the-children stance pre-credits. Stubble = saving lives.

News Corp., Seacrest tells us, is going to donate 10C/ per call for the first 50 million calls. That's $5 million. Left off the end of that corporate largesse proclamation is the fact that Rupert Murdoch shits 5 million bucks every morning before beating his servants and firing that day's downsizing victim. Then Seacrest announces that a special thanks is due Ford, Coca-Cola, and AT&T for their unspecified generous donations and-wait, Ford, Coke, and AT&T are involved in Idol now? Where have I been? Ooh, and now he says that Bono, who's basically now the bug-eyed-glasses-wearing Jesus of the new millennium, is going to be this week's mentor. Then he introduces judges Paisley Jackson, Dukey-Rope Abdul and Chef's Whites Cowell, whose wide-open blouson puts his chest in a body-hair contest with Seacrest's face.

Time for a Celebrity-Poker-Faced-Poverty-Voyeurism-Montage as Seacrest and Simon go to Africa. Coldplay's "Theme From 'Walking Up an Airport Ramp'" plays tenderly as Simon and Seacrest walk up an airport ramp, heads bowed in lifesaving prayer. The men are taken on a meaning-laden, slow-motion tour of devastation, slums, and sewage. It's the kind of decontextualized horror show meant to evoke viewer dollar-donating sympathy but not questions about international debt, the politics of aid to developing nations, or the role greedy First World corporations and governments play in keeping the majority of the world in crushing, extreme poverty. But Dancing With the Stars is going to cover all that shit next week, so wait for it.

The cameras wisely stay on Seacrest, who's simply way better at faking it than Cowell. For his part, Simon is shown talking about the "deplorable" conditions in one sick person's home with a look of anger and disgust on his face, but I get the feeling that even if the man could figure out a way to effectively show actual compassion, some editor's assistant with a beef is delighting in making him look like he's milliseconds away from rolling his eyes again, demanding a fresh, unopened bottle of Curel antibacterial lotion and asking when the helicopter with his dessert is going to arrive.

Tonight's theme: Songs That Inspire. We're told that six "classics" are headed our way. First up is TimberFake singing Clapton's "Change the World." But where's Bono? We see the unshaven former Hooters manager talking poetical about the song, but no Bono comes in to give advice or suggest a change to "Angel of Harlem" or something from Achtung Baby. Weren't we just promised Mr. U2 a second ago? Did I hear things wrong? Is he backstage giving Simon concern lessons instead? Is TimberFake going to sing as well as he's just succeeded in completely fooling my eyes with the gimmicky trompe-l'oeil necktie he's got on the front of his too-small blazer? He begins to sing. The answer is no. I barely know this song. I've only ever heard it in supermarkets before. My friend Gary, sitting next to his boyfriend, Aaron, who is in turn sitting next to my friend Sean, says it's from that movie with the wings. The assembled group in the living room are baffled. Gary continues, "The John Travolta movie with the wings." Some discussion ensues and no one can remember if it's from Michael, which is the one with the wings, or Phenomenon, which is the one with the magical healing Scientology powers of electrical fingers touching you. So TimberFake can't change the world. But can't he at least even change his percentage of flat and sharp notes? What about them? No? Well, OK, then. Friend Aaron says, "He should have sung 'Let the Music Play' by Shannon."

Randy says something about how TimberFake is "in it to win it." Paula gurgles out praise that should be subtitled "Kiss me on the lips!" and Simon takes a dig at Sanjaya, saying that now, at long last, the real competition can begin. Bono must have made him drop the dependent clause "now that that little gay-acting kid is gone."

Commercial Time:

1. Dropped calls are ruining your every waking moment. You'll never find love with the wrong cell phone. You'll be reduced to making out with your sister.

2. New Fords and heart-attack-preventing orange juice. One of them has glucosamine.

3. Elephants and cute monkeys are stealing your credit cards.

4. Red Lobster is a place to eat. If you're that desperate.

5. NASCAR cures heartburn.

6. House is going to fuckin' YELL at someone tonight.

We're back. Ivanka Trump is here and not about to give back one thin dime. And in news unrelated to billionaires' daughters,, currently hosting my favorite show-spoiler, Ricky, the guy that I mentioned above, is here to friend you. If you go to, you can make that happen. And if you go to, you can friend yours truly. I promise not to clutter your box with announcements, though. I bet idolgivesback won't make that pledge. Anyway, Melinda is up next. She's going to sing "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and she's going to do all the parts, including Bananarama's, which is three people at once, but Melinda is THAT TALENTED. OK, she's actually going to sing some shitty Faith Hill song about, in Melinda's words, not only the problems that exist in our country but also the problems on the moon and other planets. Not Pluto, though. Fuck those dwarf planets. Here comes the song...

