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Simon Cowell, American Idol
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If you need a reminder that there is hope for humanity this holiday season, look no further than the line of people waiting to get into Thursday night’s finale of The X Factor. Standing behind me: two-thirds of the miles-more-interesting-than-inTENsity, tight-fitting-pants aficionados the Anser. (Yes, their pants remain as snug as ever.) Standing in front of me: All of Chris Rene’s family, who, since we’re on the subject, are quite the fashionable bunch themselves. With only 45 minutes left until the show was live to the East Coast, the line was unusually long, and moving at a snail’s pace — but no one complained, no one pulled rank and cut ahead, and everyone got in with plenty of time to spare. This may not seem like that big of a deal, but after a season rife with ill-mannered judges and rattling extravagance, I’ll take any moments of quiet grace I can get.

And then there was the moment when, after I passed the gate and made my way to the ticket-tent area, I noticed a pair of PAs working furiously to vacuum up what appeared to be a cloud of lint from inside what appeared to be a clear plastic bubble. In hindsight, I am grateful I had no idea they were prepping the snow globe for Josh Krajcik’s performance of “Please Come Home for Christmas.” If I had known, the temptation to race over and start poking holes in the thing with my pen would have been too great. Well, no, that’s a lie. See, my snark demon Smirkelstiltskin has been AWOL from the Xanadome all season — he’s always grunting something about being bored by shooting fish in a barrel with a bazooka. But I’m fairly certain he would’ve given his left horn to be able to sneak inside the globe to watch the Fox network’s first-ever live televised Roger Moore-era Bond-villain torture device from the inside out, even if fake snow makes him break out in goiters.

Oh, right, also: Melanie won! 50 Cent “performed” (quotation marks mine)! L.A. Reid got “emotional” (quotation marks his)! Here are all the behind-the-scene highlights!

Hi, everybody! As the X Factor bottom 9 reminded us they only made it to the edge of glory, the judges went nuts waving and saluting all their past acts, a “hello”-athon that only got more vigorous once we hit the ad break: Josh hugged LeRoy; Stacey Francis bounded over to say hi to Nicole; the Stereo Hogzz and Lakoda Rayne swarmed Paula and consumed her whole; etc. After the singers all left the stage, Bill the Warm-up Guy asked L.A. Reid what he made of the opening number. “It was emotional!” said L.A., as if Geordi had just installed his emotion chip. “It really was!”

And the winner of the Hometown Video Package Ugly Cry Sweepstakes is… Sure, Melanie wept multiple times — and just about split in two upon seeing her grandmother — but sudden sobbing from her isn’t exactly new. Josh’s tears were new, but subtle and nuanced, i.e. the antithesis of everything The X Factor stands for. Chris, on the other hand, started off his package by fixing his face into a stoic I-am-not-gonna-cry tough-guy mask, and completely fell to pieces the moment he saw his son. So Chris wins! (Well, he has to win something.)

At least the HR complaint won’t be hurting for evidence As the aforementioned snow globe was wheeled onto the stage for Josh’s performance, the audience started murmuring when they realized that not only was there a real, live person inside it, but she appeared to be in a bit of distress. As in, as the globe’s fake snow swirled inside it, she kept wildly and vigorously shaking her hair while also attempting to shield her eyes and mouth. Finally, the snow settled, the song started, and the snow-globe woman instead slowly undulated in some kind of artful tribute to… Christmas gimcracks? And then — and then — when Josh’s song was over and his hometown video began to play, the audience had to watch it by looking through the snow globe as the snow-globe woman sat perfectly, totally still. At the ad break, the snow globe woman could not have moved faster to get out of there — but, hey, Bill the Warm-up Guy had the audience give her a tepid round of applause, so it was all totally worth it.

Silly Rachel. Ostentatious tears are for grown-ups! Upon seeing the replay of her post-elimination meltdown, Rachel Crow began repeatedly slapping her forehead.

Is it the white bathtub, or is it getting hot in here? ‘Round about the time the PAs began setting up 50 Cent’s unironic homage to A Clockwork Orange, someone apparently decided it would be cute to turn off the cooling system for the studio. So ’round about the time the X Factor dancers began dropping it like it’s hot, it really was hot — stiflingly so. This would be the part of the on the scene recap where I discuss the presence of the L.A. Lakers. But since they appeared to have no better idea for why they were there than I did, let’s just move onto when Bill began slowly panicking that the 10 degree rise in temperature (at least) was sapping the audience of its precious ear-splitting volume. And there’s no better way to roust a lagging crowd than forced dancing. Actually, speaking of dancing, my working theory for the precipitous rise in temperature was to keep the constant stream of scantily clad female dancers at least moderately comfortable. I best move onto another topic, since my addled, sleep-deprived brain is now beginning to wonder if Bill Murray’s character in Scrooged secretly produced the finale, and the rise of temperature coincided with his visit from the ghost of Christmas future.

And the winner is… In the final ad break, the PAs handed out tiny LED blinky lights that wrapped around our fingers with elastic. Bill polled the audience for who they thought would win, and Melanie had a slight edge. We came back from the break, the final 2 and their mentors took to the stage, Josh couldn’t stop giggling, Simon looked like he was going to throw up, and, boom, Melanie Amaro is your new… um, I mean, Melanie Amaro has the X Factor!

As Melanie struggled to remember the words to the song that won her $5 million — because, let’s face it, we all knew she was the odds-on favorite the moment she first sang the Dreamgirls anthem in her first audition — L.A. Reid began to try to help her along by using the power of swaying back and forth. But then the girl who had to hide her accent dug in, dug deep, and hit the chorus in the gut. By the time the other contestants took to the stage — Rachel Crow sprinting to Melanie like a Muppet-y blur — the Xanadome was awash with gold confetti and good feelings. How can one possibly snark in the face of a girl realizing her dream? I certainly won’t.

And so we draw to a close. As I type these words, the Xanadome is likely already warp-speeding its way to a warehouse. In two and a half months, we’ll start all over again. Will the Idoldome seem like a velvet-soft rumpus room filled with honey and caressing whispers in comparison? Only my throbbing eardrums will know for sure.

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Simon Cowell, American Idol
The X Factor
Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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