'American Idol': On the scene for 'Idol Gives Back'

Mary-Blige-RandyImage Credit: Michael Becker/FoxFolks, I’ll be toning down the snarkiness a bit for this on-the-scene recap. It’s impossible (as well as inappropriate) to make fun of Idol Gives Back itself, for here’s a TV program that admirably uses its staggering fan base to improve the lives of others. Furthermore, the nearly two-and-a-half-hour show was impeccably constructed, combining memorable performances (most notably from Mary J. Blige and her all-star band), solid comedy (thanks to George Lopez, Wanda Sykes, Russell Brand, and Jonah Hill), and some genuinely moving stories. I was in the Idoldome, where Blige and Alicia Keys sang, while Nicholas White was on hand at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium to take in Sir Elton John, the Black Eyed Peas, Jeff Beck and Joss Stone, and Carrie Underwood. Nicholas will post his own recap later today, but for now, let’s proceed with all of the happenings from my vantage point.

First, Corey the Warm-Up Comic was nowhere to be found, which means he was likely due for repairs. Instead, we were left with Jay the Back-Up Warm-Up Comic, who’s about one-quarter as energetic as Corey. In other words, Jay’s approaching the energy levels of most human beings, but he’s also a guy who dances to the Black Eyed Peas by himself, and they weren’t even in the building! Jay told the audience that the night will feature what he called “serious moments” and “dramatic videos,” and he instructed us to not hold back any tears. In fact, Jay had a lengthy list of suggestions for the audience. We were told to use a polite “golf clap” instead of our usual thunder-applause, and the Swaybot Pit was urged to make sure it swayed in unison. Jay then brought three fans onstage for a singing contest. The first guy bore a striking resemblance to Praetor Shinzon, that is, until he started singing Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” A young woman who sang Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” ultimately won the contest and received (what else?) an iPod Touch.

During Barack and Michelle Obama’s taped opening, Seacrest and Debbie the Stage Manager chatted, and Randy cracked up when the President remarked, “You’re all my dogs.” The Top 12 sang a group number, which I would recall if I hadn’t Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Minded it. As the first Idol Gives Back montage aired (Jennifer Garner vouching for Save the Children), the judges quietly gave the clip their full attention. They continued this reverent behavior for the rest of the evening. During the first commercial break, Jay asked the audience if they were going to donate money to Idol Gives Back. An alarmingly low amount (maybe one-fifth of the crowd) raised their hands. Then the Top 7 emerged onstage and took their seats. Crystal played with her dreadlocks while waiting, and I don’t blame her. If I were sporting a bushel of dreadlocks, I’d play with them too.

The Russell Brand/Johan Hill telethon bit was actually taped, but Seacrest delivered his last line live to make it seem as if Brand and Hill were actually off in some deserted warehouse collecting calls. After watching the Black Eyed Peas’ “Rock That Body” on the JumboTron, Aaron and Siobhan politely clapped, but the other Idols (as well as much of the Idoldome audience) did not. Debbie scolded us, saying we should applaud the future performances, even if they weren’t being performed in front of us. During the next break, Jay asked if anyone in the audience was in their 60s. Tim Urban jokingly raised his hand, but Jay didn’t see him. Debbie yelled, “Ryan Seacrest, I need you,” and Seacrest finally stepped onstage as Didi Benami sprinted back to her audience seat a mere millisecond before cameras started rolling.

When it was announced that George Lopez would “judge the judges,” Casey, Lee, and Tim all stood up and cheered the idea. The Top 7 were clearly digging the skit — Casey, Siobhan, Aaron, and Mike were smiling throughout. Seacrest then revealed that Casey and Aaron were in the Bottom 3, and that Crystal and Lee were safe. Jeff Beck and Joss Stone impressed with their bluesy take on “I Put a Spell on You” — another Pasadena performance that Jay the Comic danced to all by himself. During the song, Randy leaned over to Simon and Kara, pointed at the screen, and (based upon my HAL 9000 lip-reading capabilities) said something to the effect of “They’re really good!” Debbie then brought out Morgan Freeman, who, upon being introduced, received a hearty round of applause from the audience and especially from Big Mike. After Freeman’s clip, Alicia Keys sang “Un-Thinkable” and “Empire State of Mind (Part II),” and all of the Idols grooved to the music. That is, except for Lee, who barely moved at all while standing with his hands interlocked.

