April 21, Wednesday, was Elimination Day on “American Idol,” but it was also “Idol Gives Back” evening.
First, the elimination: Tim Urban (Terrible. Unanimous.) was finally recognized for the weak talent he has been since Day One. Tim the Terrible is gone. Sing no sad songs. Justice has been done (a little late, but better late than never).
Now, a critique of the “America Gives Back” show itself, with the comment that I have written in an earlier article that “A.I.” needs to do more of this sort of fund-raising show, since times are tough all over. While saying that it is good to try to get people to give to charity, I’m not sure that showing video footage of a pregnant woman as she is dying is the way to go about it. That may be T.M.I. Or it could be just me.
Nowhere are times tougher than in Africa, apparently, since much of the show focused on that continent, making me never want to go there as long as I live. (Don’t send me hate mail telling me how beautiful South Africa’s Johannesburg is and rambling on about the wildlife. I’m scarred for life by the visions of dying babies. First Haiti’s earthquake; now this. And on a SINGING show, no less!)
The program opened, impressively, with President Barack Obama and Michelle saying, “Hello, Everybody! ‘American Idol’ has always been about changing lives on the stage and around the world.” The president went on to mention the $140 million the show has raised in previous “Idol Gives Back” years and ended with the couple saying, “We want to thank ‘American Idol’ for the example they’re setting and encourage everyone to make a contribution. And, to the year’s finalists, as Randy says, ‘You’re all my dawgs—-and, Simon, be nice!” Very impressive opening. It was the middle and the end that left me cold.
Nineteen entertainers graced the stage at two locations, one of them the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, where Queen Latifah helped Ryan Seacrest M.C. The top 12 came out, attired all in white, and sang “Keepin’ the Dream Alive.” Lee, Crystal and Tim sang nice harmony on the tune. It was like Old Home Week seeing the likes of Lacey, Didi and Andrew again (even though Andrew left just last week).
Jennifer Garner then made a visit to Breathitt County, West Virginia, where 45% of the people live in poverty. This is where the show began to sink into the slough of permanent despond. Sully Sullenberger, the heroic captain who saved 155 lives by safely landing his plane in the Hudson River, made a plea to save more lives around the world. Russell Brands and Jonah Hill tried for some levity in a skit that was based on the idea that they were supposed to have celebrity “friends” answering the phone lines, and nobody was there. (Later, look-alikes and a few real stars, like Slash from Guns ‘N Roses, were there). The Black-Eyed Peas sang “I Wanta Rock Your Body.”
This was the point where the show began to become a real downer. “Every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria.” Video footage of a pregnant African woman dying on November 26, 2009, dead from malaria because there was no mosquito netting to protect her or her unborn child.
Then, humor returned—or tried to— with George Lopez doing a bit where he “critiqued” the judges. This segment was funny, entertaining and one of the few times in the night that I didn’t want to reach for a tranquilizer. (I especially liked it when Ryan Seacrest called Lopez Erik Estrada as Lopez left and the “dim the lights” nonsense with Lopez commenting on the power he felt and adding, “This must make you feel 5 feet tall!”)
Jeff Beck played guitar while Joss Stone, backed by the Jubilation Choir, sang “You Put A Spell On Me.” (The spell being put on me was one of deep gloom; it deepened with every passing moment from that point on.) All kinds of stars put in brief appearance cameos, from David Duchovny to Justin Bieber to Josh Groban to Jim Carrey. Carrie Underwood announced that 36 cents of every ticket she sells on her upcoming tour will go to “Idol Gives Back.”
Then came the cringe-worthy SNL potential skit part. Ban-Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, spoke. I did not know who he was, and I’m guessing that I was not alone. At one point, I was afraid, for just a nano-second, that he might be going to preside over a mass marriage of strangers. I don’t remember what he said; I was still too upset about the dying pregnant woman.
Alicia Keys performed, as did Carrie Underwood and Wanda Sykes and Annie Lennox. David Cook was seen briefly.
The whole evening became too much for me. I was made happy only by the announcement that, of those who were in the bottom three this week (Aaron Kelly, Tim Urban and Casey James), Tim Urban was the one going home. Emotionally, I felt horrible, like I do when Caribbean Island dwellers living in poverty beg and you are the rich American on the beach.
I’m also fearful for Aaron Kelly, Michael Lynche and Siobhan Magnus, as I fear that this trio will be heading for the exits next.
And, for this year’s “Idol Gives Back,” now that it’s over: Tell me a joke. Pass me a drink. Somehow cheer me up, because I feel really blue. So much misery; so little ability to help. .