"Worst Episode Ever"
So the big "Idol Gives Back" 2-hr extravaganza occurred last night and it was one of the most awkward and comically uneven two hours of TV I've ever seen, or been near. Let's look at Highlights (short list) and Lowlights (sommmmmmewhat longer)
1. Kelly Clarkson and Jeff Beck - when I heard about this pairing, I thought "Really? Do these two even live on the same planet? Come to think of it ... when's the last time Anyone saw or heard of Jeff Beck?" And the performance ... well, it looked a little awkward, in that he stood way back, like he was trying to be as unpresupposing as possible - almost like he was embarrassed to be there. But Kelly. . . . holy mother of all that is good and pure, she can sing. The song: "Up to the Mountain," which my cursory research tells me is a fairly recent offering from Patty Griffin, though it felt like a much older song. Basically, I spent the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday Idols wondering when someone, anyone, was gonna sing "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke. Kelly's performance was as close as anyone got, and the most "inspirational" thing anyone sang all week.
2. "The Simpsons" - the all-new animation, where Marge, Lisa, and Homer play Randy, Paula, and Simon, respectively, and they judge Simon Cowell (as himself) singing "Don't You Wish Your Boyfriend was Hot Like Me" - the whole thing had me genuinely laughing (which the regular "Simpsons" TV show has failed to do much lately, frankly). Simon's singing was kinda dumb, but the send-up the judges was hilarious. Makes me really Really look forward (even more than before) to the upcoming "Simpsons" movie (this summer).
3. Ryan blows the intro - did the west coast see this? The camera pans along the contestants toward Ryan, who starts talking but totally and utterly muffs his line. He then tells "Jimmy" or whatever the cameraman's name is to back the camera up and do the intro over. Awesome glitch to start off the night.
1. No Elimination - total rip-off. You're safe, you're safe, you're safe ... Chris, you're safe. That just leaves Jordin. And she is ... safe too. Nobody gets killed on "Idol Gives Back." Next week, Idol Taketh Away two contestants, so ... more bloodshed and heartache for my buck.
2. Bad clothing - all six contestants dressed in white, as if they had all died and returned as angels, or were going to play angels in some dreadful musical.
3. Ellen - normally like her, and she did her best, but the whole back-and-forth between Disney and the normal Idol venue felt so forced and weird and random and arbitrary. Plus, the guest list was ... well, random.
4. The "talent" - I love Earth, Wind, & Fire, but ... what a weird way to open your show - with 60-yr-old guys singing 30-yr-old songs in a medley, having Nothing to do with "inspiration" or "giving" or whatever the theme was supposed to be. And "Il Divo?" If they had been followed by actual DEVO, I would have been happy. But no such luck.
5. Celine - if you never hated Celine before, now you have a new reason to consider trying. She sang a duet with dead Elvis (from his '68 comeback special). To her credit, she could barely bring herself to keep up the pretense that a live Elvis was singing alongside her. I think I saw her glance in his (alleged) direction once, and then really try to do so a second time. I'm not a big fan of exploiting the dead in this fashion. That said, dead Elvis totally outsang living Celine.
6. Death - OK, the show does a good job of showing the extent of the horrible unnecessary death in Africa, but it got to feel a little exploitative after a while. Plus, it was very jarring to go from "baby dies of malaria" to "Celine sings with dead Elvis" to "emaciated A.I.D.S. mother suffers in stifling heat" to "B-list celebrities lip-sync 'Stayin' Alive.'"
7. My money goes where? - The producers did a HORRIBLE job of convincing me that I should give money to them as opposed to some other charity. Where was the explanation of where the money would go, who, exactly, would be administering it, how much would actually get to people, etc. etc. Kids are dying, send money. It was too simplistic to pry money out of me (I gave $50 to breast cancer research yesterday, completely coincidentally). Did they think that Idol viewers are shallow enough that they just need to have their heartstrings pulled and that'll be enough? I'm all for, ALL FOR, a renewed focus on reducing abject poverty and stopping preventable diseases from spreading, but you need to document your plan of action better if you want my $$$.
8. Madonna and Bono make appearances ... but don't sing? - wasn't sure to put this under "highlights" or "lowlights," but it was rather weird to have two of the biggest names in music on your allegedly big-deal show and not have either of them favor us with a tune. Bono was really condescending toward Idol, suggesting that he cares so damned much about Africa that he, the Great Bono, was willing to debase himself by appearing on this show and talking to these pop singers. Madonna was in Malawi with a dozen or so of her latest illegal adoptees. Somebody stop her! I will say that, as always, she looks fucking hot.
So thanks, Idol, for awakening my long-dormant cynicism about giving to charity. I will give some money away, but not to you.
And next week better see the end of Chris, one way or the other, or there will be hell to pay.
Matthew Carter: My life in typefaces
23 hours ago