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American Idol Rundown: Idol Gives Back Edition

As a concept, Idol Gives Back is a great thing. Here we have the most-watched show in the country, with an active viewing and voting base, working to get people to make the world better. Can't say I recall, oh, M*A*S*H or Seinfeld doing that.

The show's second installment aired Wednesday night, taking up a super-sized two and a half hours — apparently a little more, since my DVR chopped it off somewhere just past Miley Cyrus, Part II — and showing numerous views of tragic living conditions around the globe with big-name celebrities as our guide. The bulk of the show was taped over the weekend, but live in the Idol studios, the top 12 answered phones and the top eight gave us a few more inspirational songs. Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said he wanted the show to be bigger and better than last year — and to top its $76 million fundraising effort. So, how do you think Idol did?

Without any actual Idol-related event (there wasn't even a fakeout elimination — instead, the goodbye comes tonight), the Idol Gives Back telethon is . . . just a telethon, albeit one with well-produced packages about poverty and tragedy, appearances by major stars, and musical numbers galore. There were a lot of good things about the special, and there were a few that didn't quite hit the mark. I suppose I was expecting something more fun, considering all the talent involved — but, then again, would "fun" have been the right note for a charity special? I'm not really sure.

Fox hasn't released any donation numbers for Idol Gives Back yet, but I'll keep you posted; I believe the last number I heard during the show was $20-something million, not including the $200 million of mosquito nets from Great Britain, but I could be wrong. Were you moved to donate? Did any of the acts stand out? You can read a few of my thoughts if you


  • I admit to getting chills down my spine when Seacrest opened the show with "Together, we're gonna save some lives." I mean, it really doesn't get more stark than that, does it?
  • Also, brave of the guy to proclaim there would be 30 million of us watching at home. I'd say that's optimistic. But I get the point. (Update: Yup, the show averaged 17.6 million viewers.)
  • If I learned one thing from Idol Gives Back, it's how much I truly love So You Think You Can Dance. I got the biggest, dumbest smile on my face picking Hok and Dominic out of the crowd, and even the Mary Murphy / Nigel Lythgoe bit made me laugh. Seriously, I feel so much warmer toward that show than I do toward Idol itself. Is that weird?
  • How adorable were the kids with Snoop Dogg? Especially the ones who were really into the hand-waving.
  • It's been so long since I've seen Greg Grunberg and Jesse Spencer do anything that I'm even willing to forgive Teri Hatcher's "Before He Cheats."
  • When did this night become Miley Cyrus Gives Back? She got two performances (and both as Miley, not as Hannah) and an extended "comedy" bit with Billy Crystal. Meanwhile, seems that those planned appearances by the presidential candidates fell by the wayside.
  • Before I poke a little fun at anything else, I want to mention that I found the celebrity visits to poverty- and disease-ravaged places almost uniformly moving. The celebrities Idol sent to the various places truly seemed to connect with the issues they were observing; Annie Lennox, in particular, visited Africa for the show and returned to give one of the night's most passionate performances. And Alicia Keys talking about changing lives "for the price of a pair of shoes" hit home, too. Also, if you use "Breathe Me" as music for anything, it will make me cry.
  • I loved that Heart seemed to not really understand what they were supposed to be doing with Fergie, who had this wild "c'mon, guys, dance with me!" look in her eyes the whole time.
  • Jimmy Kimmel and Simon's nipples = too much, too much, too much. But "who parts that for you, Moses?" actually made me laugh.
  • I say this as a longtime fan, but . . . does anyone find Robin Williams funny these days?
  • When Brad Pitt is introducing Daughtry, it really is a topsy-turvy world.

And there we have it: Another 150 minutes of Idol giving back. What were your thoughts? Was the closing song (which I missed; thanks, DVR) better than last year's? Which celebrity appearances did you most enjoy? And will you be tuning in for the elimination show tonight, or are you all Idol-ed out for one week?

Photos courtesy of Fox

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