"American Idol" finale spoilers, minute-by-minute (or thereabouts) coming right up (though I'll admit the picture above kind of gives a big hint)...
7:58: So, last night Randy dialed up some molten lava hot praise for young David, and Simon said that L'il Archie scored a knockout over David Cook. Yet DialIdol predicts Cook winning in a landslide. To quote the great Mike LaFontaine, wha happen? Well, either DialIdol's way off (which wouldn't be a surprise), or else at this stage of a season fanbases matter a lot more than how anyone does on the final night (also not a surprise), or else Simon throwing Cook under the bus for three very good performances riled up the Cougars for Cook and the casual voters enough to get the rocker the win. We'll see.
8:00: Ryan Seacrest is hushed as he asks, "What happens when a nation is gripped by the closest competition it has ever seen? What can you expect when two ordinary people achieve the extraordinary? What does it look like when the country's number one show reaches its critical mass? Well, it looks like this. And this... is the 'American Idol' season finale!"
For the record, I'd put both the Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry and Bush v. Gore just a little bit ahead of Cook v. Cook in terms of closest American competitions of my lifetime.
8:01: Ryan declares that if every single person in Canada, Spain, Ireland and Australia voted last night, it wouldn't have matched their vote totals. 97 and a half million votes came in. "You didn't just break the record for the show; you smashed it by over 23 million." He says one David received 56% of the vote; the other David, 44%. Which, if I've done my math right, roughly matches what Dial Idol says about Cook's alleged landslide victory.
8:02: Matt Rogers! Did you know he played in the Rose Bowl? And were he and Mikalah really the two best "Idol" alums they could get to host the two hometown remotes?
8:03: the top 12 team up with the stars of "So You Think You Can Dance?" for our evening's first group song, opening with "Get Ready." Our dance-averse finalists seem to actually be moving with something vaguely resembling choreography. (At the very least, it's "Brady Bunch" Silver Platters-worthy choreography, though the "SYTYCD"ers predictably outshine them.) What's up with that? Also, why is Kristy Lee Cook front and center for the Motown song?
8:10: Cook and Archuleta dueting on Chad Kroeger's's "Hero" -- or, rather, Cook singing "Hero" with occasional kibbitzing from Archuleta. It's not quite like the bit in the season five finale where Mary J. Blige barely tolerated Elliott Yamin's presence on their "duet" of "One," but you can definitely tell which of the two finalists picked this particular number.
8:12: Seacrest tries to lead the Davids (or, rather, Cook, as it's tough to get anything coherent out of Archie on live TV) into an extended plug for an upcoming movie starring a former "Saturday Night Live" player who has decided that little people are inherently funny. I used to really like this particular "SNL" alum. Again, I ask: wha happen? Go back to making Scottish-accented jokes about oversized heads, guy!
8:16: And now they've brought the "SNL" alum out onto the stage? Isn't this a Paramount movie? Why are they devoting this much time to pimping some other company's studio? Or did Paramount buy out NewsCorp this afternoon while I wasn't paying attention?
8:18: Seal comes out to duet with Syesha on "Waiting For You." After what Constantine Maroulis and other contestants have done to "Kiss From a Rose" over the years on this show, I admire his willingness to associate himself with this show. Then again, Heidi and the baby Seals gotta eat. Not a bad number, really.
8:25: Seacrest says interviewing Jason Castro was like pulling teeth, but listening to him was very pleasant. Are we sure he's not talking about Archuleta? Castro at least answered in something resembling complete sentences, even though he always sounded stoned while doing so. Good on them for letting him sing "Hallelujah" again and remind us why we all liked him before all the nonsense about "Michelle, my bell" and Paula traveling through time and the shooting of sheriffs.
8:27: The season's final product-placed car commercial, to "Let the Good Times Roll," splicing together outtakes from all the different product-placed car commercials, leading to the annual presentation of two product-placed cars to the two finalists. Despite having watched the show for years, both make a convincing display of being surprised by the gesture.
8:29: The female finalists, dressed all in red, do a Donna Summer montage. Amanda Overmyer, God bless her, still looks like she had no idea how she wound up on this show with these people. Brooke White, God bless her as well, still looks like her legs are being operated by remote control. And is it wrong that I had completely forgotten Ramiele existed until this number?
8:31: Donna Summer herself comes out to plug/sing her new single. Again, I give her props for appearing on a show where many of her tunes have been previously massacred (including only moments ago by Amanda Overmyer, whom I love but who should never be asked to sing disco). Plus, she throws in some "Last Dance" at the end, and I also have to applaud golden oldies artists who recognize that, while they have new product to promote, people really only want to hear the classics.
