by pat howard

IDOL VIRGIN | If you want to give something back, you could start with the results show

In Idol Virgin on April 22, 2010 at 9:19 am

Somewhere outside the Las Vegas Strip, Jerry Lewis is weeping through his permanent grin.

I had heard about Idol Gives Back, but in avoiding eight seasons of the show I had never seen it. It is a telethon in every sense except the tote board. Ryan Seacrest really does want to take over every fading broadcasting legend’s job: Dick Clark, Larry King, and now face of MDA and butt of countless telethon jokes Jerry Lewis. At first glance, having Queen Latifah cohost from a second location seemed like a technical stroke of genius, providing two stages for performers to switch back and forth. By the end of the night, I resented the barrage of performances and sad-sacky Sarah McLachlan-style video packages begging for us to save the children here and abroad.

I don’t mean to belittle the cause, and it’s fantastic that a primetime powerhouse like Idol goes out of its way to spotlight charities when it knows there will be loads of eyeballs available. But results shows are chancy on a good night: so little entertainment crammed into so much time, live performances that miss the mark as often as not, and hurried results that can seem like an afterthought.

And of course the show never ends on time. I’ve had fifteen extra minutes tacked onto my results show DVR setting for months now. But last night that wasn’t enough, because the show went over by at least 30 minutes. I didn’t start watching my recording until late in the evening, so Ryan’s warning (“this show will go long”) at more than an hour in did nothing but make me realize I was watching for nothing.

Idol thinks highly of itself, but not of its viewers. Trying to DVR-proof this crap is only going to continue to upset people. And if you really want to do a three-hour show, schedule it that way so everyone is prepared. Two hours seemed excessive to me at first, but then my Idol slog abruptly ended in the middle of Elton John’s performance.

If I had to point to one aspect of the show that slowed things the most, it was comedians. At least George Lopez and Wanda Sykes were funny and relevant to the show. Jonah Hill and Russell Brand were unwatchable.

I have no idea how long the show actually went on. I was denied the satisfaction of watching Tim Urban finally get cut loose. I don’t even know what his swan song was. But for the Internet, I also wouldn’t know that next week is Shania Week. I guess the silver lining is that Idol Gives Back only comes once a year, and that they raised millions for charities in one night.

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