It's about wars, old people, children, and heaven, where it'll all be better if you'll just wait until you're dead. As gospel songs go, it's a suckfest. And I love gospel music, so I'm not just talking out of my heathen gay ass here. But as usual, Melinda knocks it out of the park and into heaven, where not God but a team of God's B-string angels actually catches it and throws it back, delivering a handwritten note from God that says, "Well-played, Doolittle."

Meanwhile, in the audience, someone holds up a not-so-interesting sign that says, "DOOLITTLE CAN DO LOTS." This prompts a TiVo pause in the living room as gathered viewers finish that sentence. Here are the contributions:

1. Of eating of Campbell's Soup for One.

2. Of sit-ups.

3. Of terrible white people's music and redeem it beyond what it deserves, and Faith Hill should kiss her ass on live national television.

4. Of trips to the ice cream sundae bar at Hometown Buffet.

5. Of guys in the butt. (Note: It was an all-gay room, and this sort of thing is inevitable under those circumstances. Someone always has to make the "in the butt" reference, appropriate or not.)

The judges love her, and she doesn't act surprised. They've finally beaten the "aw, shucks" out of her, and I couldn't be happier.

Commercial Time:

1. You're not pretty enough. Buy cheap makeup.

2. OMG DREAMGIRLS ON DVD! GO APE-SHIT, GAYS! TWELVE EXTRA MINUTES OF "AND I AM TELLING YOU I'M NOT GOING!" Or maybe they said 12 extra minutes of movie. Or 12 extra musical numbers. I don't know. OMG DREAMGIRLS!

3. PSA to remind you that pot is still totally wrong and illegal unless you live in Canada or my neighborhood, where those medical marijuana places are taking over every formerly unused retail space. It's like every Phish fan in the world moved here all of a sudden.

4. Salads are good. Oh, wait, they're McDonald's salads. So that's a lie.

5. Insurance companies will take care of you every single time you file a claim.

6. Buying a 2007 Hummer will get you a complimentary view-of-pretty-trees-facilitating sunroof so that the ozone layer you're murdering will kill you faster. So make sure to use it lots, all you nature-loving Hummer buyers.

Back to show, where Blake is going to add delightful beatbox touches to John Lennon's "Imagine." But first, here's an Idol question. "When will you fuck off already?" asks Someone From Somewhere? OK, lie. That's a question from someone in the room with me. The question from the TV Someone is "What's the biggest sacrifice you've made since coming on the show?" The answer is not, as you might guess, his sexuality, but the constant companionship of his ridiculous-hat-wearing friends and family. And OK, now he's going to sing "Imagine." Still no Bono to be found, by the way...

He sits on a Sensitivity Stool and mewls out the atheistic song, completely losing the evangelical Christian vote at least for one night-not counting the "Blaker Girl" T-shirt-sporting Elisabeth Hasselbeck, of course-but gathering all the lovers of weak-ass singing close to his stylish young chest. His jacket collar is turned up against the frigid cold of this cruel world, the one that should begin living as one at his limp command. I'm imagining Haley, or better still, McPhee, giving that song the innovative and sluttish treatment it deserves, flashing thighs and winking as if to suggest, "Imagine nothing under my BLOUSE!"

After another commercial break filled with ads I just don't feel like paying attention to comes a montage of Seacrest handing out bananas to people while the Judds sing "Love Can Build a Bridge." Did you ever see that TV movie? The one about the Judds, I mean. It was also called Love Can Build a Bridge. They had two people playing Ashley in that thing: Megan Ward and the actual Ashley Judd herself. It's that tough a role to nail. Anyway, Seacrest is at a food distribution center in Africa. I'm in favor of those. Here's LaKisha singing "I Believe," the song that Fantasia burned into my skull the night she won season 3. Is there a good reason for LaKisha to keep singing songs that other Idol winners have made famous? And yelling them? Does this do her any good? I think not. Who's helping this woman choose her songs? Why doesn't she just call me? I could help. I think someone's trying to sabotage her. The judges, naturally, compare her unfavorably to Guess Who?

Phil's up next. Here's a viewer question: "What do you miss most about home?" (room question = "What's it like being undead?") but Phil manages to mention his wife and children at least three times in his one-sentence-long answer. A quick poll around the room yields the following alternative responses:

1. Meemaw.

2. My own personal eyeliner pencil.

3. A leisurely enjoyment of XTube without fucking Chris Sligh's disapproving glances. He's been gone for weeks but I can still feel his burning judgment.

