May 24, 2007 at 07:13 PM EDT

Hey PopWatchers,

If you read EW’s What to Watch, this is gonna be just… like… that. Only longer! And snarkier! And bloggier! As you may have read on Adam’s post yesterday, I’m a blog virgin, so be gentle (yet forceful — gotta let me know who’s boss). How’d I end up doing the honors tonight? Let’s see, Adam and Shirley worked the red carpet, Whitney’s on vacation, Dalton’s editing the Idol special issue, Mandi’s doing the live blog, Michael does everything else for y’all, Annie’s stuck in New York, Tim’s got a deadline for some non-Idol story (honestly, I didn’t know we still did those), and everyone else has a life. So you got me, babe.

Given the Crips/Bloods, Hatfields/McCoys, Rosie/Elisabeth-levels of animus between Blaker Girls (and Boys) and Team Jordin, let’s start with something we can probably agree on: Worst. Finale. EVER. Half the performers were seriously pitchy, dawgs. (A lone, fabulously manicured finger is pointing at you, Bette Midler!) The thing had to be sponsored by Geritol (I love me some gray foxes, but Smokey, Gladys, Tony, AND Bette??). And no, that was not an Elvis/Celine hologram-type experience when you saw when Joe Perry strapped to his guitar, playing backup for Sanjaya. That really happened. No, I was there.

Speaking of which, I came not to blog about the show, but the room. So let’s go!

addCredit(“Kelly Clarkson and Joe Perry: Lester Cohen/”)

Me? I’m sitting on the ground level (Parterre, in Kodak Theatreparlance), towards the back left. How far back? There’s only one morerow behind me, and it only has, like, four seats. So clearly, I ain’tgot Brad Garrett’s clout. But weep not, PopWatchers, because So You Think You Can Dancewinner Benji Schwimmer and judge/choreographer Mary Murphy are rightnext to me. F’real. Nice folks and their season premiere is Thursday,so I don’t know why they gotta sit with the help…but I digress. I’mimmediately struck by the sheer number of children surrounding me for ashow that, to my knowledge, has never had the word(s) SquarePants inthe title. They’re everywhere! With parents, with nannies (because eventhough this is LA, nobody’s plastic surgeon is that good) —with better seats than me. Not that I’m bitter, because this is gonnabe the best finale ever! (Okay, so I was naive.) To distract from thekiddies I chat with Benji and Mary. Both doing charity work, Mary’sbeen upgraded to full-time judge on So You Think, and Benji’sgonna pop in for a perf, and they’re both HUGE Jordin junkies. But onlybecause they were really Melinda junkies denied their fix. Soooo manyof those in the audience. And please, please, please don’t ask themabout Blake’s “dancing” because 1) They’ve been asked that a milliontimes and 2) It’s not really dancing, and 3) He’s no Justin Timberlake.Yeah, they dropped Justin into that debate. Low blow.

Anyway, we’re 12 minutes to air and still, no judges. Warm-up guy(Is it Corey? Johnny D? Honestly, I can’t tell you how happy it makesme not to know the difference) is asking — nay, demanding — that wegive the judges and Ryan a standing O when they deign to appear beforeus. Given the number of times we’re up and down all night, it seems asmall request in hindsight. Finally, at five minutes to air, judgesstart appearing in ascending order of applause: Randy, then Paula, thenSimon. Paula appears remarkably steady so soon after her Human Weebleact, and we all breathe a collective sigh of regret. But now it’s timefor the pre-show commercial break. It’s starting! It’s starting! Rightafter this:

Ad Break 1: First sightings of Jordin and Blake. They’reholding hands in thatyou-should-win-no-you-totally-deserve-it-no-I-don’t-you’re-so-much-better-no-you!way that only people who genuinely like each other bother to fake. Asthe judges begin the first of their practiced rounds of ignoringwhatever the hell is happening onstage, Blake starts jumping up anddown like he had a whole supersquishee five minutes ago. Before he hastime to really weigh whether or not he can hold it, it’s too late.Ryan’s winding up into “This……… is AMERICAN IDOL!”

Ad Break 2: Simon dashes off (Did he share Blake’ssupersquishee? How sweet!), crowd’s milling, and — tragedy strikes! Aman barreling his way out of the aisle comes down hard on Benji’s foot!His foot! And he’s a professional dancer and everything! That’s likesomething heinous happening to Roger Federer’s serving arm! Al Gore’sgreen thumb! Katie Couric’s legs! What to do?? Think, woman! Ice! Must.Find. Ice. Guess which angel of mercy winged her way out of theauditorium past a whole row, and out the door to get Benji’scareer-saving ice? Me! And by “me,” I, of course, mean the nice man insecurity I flagged down to carry out the actual task. But I totallysupervised. By law, I think this entitles me to some portion of thekid’s future earnings, but I haven’t consulted my attorney yet. I’mpretty sure Benji will be fair.

