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American Idol Recap: When Does It Get Too Cruel?



Americanidolgivesback How do you raise more than $30-million for charity and still wind up looking like a total schmuck?

Just ask the producers of American Idol's outrageously excessive Wednesday night charity show, Idol Gives Back.

Besides producing an oddly entertainment-deficient cavalcade of stars that looked suitable for a Jordinbackyard06web300Simpsons parody, they had the awful idea to spend the whole two hours jerking around all six remaining contestants -- saving the big goose egg for one of their most popular contestants, 17-year-old Jordin Sparks.

You see, the contestants spent the entire live, two-hour schmoozefest thinking one of them was about to get kicked off the show. Host Ryan Seacrest did his usual gig of asking them to stand one by one, throughout the 120-minute show, and telling them if they were safe or not.

Down to the final two contestants, Chris Richardson and Sparks, Seacrest -- who had been promising a shocking result -- tells the less popular Richardson he is safe, which leads Sparks to think she's gone. Seacrest waits several long seconds before telling her she's also safe-- they're not eliminating anyone.

Cowellthumbs The look on the 17-year-old's face said it all. Though she tried to regain her composure as the show finished off, she clearly was distraught at being led to believe she'd been ejected from the show, barely able to stop crying. And the look on Seacrest's face hinted he knew the bait-and-switch was a bad idea the moment he sprung it on her (to avoid ejecting someone during a charity event, TWO contestants get kicked off next week -- thanks American Idol!)

I'm so cynical about Hollywood, I'm wondering if all this televised humiliation wasn't deliberate -- producers pulling an awful prank just to get the chattering class going on the cable channels and morning shows tomorrow, in some twisted hope of reviving interest in the show.

If so, it's a disappointing commentary on just how far Idol producers will go to protect their golden goose -- scaring the crap out of a 17-year-old kid on national television, live.

All this, and I still have a few questions:

Simoncowellafrica--Why do singers who have been in the business for decades -- including Philip Bailey of Earth Wind and Fire and Annie Lennox -- sound so much worse in live performances on Idol than the wannabes?

---Why did Simon spend his whole time visiting poor people in Africa looking like he was afraid to touch anything?

---Was he really unaware that thousands of people go hungry every night in Los Angeles and a humongous soup kitchen feeding them was just blocks from his home?

---Why did it take visiting guest host Ellen DeGeneres to kick in $100,000 to boost the effort? Simon has earned enough to buy a small South American country, surely he could have kicked in a few grand.Degeneres 

Unlike other critics, I don't think the charity stuff ruins the vibe of idol. I think the crassly commercial air of Idol makes any sustained philanthropic effort look insincere. No wonder Bono could barely stand to make a 5-minute, pre-taped appearance (And Celine Dion?  Dueting with Elvis? Whatever Idol producers are smoking, they need to cut back. Fast.)

I wonder, after Idol finishes giving back, if it can get back any of its self-respect or integrity?

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:38pm]


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