4. The sun.

Everyone in the living room is talking too much for me to hear very well what Phil is saying about the song he's going to sing. I think it's called "The Change" or something like that. It's a Garth Brooks song about, I think I heard this correctly, the Oklahoma City bombings. And, oh yeah, Bono? Still not here.

Phil sings. People clap. The judges like him. Dang, I just can't care about this guy.

So then, after the last commercial break of the night, we get a clip of Simon going to a food bank here in Los Angeles. In the clip we learn that Simon "has never met nice people" before. Then he asks someone for a hug. Who is this person on my television right now? Is this a new beginning for him? Will he be nice to me and disband Il Divo now? Because I've just decided that that's my litmus test for him. Anyway, the clip is actually for America's Second Harvest, and you can check it out at if you want to actually do something besides watch Simon Cowell be amazed over people boxing up cans of tuna.

OK, last song. Jordin Sparks is doing "You'll Never Walk Alone." My friend Aaron wants to know if the jailbait songbird is related to L7's Donita Sparks. I feel safe in guessing that she's not, but he still wants Jordin to sing L7's "Shit List," a wish he's denied as she attacks her power ballad and ends on a TV set-shattering high note. The judges do backflips and get into a punching match over who loves her the most. Seacrest trumps them all by taking off his blood-tie and giving it to Jordin to blot her effusive teenage tears.

Now, Wednesday night's show is not just an elimination-humiliation spectacle, it's also a two-hour distillation of the Jerry Lewis Telethon, updated in content but not in style. Now, you've probably already heard by now that Jordin Sparks and the rest of the country got fooled by crafty 19 Entertainment and that no one is being sent home tonight (details to follow), so the entire thing is just a waiting game for Kelly Clarkson to show up and sing. Also, whatever mystery mega-duet they've promised. And Bono? I don't believe he was ever going to be here, period. And because I've got a rhythm set up already, I don't really feel the need to change my second-episode-recapping ways now, even if it is a charity show. This shit is just too long to ruminate on every word that comes out of cohost Ellen DeGeneres's mouth (she's standing by in the Disney Concert Hall while Seacrest handles duties at CBS Television City), so here's the countdown of things...

1. The kids are all in white. Mistake. Seacrest is back to his three-piece suit ways. Another mistake.

2. Seacrest promises the "most shocking results in our history." Lies.

3. The judges are gussied up in suits and, in Paula's case, a dress that is going to sell a couple thousand more units of Forever Your Girl and maybe even whatever album's got "Rush Rush" on it.

4. News Corp. gets yet another wild ovation for its drop-in-the-bucket $5 million donation. Seriously, that's like me tossing a homeless guy my pocket change. Do I get a 76-trombone-marching-band-musical-salute-to-generosity for that? It's nice and all, but how much praise does it merit? I just want some perspective here.

5. Seacrest introduces Ellen. She's dressed like a casino employee. She makes a joke that gets mild laughter. Now she's pissed. She makes another joke that gets less laughter. Her fury is about to explode in a rage that'll make Carrie look like My Little Pony: The Movie. She falls back to the now-familiar Ellen version of Salt 'n Pepa's "Shoop."

6. First act: Earth, Wind, & Fire. It's a medley of "Boogie Wonderland," "Shining Star," and "September." Philip "Easy Lover" Bailey can still do the falsetto thing, more or less. But the man I wish the camera would focus on to the exclusion of all others is the guy playing the guitar in the background. I forget his name, but he's an EW&F vet, was a guest judge a couple seasons back, resembles '70s soul singer Millie Jackson and is wearing a blindingly sparkly scarf made from surplus melted-down platinum records that were taking up too much space in his garage. He seems like the happiest person in the room, hugely crazy HA-CHA-CHA!!! expression on his face, his metal scarf flying around, dancing around like a mystically funky leprechaun. He keeps throwing his arms out and randomly pointing at people in between guitar licks like he truly believes that laser beams are going to shoot out of his fingers, doubly electrifying anyone lucky enough to feel their heat. That dude is glad to be alive.

7. Clip of New Orleans with Randy. It's no When the Levees Broke, but it's still a pretty grim minute or so. Two years later and that city is still looking like the hurricane happened yesterday. So you'd better dig deep because our own fucking government can't be bothered. I keep waiting for Randy to say, "George Bush doesn't care about black people," but that moment never comes. Oh, and speaking of When the Levees Broke, you should really watch that when you have a spare 250 minutes because it'll make your head explode.

8. Quincy Jones has written a song called "Time to Care," and the kids are going to sing it now. Cut to clip of Q and what looks like Siedah Garrett coaching the kids. Q's in a wacky striped baseball cap that Phil and Blake are going to beat the shit out of each other to wear next. Bono fails to materialize.