After the break, the second clip with Jonah Hill and Russell Brand aired, and the Idoldome particularly chuckled at the sight of both Top Gun Tom Cruise and Risky Business Tom Cruise. Carrie Underwood sang “Change,” during which Crystal and Lee chatted. Later, while Wanda Sykes mocked American Idol for forcing the losers to sing a song on their way out, the five eliminated Idols in the audience (Lacey, Paige, Didi, Andrew, and Katie) gave the comedian a standing ovation. Ryan then brought Mike, Tim, and Siobhan to the center of the stage. When Siobhan was declared safe, Lee clapped enthusiastically (very surprising considering this is Lee we’re talking about), and Crystal nodded her head in approval. Tim was then named to the Bottom 3, and Mike returned to the blue chairs, where Crystal rewarded him with her patented fist bump.

Of all the Idol Gives Back video packages, the one that really got to me was Annie Lennox’s report on a 7-year-old girl who was born HIV-positive. When that second clip revealed how much this poor girl had improved since receiving medical treatment, there was an audible gasp in the audience — a gasp of pure joy. And Lennox’s new song, “Universal Child,” was simply gorgeous.

After the break, we were treated to a rockin’ “Stairway to Heaven” by Mary J. Blige and her all-star band (featuring Steve Vai, Orianthi, Travis Barker, and Randy Jackson on bass). Big Mike could barely contain how much he was relishing the song. The guy was stomping his right foot with such abandon that the United States Geological Survey picked up on the vibrations. Near the performance’s conclusion, Simon was the first judge to rise and start applauding; Kara and Ellen quickly followed suit. During the break, a middle-aged woman in the audience got Jay’s attention. Apparently, she wanted to donate money right now, but Jay explained that she’d have to do so through the Idol Gives Back website. The woman seemed disappointed that Jay didn’t take her money. I also got a kick out of watching “high-school student” Aaron Kelly, who was swinging on a staircase railing, and who later started fooling around with one of the stage’s spotlights. It’s reassuring to see that he’s still a 16-year-old kid at heart.

When Sir Elton John recommended that people wear condoms as a way to prevent AIDS, Tim couldn’t help but turn to Casey and repeat the words, “wear condoms.” And then, at last, it was time to find out who was heading home. Props to Teflon Tim for seemingly taking the bad news so incredibly well. The other six Idols hugged Tim and joined him center stage to watch his “farewell” montage. Tim laughed throughout the video package, and at one moment, Big Mike playfully slapped Tim’s rear end. Once the show ended, Tim ran to the judges to shake their hands and convey his gratitude. But Debbie needed the judges off the stage pronto. “Thank you, judges,” Debbie said. “You may go home to your little judge houses.”

The reason Debbie needed the stage cleared was that Carrie Underwood had flown to the Idoldome (via helicopter from Pasadena) to film a quick segment for an upcoming show. After a few tries, Carrie nailed her lines, which consisted of introducing the country band Sons of Sylvia to the stage. And, whew, that’s a wrap.

PopWatchers, did you guys contribute to Idol Gives Back? Which part of the telecast affected you the most? And are you guys disappointed or relieved to see Tim Urban heading home?

Comments (135 total) Add your comment
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  • Aimzee

    I will miss Tim. He has such a positive attitude and is so likeable. Oh, and kinda cute, too! Wishing him the best!

    • Sally in Chicago

      Tim was fun. They couldn’t put him down, and he has the best attitude of all the Idols. Some of them seem stupified and anemic, but not Tim.

      • alice

        Buh-bye Tim.

