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American Idol recap: 'Idol Gives Back'

While the contestants worked the phones, Carrie Underwood, Annie Lennox, and Fergie stole the show, Miley Cyrus sang two songs, and Billy Crystal and Robin Williams flirted with elimination from the charity program

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Idol Gives Back

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

Thank goodness Ryan Seacrest kicked off tonight’s edition of Idol Gives Back with the reminder that, at its heart, the event is all about raising money for disadvantaged children. In doing so, he gave me the perfect excuse to send my inner cynic to bed early, so he wouldn’t pester me all night with snarky asides like, ”Why does Fox insist on putting subtitles on the screen for foreigners who are speaking perfectly understandable English?” Or, ”If American Idol really wanted to give back, couldn’t they have shaved a half-hour off the telecast and not forced us to turn on our TV sets at 7:30?” Or, ”And why do folks continue to encourage Robin Williams?”

Okay, so yeah, clearly my inner cynic walked through the living room a couple times during the 150-minute telecast — he said he needed to get to the kitchen and refill his water glass. But for the most part, tonight was about sitting back and appreciating some pretty terrific musical performances — and the fact that I’ve been born into a life where I’ve got the luxury of doing so. Heck, who didn’t get a perspective check during that package with Forest Whitaker and his wife Keisha visiting a hospital in Angola, where that baby girl Maria was fighting a brave battle against brain swelling caused by malaria? The producers, of course, stacked the emotional deck by playing Sia’s ”Breathe Me” in the background, but I think I would’ve gotten choked up from the footage either way.

(Which reminds me: If you’d intended to make a donation and haven’t gotten around to it, you can end your procrastinating by clicking here. As someone who spent 99 cents to download Alexandrea Lushington’s semifinal performance of ”Spinning Wheel” off iTunes back in March, I figure I’ve got no excuse for failing to pony up myself.)

Oh, and speaking of ”show me the money!” plugs, I kind of enjoyed how Idol managed to appeal to pretty much every possible demographic with its pre-taped messages. You had George Lopez speaking in Spanish and appealing for the Latino dollar, Jimmie Johnson talking directly to the NASCAR crowd, and Kylie Minogue on the scene to ensure no gay wallet would be left unopened.

The musical guests, on the other hand, represented a slightly less diverse pack. In fact, if it weren’t for all the Idol Gives Back banners, you might’ve thought you’d stumbled across Fox’s Night of a Dozen Divas (and Snoop Dogg). (Someone get Jody Watley and Taylor Dayne on the line with Fox’s reality programming chief Mike Darnell! America needs this show!)

Anyhow, back to the event at hand, I have to admit: I went into the evening wondering if any of the big-name artists on the lineup might end up sounding a little, well, pitchy. I mean, come on, we’ve spent the last eight weeks dissecting every note, every song choice, every second of on-stage banter from the season 7 finalists. And starting next Tuesday, we’ll do it again for 12 more episodes. But, to go all Randy on you for a second, most of the performers did their thing, made it their own, worked it out. The highlights:

NEXT PAGE: Carrie Underwood, Annie Lennox, Heart, and Fergie steal the show