In six seasons of American Idol I am not sure I have ever been as annoyed as I was tonight. Considering all of the painful performances, shocking eliminations, and bloated results shows I have sat through, that is saying a lot.
In my recap of last night's show, I commended the producers for finding a way to integrate the charity efforts with the contestant's performances. Tonight, all of that was shot to hell.
Let me first say I am glad that a ton of money was raised for such good causes. As I said last night, Idol has given a lot of people a lot of pleasure, and I'm glad that so many wanted to give back by contributing to these very worthy charities.
Having said that, tonight's show was a big mess. There seemed to be no articulated focus -- we were, apparently calling to support Africa (there was hardly a mention of a specific nation, just "Africa" in general), literacy in Kentucky, Katrina relief in New Orleans, homelessness in Atlanta, food banks in Los Angeles, and more. It would be nice to think that $30 million could save the world, but dispersed among a dozen or so charities? Helpful, but hardly world-changing.
Then there was the way the various segments were produced. Many of the images and stories were, of course, devastating, and if they shined a light on causes for concern around the globe, then great. However, the segments were so manipulative, so self-congratulatory, and ultimately so patronizing to both the viewers and the subjects they were featuring that I almost vomited in my mouth on several occasions. I mean, forcing those kids to look into the camera and say "Thank you" before sending them back to their malaria ravaged villages? Filming AIDS-stricken children as they are on their way to the hospital to die? Randy Jackson forcing that poor kid to "go long" to catch a miniature nerf football? Just not right.
Then there were the performances, which, with only a couple of exceptions, were just plain bad. 90% of the stars that had been advertised for weeks appeared in unfunny pre-taped clips (some lasting less than 5 seconds) and the performers who did show up didn't look very inspired to be there, or were just plain bad (I'm talking about you, Il Divo). The Ben Stiller bit wasn't even a little bit humorous, and the "Staying Alive" video got old after about 12 seconds. And how about that Bono-penned song? I'm guessing he wrote that in the 15-minute car ride on the way to meet with the contestants.
And don't even get me started on that ridiculous Elvis/Celine duet. Embarrassing.
The highlight of the evening for me was the original Idol, Kelly Clarkson, who gave a spectacular, appropriately emotional performance of a Patty Griffin song, accompanied by noted guitarist Jeff Beck. While her choice of outfit was questionable, her vocals were absolutely magnificent. I just love that girl.
Josh Groban's performance with the African children's choir was also a highlight, particularly as the camera panned across the beaming faces of the children as they sang. I also enjoyed Annie Lennox' rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and Carrie Underwood's pre-taped performance of "I'll Stand By You."
But here's where I really start to get mad -- after making us sit through a well-intentioned but torturous two hours, they didn't even eliminate anybody! I saw this "shocking result" coming a mile away (basically from the moment Ryan announced that it would be the "most shocking results ever"), and, unfortunately, I had 120 minutes to get angrier and angrier about it. Yes, it would have seemed strange to send someone packing after the events of the evening, but this was an American Idol results show, people, and not eliminating someone tonight is going to impact the competition in very serious ways.
And while part of me says I should lighten up and accept that this was just a sacrifice for the good causes celebrated tonight, I can't help but be annoyed, as this is a competition that we, the viewers, are encouraged to take seriously. These kids careers are on the line, and people spent hours voting last night. Yes, the results will carry over to next week, but in combining two weeks worth of results, any number of outcomes can occur that will have been affected by this twist. Without knowing who would have been kicked off this week, or who would have been in danger, any number of things can happen next week -- in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if someone like Melinda or Blake gets the boot as a result.
I'm a little mad, can you tell?
Ultimately, I'll get over it, and next week I'll be back in the mindset of the competition, trying to figure out which two contestants will be sent packing. Until then, though, I'm gonna stew a bit. After two hours of manipulative, insulting torture tonight, I think I'm allowed.