If you just tuned in to American Idol for the first time this season because it was the finale (the way a casual sports fan might watch baseball only during the World Series and porn stars only catch the Masters when Tiger is playing) I wonder if you'd look at the two finalists -- Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze -- and say "Out of 100,000 applicants, these are the best two they could find?" That pretty much sums up this season in a nutshell.
They both can sing but midway through the show, when Christina Aguilera grabbed a mic, you realized neither of them can carry her Chloraseptic spray.
I'm a little surprised that Lee won but I shouldn't be. The safer choice usually gets the nod. The fact that Crystal has been compared to Janis Joplin means she might as well have been in the Manson family as far as God fearing America is concerned. Lee is much more their idea of a rock star -- a live Build-a-Bear.
Crystal can take comfort, however, in knowing the only difference between winning and losing is an appearance on The Tonight Show. A number of losers have had much bigger careers than winners. Just ask Chris Daughtry, Clay Aiken, and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson. To put it in more perspective -- runner-up Elliott Yamin sang the National Anthem at Dodger Stadium. American Idol Jordin Sparks sang it at the Dodgers' spring training facility in Glendale, Arizona.
Some thoughts on the finale:
Maybe the most jaw dropping production number ever was the Top 10 all in Catholic School uniforms singing "School's Out" with Alice Cooper (who now looks like Ted Danson in clown make up). And then the final shot with the camera looking right up Siobhan Magnus' crotch. Holy shit! If she had worn that outfit and struck that pose during the competition she might be the American Idol today. Or Mrs. Jesse James.
Joe Cocker has turned into Fred Sanford.
Dane Cook remains an enemy of comedy. Paula Abdul did a better stand-up routine. (More on the Divine Ms. P. later.)
Is Alanis Morisette now black?
Finally! A true inspirational moment. Not the usual trumped up Idol schmaltz sob story of a contestant who was so poor he grew up in a Maytag box or a contestant who has been a mother since she was eleven. Bret Michaels, who only one month ago suffered a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage, appeared on the show and electrified the crowd. I expect thirty hopefuls next season to fake grand mal seizures just before they audition (and the judges to mistake the seizures for the auditions).
Janet Jackson sang in a black gown with slits all the way up to her armpits. I imagine that's what she wore to Michael's funeral.
The Simon sendoff video pieces were lame, but his little farewell speech was typically smart and succinct.
A few words about why this is my last season reviewing Idol (and by the way, where was the big sendoff tribute to me? Shots of me at twelve reviewing my Jr. High Spring Sing. Shots of me mugging for the camera. Shots of me being yelled at by Diana DeGarmo's mother.) American Idol used to be a nationwide shared experience. People actually did talk about it around the water cooler. It was fun to write about something everyone had an opinion about. I enjoyed your comments more than watching the show.
But now the zeitgeist has "Gleefully" moved on. American Idol is no longer a phenomenon; it's a franchise that Fox will keep alive at all costs. To them it's the golden goose; to me it's Terry Schiavo.
The show's become routine, formula, tedious. Hey, nine years of anything, even Police Academy movies gets old. The contestants are now cookie cutter types. And without Simon Cowell, there quite frankly is no show. Love him or hate him he was compelling... while the rest of the judges were just gristle you cut around to get to the steak.
Dumping Paula Abdul was a big mistake. At least she was insane or drunk or on drugs. Whether it was critiquing a contestant for a song he hadn't sung yet or uttering pearls like "I will never forget my humble beginnings as a Laker Girl," Paula always came through. We need a National Joke and Sarah Palin is just not cutting it as her successor (at least not yet). It was so good to see Paula again last night. She looked elegantly inappropriate in her hot pink prom mini-skirt. Listening to her drone on semi-incoherently I realized exactly what I've always loved about her. She's just as surprised at what comes out of her mouth as we are.
Another mistake was hiring Kara. Who cares if she has music credentials? She's just not likable. It also doesn't help that she looks like Cruella de Vil after a horrible tanning booth accident.
You need someone unique and surprising and fun... which is why I was very excited when Ellen DeGeneres was hired. But boy, has she been a colossal disappointment. She knows nothing about music, can't string together a complete sentence, and the kid in your 4th grade class who stuck walnuts up his nose was funnier. Drop her. And here's the thing -- I swear, no one will notice.
So congratulations to Lee. I hope he and all the contestants have successful careers, a few even in music. May Alice Cooper continue to play championship caliber golf,and will someone please tell Joe Cocker where he is?
Simon had a great line (as usual). You have to know when to leave the party. It's time. Where is that damn valet with my car?
Follow Ken Levine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KenLevine