    • C

      So sad Tim is gone… the entertainment factor is going to go way down now :(

    • Cassie

      I think Tim knew he was going to be eliminated last night. I think the results matched what the Dial Idol numbers were, so he could have just checked that web site. Tim had the best attitude possible, considering all the hate from the judges. He’ll be fine post-Idol. He’s definitely going to see some TV offers, if not a record deal. I’m not going to bother watching the rest of the season until the finale.

      • John

        I agree. Tim has a promising future in the business, maybe not as a singer but something. The kid is a star. And I’m not watching anymore either. I don’t think I can stand to hear Shiobhan murder another song.

  • Carole

    Did we watch the same Idol gives back? I thought it was too boring, very long. Didn’t it run over? My DVR stopped recording at 10pm that luckly I caught up the the DVR or I would have missed the end. It all seemed recycled. I felt like I had seen it all before. Joss Stone is a mess to watch. Turn and face us when you sing and for god sakes put on some shoes.

    • renee

      that’s what i love about tastes. we can all be so different. i loved this idol gives back show. normally i fast forward through most of it because i am bored. this year i wasn’t. watched every minute, even the sad warehouse bits. lol. the comics were great. the singers were awesome, and because we had history with many of the clips, it just made it even better. well down ai.

    • jennrae

      I missed everything that happened after 10pm. This is the Tivo age, so if they want us to watch the whole show, they need to get a watch. AI runs over everything without a care in the world because they’re “American Idol.” Ugh, it’s obnoxious.

      • Mysti

        They warned everyone watching last week and Tuesday. Slezak warned people in his recap. It was all over the message boards that the show would run over. I always make my DVR record 15 min past, but due to everyone’s warning, I also recorded the 10:00 news and was able to finish watching the show. Pay attention.

      • Well it sucked

        Eh 35 minutes over is ridiculous though. I caught it all, but come on. 15 minutes over is one thing. 35 minutes is a whole nother show. They should really get with it.

      • ac

        Ryan warned that it would most likely go over the night before. That’s why I DVR’d the news afterward.

      • jennrae

        Yeah, I ffw’d through Ryan most of the time, but even if I had heard, I tivo two shows at 10pm that trump AI, or I would have thought five or ten minutes would have been enough. If they knew it was going over, they should’ve just programmed it to go to 10:30pm.

    • Kiley

      Ryan warned everybody Tuesday night that the show would Run Over. I guess you guys weren’t listening. For me, maybe since I’ve seen every ‘Idol Gives Back’, I thought, overall, this one was boring. Loved George Lopez and Wanda Sykes, even though I’ve heard Wanda do that routine before… it was still funny. I hated Mary J with the All Star ROCK band. Mary J does not have the rock ballad vocals to pull that song off. The beginning was a complete Mess! ACK! She did end the song well, but not well enough to rectify the horrendous beginning. Don’t get me wrong, MJ has a great voice for R&B. Her voice simply didn’t ‘fit’ with that song. It frustrated me thinking about how a great group of Rock Musicians were wasted!

  • thebigone

    Hey John. You’re deaf. The only good performance of the night was Carrie Underwood. The rest were horrible. You can’t make cookies out of mud. Videos were inspirational, Tim finally went home, Carrie was great. Other than that the whole thing was a mess. A boring, exasporating mess!!!!!

    • Colleen

      What were you listening to? Annie Lennox sounded beautiful.

      • Heidi

        and I agree that her segment with the 7 year old sweetheart in Africa was very moving and such a relief to see her doing well. My 7 year son’s lip was quivering during the first part and then visibly relieved to see how much better she was with help. Great to see donations in action.

      • sally

        I agree Annie Lennox was fabulous and very moving. I really loved that Matt Morris song playing in the background of Simon’s segment. Too bad he hadn’t been there to perform that live.

      • Mysti

        I thought Annie (who I usually like and truly love the tone to her voice) was boring and a snoozefest. After the first 15 min of her song, I FF the rest. Zzzzzzz

    • Joshua

      Joss Stone was brilliant.

      • Sally in Chicago

        Agree about Joss Stone. Such a surprise, and normally I don’t like her. She’s all growed up.

