Brooke White, Ryan Seacrest, ...
Credit: F Micelotta/Getty Images

PopWatchers, I don’t even know how to begin to describe the Idol experience I had last night.

But I’ll try. The things I do for you guys…

I’m not going to lie to you — I’m not an Idol fan. Thanks to my Idol-obsessed roommates and the wonder that is DVR, I have actually watched some episodes this season, but I just don’t get the hype. However, I’m not so cold-hearted that I’d snark about Idol‘s charitable giving. I mean, c’mon. Even I have standards. However, the fact remains — this particular taping was a snoozefest, and even the most ardent Idol supporters in the audience would probably agree. Of course, this was not the typical Idol taping.

If you’ve been keeping up on your Idol blogs, you already knew that Ryan and the gang pre-taped performances last Sunday at the Kodak Theater for last night’s show. What I didn’t know (nor do I think any of the EW staffers knew… unless they were punking the new kid) was that almost all of what was shown on TV last night was pre-taped. Yes, that’s right. Anytime you saw something coming from the KodakTheater, it wasn’t live. The only live parts of the taping I attended at CBS Television City were the phone calls (pictured) and the Idols singing a specialRent song — more on that later.

When I arrive at the CBS lot, I go through security and take a seat among rows of people. Because I am a newbie, I’m unaware that these people did not have tickets, whereas I do. I start talking to the girl next to me, who tells me she has been waiting two years to come see Idol in person. Two years! And that she had gotten an e-mail three days ago saying that she could come to the show — but she wasn’t guaranteed a ticket. She’d get in if there were extra seats. So she’s there, waiting for hours just for the chance to see Idol. Now that’s dedication.

Once I figure out that I don’t have to wait with the rest of the herd, I get in, get my seat and settle in for what I’d hope will be an entertaining night. Twelve desks are set up on stage — I begin to wonder if I have stumbled upon the Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader? set. I watch as the staff move audience members around, looking conspicuously as if they are moving “pretty” girls to the front and those not-so-pretty to the back. Hmm.

I don’t see a single celeb in the audience. Corey the Warm-Up Guy that I’ve heard so much about comes out and tells the audience about the pre-taped segments from Sunday, but “Ryan will be here tonight!!” Commence screaming from the middle-aged women behind me. It’s going to be a long night…

addCredit(“Idol Gives Back: F Micelotta/Getty Images”)

A few moments later, Corey introduces the Idols, who will be takingphone calls throughout the show and all 12 of them (yeah, not just thefinal 8) take spots behind the desks. Of course, little David Archuletagets the biggest screams.

And then, the show begins. We in the audience are suddenly in thedark, watching a pre-taped Ryan introduce the show from the KodakTheater. Then come the Idols, singing while the So You Think You Can Dancekids do their thing. I’m having a surreal moment, as members of my liveaudience scream and whoop it up for the pre-taped segment. It’s likewhen you go the movies, and at the end, everybody claps. I’ve neverunderstood that. They can’t hear you.

And it’s time for the first commercial break. Our audience is leftsitting in the dark. Not even Corey the Warm-Up Guy to entertain us.This leads to audience members competing in “Who can scream theloudest” as they proclaim their love for David, Carly, Jason and therest. My section really prefers Chikezie. Since there’s nothing elsegoing on, the Idols wave and smile, responding to the screams. It’s gotto be a bit weird for them, seeing as how they’re all just sittingaround onstage behind desks like they’re waiting for English class tostart.

Back from the break. Ben Stiller’s “Stiller Whips Whitney’s Ass forCharity” gets a laugh out of the audience. Hey, we’re still awake!

I realize now that my ticket says “Show starts at 6 p.m.” I start towonder if we have an hour and a half of watching pre-taped segmentsbefore anything “live” actually happens. Next comes the taped Snoopperformance. Nigel encourages the audience to start waving their hands.Seriously? We’re not at a live concert here. It’d be like waving yourarms while watching MTV. My section seems less inclined to start withthe waving, although some of them do get into the off-the-beat handclapping. How hard is it to find a beat, people?

And then there’s another commercial break. With each break lastinganywhere from two to four minutes, the audience is left with nothing to dobesides scream for their favorite Idol. Awesome. Corey the Warm-Up guyattempts to entertain. I suddenly wish we were left to our own devices.He finds a girl in the audience with “David Archuleta” written on herarm and asks, “Is that ballpoint or sharpie? Cuz a ballpoint is almostlike a tattoo.” Corey, you’re killing me.

Aw, the little kid from Goshen breaks my heart. “I wish there weremore fields that were safe for kids to play. Sigh.” Sigh, indeed. Andnow I remember what this show is all about. And I suddenly feel lesssnarky.

Until Teri Hatcher starts singing “Before he Cheats”. To be fair, I saw her in Cabaretyears ago and I don’t think her singing voice is all that bad. Butthere’s something cringeworthy about this whole thing. And is that theAustralian actor from House playing the violin? I mean, you’ve got Greg Grunberg on drums and James Denton playing guitar, it would sort of make sense.

More commercial breaks. I am officially bored, and my ass is starting to go numb in these uncomfortable chairs.

Hey, Ryan’s here! There’s some rumbling in the audience as ourfavorite multitasker takes a break from his thousand other jobs to come”host” this show. I can’t hear what he is even saying since as soon ashe’s introduced, the middle-aged women behind me go mental. Ryan doeshis silly shtick with the Idol kids onstage, answering phones and being… well, Ryan.

