Last night, the vacuous nonsense that is American Idol took a turn away from the usual vacuous nonsense to run a cheap, vacuously nonsensical imitation of a Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. In the course of doing so, the producers might have inflicted some lasting emotional damage on one of its most promising contestants with a sleazy stunt that was billed as “the biggest shock in American Idol history.” Back to that later.
Don’t get me wrong—“Idol Gives Back” appears to be a worthwhile charity. Providing aid to starving or diseased chilllllldren in Africa, to chilllllldren rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina (damn that Bush, anyway!), and teaching chilllllllllldren to read in Appalachia are all worthwhile causes. Of course, we don’t know how much of the money is being put to productive use and some of the efforts are arguably saddled with inefficiencies beyond the control of the charitable foundation. (For example, if $10 will buy enough pills and mosquito nets to keep 20 kids from dying of malaria, how many thousands of kids would $10 worth of DDT have saved were it not for the alarmist response to the late crusading tree-hugger Rachel Carson’s hyperbolic 1962 book Silent Spring, which precipitated a worldwide ban on the one insecticide that could have effected control over the vector for this mosquito-borne illness—albeit at the expense of a few birds. Yeah, that pisses me off.) Anyway, let’s assume that the money is well spent. I have no argument with the idea of “giving back.”
But two hours of quick performances, mostly by has-beens and second-tierers, interspersed with taped vignettes of Simon in Africa, Seacrest in Africa, Carrie Underwood in Africa, and Madonna in Africa didn’t live up to the hype we’ve been getting ever since Idol opened in Hollywood this year. We were promised Pink, Bono, Madonna, Celine Dion, Annie Lenox, Earth Wind & Fire, Kelly Clarkson, etc., etc. Where the hell was Pink? Didn’t even catch a whiff of her. Did I miss something? Bono appeared at the very end in a taped segment with the contestants. EW&F and Kelly did appear. Ben Stiller did some inane, taped crap. Annie Lenox did a heartfelt but past-her-prime performance of Bridge over Troubled Waters, which, although it was probably the best live performance of the evening, wasn’t really up to the level of a 2.5 sheets to the wind Dino singing That’s Amore on a Jerry Lewis telethon. The Best Special Effects award goes to the vidgeeks, who put together a flawless electronic marvel–a “live” on-stage duet by Celine Dion and Elvis Presley, who you might recall died in 1977. Elvis was good. Celine was Celine. In other words, she gets the Official Nittany Turkey “IS” Rating. (IS = it sucked.) Consequently, Elvis gets the Best Performance by a Performer, Living or Dead award.
Do you see a pattern there? Idol was able to get has-beens and wanna-bes, along with their own effluvia (Clarkson and Underwood), but the real icons—with the exception being Ben Stiller, of course—were on tape. And where in the hell was Pink?
Ellen Degeneres served quite well as the guest host, although Ryan Seacrest was there to be the insipid emcee, as usual. Ellen looked like she’s been working too hard. She seemed tired.
We were subjected to two hours of this crap and the voting results seemed to be an almost superfluous addition to the fluff. Seventy million votes were cast, which provided a lot of matching funds from the Idol folks to the charitable foundation. So, of course, those of us who are hooked by this crap were all on pins and needles waiting for the latest elimination. There was none.
Say what? You heard me right. There was none. They’ll be eliminating two next week. But the way this was handled was atrocious and potentially damaging to one favored contestant’s young psyche.
During the course of the show, four contestants of the remaning six had been told that they were safe and could rest easy. So, in the final few minutes of this two-hour torture, it came down to two people: Chris and Jordin. Remember that Seacrest had been touting the “shock” we would all get during the evening. Chris was told that he was safe, seemingly leaving Jordin, who has become one of the favorites to win, shaken, in tears, and going home. The director trained a camera on Jordin’s parents and friends for a lingering look at their distress and disbelief, then cut back to the discombobulated Jordin as Seacrest announced, “Jordin, you are also safe.”
Jordin is 17, and yeah, if she’s going to get into showbiz, she’s going to have to suffer a lot of setbacks, closed doors, heartbreaks and plain old slaps in the face, but this was not the way to introduce her to that. She was so emotionally overcome that she had difficulty performing the closing number; whether this inimical bullshit will create any lasting scars is unclear. I hope she gets plenty of support during the week and bounces back strongly from this ridiculous cheapass prank. And I fervently hope that none of her family and supporters had coronary incidents on account of the crapola.
So, next week, we’ll see the cut from six to four. Most likely, two of the guys will bite the dust. Which two will depend on their performances. The seventy million votes from this week will be added to the voting next week to determine the bottom two.