Ad Break 3: See, this is the kinda stuff you miss whileyou’re watching your Ford ads: The second the cameras cut tocommercial, stagehands snatch Blake for a costume change and run as ifthere’s some sort of imminent, credible threat and his last name isCheney. “This is Eagle to Base, B-Shorty is secure — repeat, B-Shortyis secure. Will advise when white tuxedo threat is removed, andtransport back to the staging area is a go. Over.” Then there’s AceYoung milling around the judges’ pit, gettin’ all huggy, and lookingexactly the same, Jennifer Hudson in a black sheath, looking betterthan ever, and Paula group-hugging the Paula Posse.

Ad Break 4: Doug E. Fresh! Didja know Blake’s beatboxing wasentirely ad-libbed? Honest and for true. It was tight! It’s like wewere 10 again! Okay, 12. Sheesh, fine, 14. You’re such sticklers.Coolest part of the night! Riiiiiiight up until Doug E. and Blakemissed their high-five. Awkward. Anyway, at the break SmokeyRobinson comes down from on high — wherever it is they store musiclegends before pulling them out and making them “current” again — tohug the judges. It’s Old Home week, since Smokey was a guest judge inseason 4. Idol Tonight hosts Justin Guarini and KimberlyCaldwell have the run of the room and make full use of it, while Simonand J. Hud have a tete-a-tete. Whatever it is they’re saying, they bothlook happy. Could be:

Simon: “Congrats on the Oscar, you completely deserved it!”
J. Hud: “Thanks, ever so, Simon. Your approval means so much to me.”


Simon: “Suck on it, you ungrateful wretch, I totally made you.”
J. Hud: “Mmm hmm, and that’s what makes sticking it to your limey ass so sweet.”

I guess we’ll never know.

Ad Break 5: Umm… I think Benji and Mary are sick oftalking to me. It’s so hard to make friends here! Ooh, CarrieUnderwood’s on stage. I just know she won’t be pitchy. Nope. Not. At. All.

Ad Break 6: Oh dear, bongos are being brought onstage. Theentire audience gets the sinking feeling that the rhythm is gonna getus. Then something fairly rare happens: Someone gets Simon’s attention.No, in a good way. He actually gets up and hugs/air kisses arespectable-looking older dame. (Tot platonic, Terri! Your man’s trueto you, far as I know!) It’s a moment of genuine sweetness. As opposedto, say, a fake (?) cry at the end of a treacly ballad that clinches a major singer competition. As opposed to that.

Ad Break 7: Weirdest moment of the night. No, weirder thanKelly Clarkson’s Angry Song. And that Sanjaya solo. And the crushingrealization that Bette really was their big “get” of the night. Weirderthan all of that. All of sudden, from stage right appears a kindlyolder gent. Think Desmond Tutu by way of Oxford. “I’ve come all the wayfrom England” he tells the crowd, and with that accent, we’re inclinedto believe. He comes down the steps, into the judges pit, and toSimon’s left holding what appears to be a bound leather photo albumthat looks Important. Then he announces, “Simon Cowells [sic], this isyour life!,” then hugs Simon. Just when we expect to see our favoritejudge’s fourth-grade teacher, high school sweetheart, and formerdentist trot onstage to give us the particulars of The World Accordingto Cowell(s), the man is escorted through the audience and backstage.That’s it. No This Is Your Life guests, no Simon photo montage.Nuttin’ to explain what just went down. Blown segment? Botched prank?Was the dude about to streak? So many Idol mysteries!

Ad Break 8: For some reason, a group of girls named Britney,Britney, Britney, Tiffany, and Britney are in the audience. And it’stheir second night at the show. Britneys are the new Heathers. Ratherthan rock back and forth and sob, I decide to start talking to peopleagain — only not Benji and Mary. They’ve suffered enough. In front ofme are brothers Eric and Terry. Eric bid for the tickets at a charityevent. You wanna know how much he paid for the pair? SUCH a tackyquestion! (Thank God I was there to ask it for you.) $4,500. Yeah, I’m so asking him out.

Ad Break 9: Finally, someone in the audience is singing! I’vebeen told they do that! A man in one of the balconies makes hismelismatic way through “Happy Birthday” for some tween who probablyjust spent half the night asking her parents who the old people singingwith Gina, Kiki, and the two Chrises were. Happy birthday, kid. You’llget how special that Tony Bennett performance was later. Way later.Anyway, you had your moment. Joe Perry’s back onstage. Probably towreak serious vengeance for the Sanjaya Humiliation…

Ad Break 10: … or to rock out with Kelly (pictured, with Perry), which would becool too. Maybe it’s a have-to-be-there-to-see-it thing, but for thefirst time I realize Kelly’s got a black-girl booty. (Note: I am ablack girl. I can say those things. It’s in our contract.) Anyway,Stage Manager Debbie’s calling for Blake and Jordin. Which means it’salmost time crown the princess and pack this vaudeville act up untilnext season. And a good thing too, because this finale suddenly leavesme wildly embarrassed that I voted 60 times last night.

At any rate, the new Idol is Thumper/Piglet/Care Bear-cute, therunner-up may actually put out an interesting album, and you don’t haveto buy tickets for the Idol tour if you don’t want to. But if you’ve got a spare $4,500 to shell out for a pair, call me.

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