9. Eric McCormack shows up in a prerecorded bit to ask you to send money. He makes a Sanjaya joke. Those are still funny.

10. Speaking of Sanjaya, there he is, grinning next to his sister. David Schwimmer pops up on-screen. It goes by too fast to see what he wants. Then Ben Stiller's prerecorded clip features him singing Little River Band's "Reminiscing" in that hilarious Ben Stiller way.

11. More clips of Simon and Seacrest in Africa. Seacrest holds a crying Kenyan orphan who has to raise himself and his little sister. Seacrest encourages the boy to cry some more. Of course, when I see the place these kids live I think, Well, yes, get that kid to cry on camera a LOT if it means something can be done about this hell-on-earth slum. But mostly what I think is that even though I'll call the number to donate my pitiful amount of money, it all seems hopeless without massive governmental shifts in priorities. So where's the number I can call to make that happen?

12. Teri Hatcher, prerecorded. She will not be fake-kissing Seacrest tonight.

13. Time for contestant fake-out, part 1. Melinda is safe.

14. Clip of Paula at the Boys & Girls Club of Los Angeles. Together they play Ping-Pong, draw pictures, cry, and hug.

15. Il Divo show up to sing "Somewhere." I think their mission tonight is to eliminate any trace of charitable feelings this show's managed to generate. And at least two of them prove TimberFake right; nasally is a form of singing. I guess Simon really didn't know that. I will donate my paycheck from writing this recap just to make them stop.

16. Dr. Phil and House, prerecorded.

17. Jack Black sings "Kiss From a Rose." Seal's here with a Klum-alike. He pretends to like Jack Black.

18. Contestant fake-out, part 2. Blake is safe.

19. Carrie Underwood music video for "I'll Stand by You," in which she accompanies African orphans to the graves of their parents. Yes, really. There's more than an hour left of this show and I've already lost my ability to think clearly.

20. Ugh. Rascal Flatts.

21. Clip of poverty and illiteracy in Kentucky. Cut to Paula's dress. Va-Va-VOOM, KENTUCKY! WHOOOO!

22. An Idol/Ford commercial. I'm done with these. I refuse to even describe them anymore. Oh, wait, celebrities pop up in the middle to lip-synch to the Bee Gees' "Staying Alive." They've got Keira Knightley, Rob Lowe, Goldie Hawn, David Schwimmer, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lisa Kudrow, Teri Hatcher, LeBron James, House, Helena Bonham Carter, cancer-hex-deliverer Hugh Grant, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Shaq, Dr. Phil, Seacrest, Helen Mirren, some other lady, Miss Piggy, Blue Man Group, Marc Anthony, Jason Biggs, Mango, Rob Schneider, Micky Dolenz, Eric McCormack, Kirstie Alley and some guy, a different some other lady, Michael Buble, Kevin Bacon, Harvey Weinstein, guys with tattoos, and a third some other lady. Schwimmer seems like the best dancer. Paltrow the skinniest. Hatcher the freakiest.

23. Safe: Phil.

24. Brutal clips of AIDS in Africa. Go to

25. Ellen challenges her rich friends to match her $100,000 donation.

26. Josh Groban sings "You Raise Me Up" with an African children's choir. The song is gross, but the kids have the collective superpower of adorability and they're sapping my strength with it. I assume that if they were in the same room, with me I'd be devastated.

27. Kelly Clarkson sings the gospel song "Up to the Mountain" with guitarist Jeff Beck. And I guess my question here is how is it that a woman who was produced by this insane corporate machine manages to deliver the most authentically cool performance of the night?

28. Simpsons clip where Marge, Lisa, and Homer judge Simon singing a Pussycat Dolls song. Bart makes a Dunkleman joke.

29. Safe: LaKisha. In TimberFake's mind you know he believes he's gone. In Jordin's mind TimberFake is also gone.

30. The mystery mega-duet is a prerecorded mind-bender of Celine Dion with a digital Elvis hologram. Overwhelmed by confusion mixed with revulsion, I am left speechless.

31. Clip of Madonna in Malawi. I assume she's not at her baby ranch. She could just buy that whole place herself and take care of it on her own, so I think she should ask for money for some other African country instead.

32. Annie Lennox sings "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which she finishes with an "OH YEAAAAHHH!" So it's official. Kelly Clarkson just outsang all these other (living, nondigitized) people.

33. Final fake-out. For a few seconds, Jordin Sparks is left hanging in the air believing she's been kicked off, just enough time for her to be shocked into truly entertaining sobs. At last, some fun infused into tonight's show.

34. Oh, hey, look, it's Bono.

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