Thursday, April 26, 2007

America Gives Back

Celebrities appealed, singers performed, heartrending film clips were shown and no one was eliminated. IdolGivesBackPalooza was filled with tears and compassion, giving and understanding.

  • Ryan Seacrest announced that the show received a record 70 million votes Tuesday night, so NewsCorp donated their maximum $5 million pledge.

  • Ellen DeGeneres co-hosted the show from the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where most the night's musical numbers occurred.

  • Earth Wind and Fire performed a medley of their hits (watch video).

  • There were celebrity appeals by the likes of Forest Whitaker, Dr. Phil McGraw, Hugh Laurie, Eric McCormack and Teri Hatcher.

  • A film clip of Randy Jackson's trip to his home state of Louisiana and his visit to a FEMA park still filled with the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

  • The six finalists, all dressed in white outfits the entire evening, performed "Time to Care" (watch video)written by Quincy Jones, who appeared in a film clip with them.

  • A running joke satellite link up with Ben Stiller, who threatens to continuously sing "Reminiscing" by the Little River Band until $200 billion is raised. The joke dies as soon as he begins to sing and becomes less and less funny as it continues throughout the night.

  • A particularly touching clip of Ryan and Simon Cowell in Africa with Grauman, a 12-year-old orphan raising his sister alone without help. If your heart didn't break, you were made of stone.

  • Melinda Doolittle was the first of all six Idols to be pronounced safe. During the course of the night, we'll learn, in this order, that Blake Lewis, Phil Stacey, LaKisha Jones, Chris Richardson and Jordin Sparks (who is given about 15 seconds to think she's been eliminated) are safe as well.

  • A clip of Paula Abdul visiting a Boys and Girls Club in Hollywood.

  • Il Divo sings "Somewhere" (watch video).

  • Jack Black does a skit as a random person chosen from the audience to come onstage. He demands to sing and be judged, breaking into Seal's "Kiss From a Rose," (watch video) while his partner, Kyle, cries holding a rose in the audience. It wasn't happening for Randy, who tells him maybe the stretchy pants would have helped. Paula says "The School of Rock called, they want their diploma back." And Simon calls him better than Sanjaya (who the camera pans to sitting in the audience and laughing beside his sister). Seal, sitting behind Randy, calls it the best rendition of "Kiss from a Rose" he's ever heard. Not hilarious, but cute.

  • A clip of Carrie Underwood in Africa singing "I'll Stand By You" (watch video) with a group of children.

  • Back at the Disney Concert Hall, Rascal Flatts performs "My Wish" (watch video).

  • A film clip of why education is important to the children of Appalachia.

  • Paula, wearing something from the Kellie Pickler Collection, joins Ryan on stage where he teases her about her height while the home audience stares at her cleavage.

  • The finalists do the Ford commercial to "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (watch video) going to a drive-in in a Mustang convertible, where they watch a video of "Stayin' Alive" featuring Good Charlotte, Dr. Phil, Keira Knightley, Lebron James, Hugh Grant, Hugh Laurie, Helen Mirren, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Harvey Weinstein, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Blue Man Group, Miss Piggy, Marc Anthony, Shaquille ONeal, and Kevin Bacon, among others.

  • A clip of Ryan and Simon visiting AIDS patients and homes of AIDS orphans in Africa.

  • Back to the Disney Concert Hall, where Ellen DeGeneres donates $100,000 before introducing Josh Groban singing "You Raise Me Up," (watch video), backed by the African Children's Choir.

  • A clip of celebrities discussing how many funerals they've attended, followed by an African who has been to 280 funerals. There is a discussion about how malaria, a treatable disease, is deadly in Africa.

  • Again in the Disney Concert Hall, Kelly Clarkson, the first American Idol, sings Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain" (watch video) accompanied by Jeff Beck.

  • A clip of "The Simpsons" has Simon, singing the Pussycat Dolls' "Don'tcha," auditioning for Lisa, Homer and Marge, who keeps saying "dawg." Lisa, as Paula, wants to know, "Where's the dog? I like dogs!" The best part? After Homer tells Simon he's going to Hollywood and drops him through a trap door, Bart says, "Lions haven't eaten this well since Dunkleman" (watch video).

  • Next, the long-awaited (dreaded) duo of Celine Dion performing "If I Can Dream" with a phantom technology-produced Elvis Presley ( watch video).

  • Madonna appears in a filmed message (watch video) from Malawai, where many people are HIV Positive. Honestly, she and Celine Dion look gaunter and deader than Presley.

  • Seacrest announces that they've received $30 million in corporate donations, followed by the "what color is the sky" Idol Trivia Challenge.

  • At the Disney Music Hall, DeGeneres introduces Annie Lennox singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (watch video).

  • The Idols "discover" they're all safe. No one seems surprised, though minutes later Jordin's eyes are full of tears ... crocodile tears.

  • In a final brief clip, Bono mentors the finalists, telling them they can end brutal, stupid poverty, before they perform "American Prayer" (watch video).
No one can argue with raising money so that starving children are fed, educated and cared for. Not only in Africa (where the need is probably the greatest) and in the United States (where it hits home the most), but anywhere in the world. Does a country exist where some child does not go hungry or uneducated? And, certainly, most anyone comfortable enough to be watching "American Idol" can afford to give a dollar to the cause.

But on a very un-PC note, it must also be said that IdolGivesBackPalooza was contrived, manipulative and, unfortunately, boring for most of its 2 hours. Americans watch "Idol" for escapism and entertainment, and, for the most part, last night was neither.

It's wonderful that tens of millions of dollars were raised for the right reasons. But our cynical side knows that every dollar of the $5 million that NewsCorp donated was made back last night alone during the Idol's commercial breaks, that AT&T made a small fortune off Tuesday night's text-messaging votes, and that the high ratings won't hurt Fox Television either.

We also don't need to be told by the likes of Teri Hatcher and Madonna and a bunch of other celebrities what we should believe in and contribute to, no more than we'd vote for a candidate they're endorsing. Let's not forget, celebs are not the great thinkers of the world. Most should be visiting the Wizard and asking for a brain.

Finally, the true spirit of giving is selflessness, not self-promotion and endorsements for Ford, AT&T, Coca-Cola, ConAgra and every other Idol corporate sponsor. Give from your heart, not because you expect some form of payback. So forgive us if we seem a bit disillusioned by it all.

For those who do wish to donate for all the right reasons, here is a link you can use.

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© 2007

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