    • Ian

      I also liked Sir Elton John’s performance of “Your Song.”

  • thebigone

    I was too kind. IT WAS CRAP!!!

    • Steve

      You seem like an idiot. Stairway to Heaven was great.

      • Zach

        no, it wasn’t. Mary never is.

      • Sally in Chicago

        Mary J stepped out of her comfort zone, and it was great. That’s what the judges tell the singers to do, try something different…and she did.

  • Tookie

    Where is everyone this morning?

  • RandyIsThatYou?

    The guy in the picture above with Mary J. Blige looks like an even more slimmed down Randy Jackson. Is that you dawg?

    • Mysti

      Um, yes that’s Randy.

  • Jennifer

    I actually thought Annie Lennox’s song was schmaltzy crap, but she sang it beautifully, definitely a case of the singer being far, far better than the song.

  • Teena

    Somehow, knowing how many of the performances are pre-taped, I don’t feel bad at all when I fast-forward through them.

  • KatieBell

    I was sorry to see Tim go… that was one of the most gracious exits I’ve ever seen – he seems like a really lovely person.

    Our family chose to donate $10 for each of the beneficiary organizations that were featured on Idol Gives Back. In addition we gave $10 each to our local food bank and literacy counts programs.

  • Gus

    Tim didn’t do well this week and deserved to go home, but he also deserved to thank his family and fans and sing one of his better songs just like the other idols have done. How incredibly rude, especially to the most positive and gracious of the bunch. I guess if you’re not Crystal, they’re not interested. Lame.

    • Suzanne

      Agreed! Tim was ROBBED. I am a Casey fan, but PLEASE, that wasn’t fair. If Casey had had to leave without singing his song and thanking his fans I would have been so upset. Tim is a fine young man. I have lost what little respect I had for AI.

  • jrs

    Two and a half hours of my life I’ll never get back! I thought it was a pure crapfest…I just wanted to see who got booted. Did not find the humor humourous, nor most of the singers entertaining. Just seemed like the mojo was off.

    • Mysti


  • wow

    I think the Sons of Sylvia is Randy’s discovery.

    • Bflo

      they won a show called the next great american band or something like that and they have been opeing for Carrie Underwood on her current tour.

  • LB

    Ha! You’re just adding fuel to those crazy fans who think Lee and Siobhan are dating. Thanks for the recap – I love reading the behind the scenes stuff since they rarely show it to us.

    • chris ford

      The pics of them together are showing some chemistry. Lee has that whole “scruffy masculine guy , sensitive though” thing going on. Both artistic, songwriters..have a shy reserved and sweet part of their personalities.
      As for what Lee sees in the Odd One besides that? Well, you might want to start by checking out tonights pics of Siobhan in the in that miniskirt outfit.

      • LB

        Oh I have no problem believing they’re attracted to each other. They’re both cute. But I thought she has a boyfriend already.

      • LB

        Oh I have no problem believing he’s attracted to her or even vice-versa. They’re both cute in their own way. I just thought she already had a bf.

      • LB

        Sorry multiple postings.

    • KRo

      Ya…adding more fuel to the Lee & Siobhan rumors…did you all see Lee put his hand on Siobhan’s thigh after she sat back down on the couch next to him???

  • Grady

    Wait, you actually are going to say that you found George Lopez appallingly obvious routine funny?! *gag*

    • Shana

      I thought it was funnier when Ryan called him Erik Estrada

      • Dan

        That was the best comi9c line of the night. I think it was in Ellen’s contract that any comedians booked on Idol gives back were not allowed to be as funny as her, hence George Lopez and Wanda Sykes. (Although I heard that Conan was initially booked and then NBC enforced its no TV clause on him).

      • Mysti

        me too!

      • ac

        Contract or no contract, George Lopez and Wanda Sykes are not funnier that Ellen, though Wanda can come close on occasion.

  • Grady

    Wait, you actually are going to say that you found George Lopez appallingly obvious routine funny?!

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