As we cut to commercial… again, Ryan hangs around onstage,chatting with the Idols and recognizing the screaming ladies in theaudience by giving them a smile. I start to think the Idols don’tanswer calls during commercials, but then I see David Archuleta on thephone.

The guy next to me turns and says, “Do you really think they’reanswering phones up there, or are they just pretending?” I have noidea. Every time I look up, Archuleta’s on the phone, so if he’sfaking, he’s really going overboard.

Corey tries to get the audience excited with, “Feel free to react toanything the callers are saying. You’re on TV, it’s exciting! People onthe East Coast are watching you, they’re envious of you.” Yeah, not somuch once they find out how this really went down. My Idol-crazedsister will no longer want to disown me when she hears about this.

Okay, we’re coming back from commercial, somebody wake up theaudience! Heart gets some shouts and claps when they come on, and Ihave to admit, I like the Fergie/Heart collaboration. Although, I don’tknow what is up with her pleather leggings.

And then… another commercial break. Fox, you’re killing me. I feellike all I’ve done is sit through commercial breaks. Corey promises theaudience that the next few commercial breaks will be exciting. Can Iget that in writing, Corey? Essentially, all this audience has done,this audience filled with people who have waited for years to catch a”live” taping of Idol, is sit around watching television. We could haveall done this at home. In comfortable chairs.

Suddenly there’s a lot of commotion onstage — people switchingdesks, Nigel’s answering phones. What kind of telethon is this? Nigelshares with us that Syesha has just received a $1,000 pledge. Nice. Afew minutes later, we find that Idol has raised $18 million so far.Although my ass is officially asleep and I’m bored silly, I’m impressedwith Idol fans for being so generous. It’s inspiring, but whenNigel asks the audience to call in and donate, we shout back, “But youtook our phones!”

After Bono, and Peyton and Eli Manning (I can’t even snark aboutthem being the goofiest duo in football since they’re all aboutrebuilding New Orleans), the Annie Lennox spot is really heartfelt. It’sa little weird, however, to see all the people in the Kodak Theatergive her a standing ovation, while our audience sits quiet and still.

And joy, another commercial break. I’m beginning to wish I hadbrought a book. Corey’s at it again, wandering through the crowd,trying to keep everyone going. As much as his humor makes me groan, Ifeel for the guy — he’s really got his work cut out for him. Oh, hey,there’s Danny Noriega, getting onstage to… just hang around? Can I counthim as the first “celeb” I’ve seen?

Debbie the Stage Manager tells us, “You’re going to be on TV when weget to Jimmy Kimmel!” Yay. Kimmel’s pre-taped spot was actually thefirst thing to get a genuinely lively reaction out of our audience.He’s giving us the lowdown on how the money donated tonight could beput to good use, such as “buying Simon a shirt that fits him.” Oh,Jimmy.

During yet another break, Debbie asks the audience, “How much wouldyou pay for one of Jason’s dreads?” I think, “Um, nothing. Ew, gross.”

Ooh, ooh, there’s a frenzy of activity onstage, as stagehands comeout and remove all the desks and a piano comes out. And look, Carly’sgot a mic! Hey, this may actually be entertaining. Ryan announces thatthe Idols will be singing “Seasons of Love” live on the show. Squeee! For me, as an admitted Renthead, this officially is the highlightof my night. Not only is the stage functioning as something other thana TV screen, but the Idols are singing one of my favorite songs.

After their performance, the chorus gets some love from the audienceand Corey gets back to irritating most of the audience, although hegains favor by handing out iTunes Gift Cards and Chicken Soup for the Idol Soul. Free stuff makes everyone happy.

The Robin Williams Russian Idol skit keeps the audienceawake. “I love you right now in a Brokeback way” provoked the mostlaughter all night from this audience. Well, that is, until Debbie theStage Manager goes to fix brad Pitt’s microphone on yet anotherpre-taped segment, saying, “I just wanted an excuse to touch him.” Ouraudience cheers her as she stands to the side of the stage in real life.

Aw, Corey just gave a little kid “Guitar Hero” during the commercial break. How sweet.

During Mariah Carey’s performance, I spy Nigel bopping along withthe kind of energy I expect to see from his SYTYCD contestants. He isjust getting down while he watches the monitor. I’m sort of mesmerized.

And then there is the final performance of the Idols — singing”Shout to the Lord,” or as I start calling it, the “Jesus Song.” Meh.

So the show is over… or is it? Ryan comes back out one last time (where has he been hiding?) to tell the audience that the Idolkids will perform one last time for us, as a special thank you. I’mexcited, hoping maybe it’ll be another Rent tune. Alas, it was “Shoutto the Lord.” Didn’t we just hear this? And as they sing the “JesusSong”, again, suddenly I feel like I’m in one of those late nightinfomercials for “Songs of Worship” CDs or something as members of theaudience around me close their eyes and wave their hands about in theair in reverence. I’m more than a little disturbed and quite honestly,happy that it’s all over.

So, P-Dubs, what did you think about last night’s “Give Back” show? Last I heard, Idol clocked in at about $22 million raised — if that’s the case, it was worth those three hours I’ll never get back.