Charitable, indeed: After a night of special performances, appeals for donations and even a weird re-animated Elvis, all of the "American Idol" top six got to stick around on Wednesday's special "Idol Gives Back" episode. And really, what else could "Idol" have done? Kicking someone off on a night that was meant to be inspirational would have gone totally against the spirit of the event. Frankly, even if I hadn't already guessed this, I would have figured it out by about two minutes in, when Seacrest said he'd be delivering the most shocking results ever in the history of "Idol." It wasn't the only non-elimination round ever, by the way; they did the same thing the week Corey Clark was disqualified in season two.
I think Jordin totally knew she was safe; she's an emotional gal, and yet when Seacrest told Chris he could sit down, Jordin turned around with a huge smile on her face. Oh, sure, she cried later during the group hug, but the actual elimination part didn't feel even a little tense.
As for the actual point of "Idol Gives Back," the evening raised more than $30 million for Charity Projects Entertainment Fund, and there's almost certainly more to come from downloads of Wednesday's performances. Speaking of which, as I said after Tuesday's show, it's hard to be snarky about "Idol Gives Back" (it makes me feel a little dirty to do it). But "Idol"'s first attempt at a charity event, while educational and occasionally entertaining, still felt a lot like a telethon, so
- Honestly, some of those video clips of impoverished children were tough to watch — though in the good way, the "pull out the wallet and give some money" way. The stories of the slow recovery after Hurricane Katrina, the cramped living conditions in a slum in Africa, and the struggles of kids in rural Kentucky to learn to read all gave me glimpses of lives that seem so far removed from mine. And "Idol" did a good job of pointing out exactly how our money can make a difference. I mean, $2 for anti-malaria drugs, $30 to help fight AIDS, $10 for a mosquito net that could save a whole family. It helps me believe that the $30 million raised through this event really will make a difference.
- Unfortunately, for the most part, the much-hyped performances felt a little low-energy, and the special as a whole seemed to drag on. I wonder how much of that was due to the evening being split between two venues; all of the switching back and forth between theaters and hosts seemed to suck some of the life from the event.
- Way to go, Ellen, for giving $100,000 and challenging her friends to do the same. I believe she's the only one of the night's stars to announce a donation publicly.
- The top six were all dressed in white Wednesday night. My two favorite parts: Phil's cap and the hoodie Chris wore under his suit jacket.
- I teared up a little when the kids of the African Children's Choir started singing "You Raise Me Up" with Josh Groban. I'm a sucker, but man, they were adorable.
- Hugh Grant mostly looked like he would have rather been anywhere but in the "Staying Alive" lip-synching segment. Meanwhile, Hugh Laurie and Helen Mirren acted like it was the most fun they'd ever had.
- The "Simpsons" Idol parody worked surprisingly well, with a cartoon Simon as a contestant auditioning for a judging panel of Marge, Lisa and Homer. The best part was definitely Lisa as Paula: "Where's the dog? I like dogs! Whoooo!" Bonus points for a Dunkleman reference.
- "Idol" got a total of 70 million votes this week, the most ever for a single show (though the voting time was doubled to four hours from the usual two). I suppose some people could feel manipulated because nobody technically "needed" their vote this time, but hey, it's for a good cause. On the other hand, I really wish News Corp. hadn't set that $5 million cap for their donation; it barely would have dented their revenue if they'd given $7 million, 10 cents per vote for all the votes, instead. It also bugs me that the other corporate sponsors, who got name-checked dozens of times over the two nights, aren't saying what they chipped in; Seacrest just said they raised "millions."
- Jack Black singing "Kiss from a Rose" was totally awesome, from the moment he was called on stage to the appearance of Seal in the judging panel. And even if Paula's "The School of Rock called — they want their diploma back" line was scripted, it still made me chuckle.
- I had high hopes for "American Prayer," the Bono anthem the top six performed at the end of the show, but their voices didn't exactly sound great together live (I actually yelped aloud when Chris started singing). I'd like to hear a studio version, though.
- Not that it matters, but Melinda was first to be told she was safe, followed by Blake, then Phil, then LaKisha, then Chris, then Jordin. The contestants weren't ranked at all, so we don't know who was in the bottom three.
- Sanjaya was in the audience! And Eric McCormack's "If every person who ever voted for Sanjaya gave just one dollar, we could do so much" was one of the night's best lines.
- A few words on the topic of Celine and Elvis: I think this is a prime example of "just because you can doesn't mean you should." But the nerd in me really wants to know how they did it.
- Next week's votes and this week's will be totaled together, with the bottom two going home next week. That means "Idol" is still on schedule for a May 24 finale.
Photos courtesy of Fox