8:39: Michael and Carly get a very special Early Shock Boots Duet of The Box Tops' "The Letter." They're exactly as you remembered them: Michael with the smoldering looks (and the occasional missed cues), Carly with the saucy dancing and constant threats to shout, but they sound really good together. Did I mention that I'm still bitter about randomly picking Michael in my "Idol" office pool and then seeing him go out so early? Or should my bitterness be about the fact that Chikezie went home even earlier than Michael, and therefore likely won't even get a duet showcase tonight?
8:43: Jimmy Kimmel (did ABC buy out NewsCorp as well? Or is Rupert Murdoch going around and scarfing up all the other media companies?) comes out and tells a Sanjaya joke that cracks up the actual Sanjaya much more than anyone else in the theater, also throws in a random Chris Sligh sight gag and mocks Paula's adventures in fortune-telling. Setting all of Simon's insults to "Pop Goes the Weasel" was a nice touch, though.
8:45: Guys medley this time, doing Bryan Adams. Somewhere, Robin from "How I Met Your Mother" is giddy. The runners-up version of "Summer of '69" segues into the top 2 doing "Heaven," which as I recall, Archie sang in the Hollywood round. Does he realize the song is about post-coital bliss?
8:47: The real Bryan Adams! I think Robin from "HIMYM" just had a heart attack.
8:54: Jordin Sparks plugs a new "Idol" attraction at a product-placed theme park that is also not in the NewsCorp empire. What's going on here? Where's the synergy?
8:55: Cook teams up with ZZ Top to perform "Sharp-Dressed Man." I wouldn't have pegged the baddest beards in rock 'n roll as among big David's influences, but he looks like he's having a swell time up there, even busting out a little bow-legged dance during the instrumental portion.
8:59: Brooke and Graham Nash (of classic rock supergroup Crosby, Stills and Nash, for you young'uns) duet on "Teach Your Children." Brooke can't really harmonize, but it's still like the ultimate Nanny Brooke song.
9:03: David Cook, in his underwear, gets to channel his inner Tom Cruise circa "Risky Business" in a Guitar Hero ad. Is this the first time we've seen a finalist get a product endorsement before the season's officially over? And how glad are we all that they didn't ask Archuleta to do that one? (I'm suddenly having horrific flashbacks to John Stevens IV and Diana DeGarmo in towels.)
9:07: Hi. I'm old. I think those are The Jonas Brothers, but I can't say with 100 percent certainty.
9:09: Time for the parade of the freaks. Yippee! How is it that I only watched one or two audition episodes and yet I recognize all these people? And is it wrong that I'm more excited to see the return of Renaldo Lapuz than I am about half of the Best Top 12 Ever? On the other hand, I'm guessing this makes the possible Chikezie solo even less likely, dammit.
9:17: Hi, I'm still old. One Republic comes out to sing "Apologize." Oh, wait. I'm only old in that I didn't know the name of the group or song. I've heard this before. Never mind. Plus, Archie gets to perform it with them. So Cook gets the literal graybeards while Archuleta's paired with a current act? Is this the "Idol" producers' way of trying to combat the perception that big David's a contemporary artist while little David can only sing 80-year-old spirituals?
9:23: Jordin's on the stage this time to remind us that she won last season. Nothing against Philippi's daughter, but season six began and ended for me with Melinda Doolittle.
9:31: Last year, we got Celine Dion dueting with Zombie Elvis. This year, we get Zombie Gladys Knight with the cast of "Tropic Thunder" -- including Number One Star In the World Robert Doweny Jr. -- as The Pips. I'll never complain about a chance to hear Iron Man sing (dude has serious pipes), but why do we need Zombie Gladys if the real Gladys is among us?
9:35: And now it's time for Carrie Underwood, aka The Last Successful Winner We Had. (And, no, none of us bought last night's attempt to slip Chris Daughtry into a montage of former winners. This ain't "1984," guys, and you can't write Taylor out of history just because you hate him.) It's really amazing how well her handlers have coached up Carrie. When she was on the show in season four, she had all the stage presence of a lox, and now she's totally plausible as the biggest star in country music.
9:41: God help us all, they did an Archie version of the Guitar Hero ad. At least they put him in boxers. But I'm still having those unfortunate JSIV/DeGarmo/towel flashbacks.
9:43: Our final group song of the season, a George Michael medley. As always, Amanda's mic seems to be turned off except for her bizarre solo. And now it's George Michael himself. Is this an "Eli Stone" plug? Who the hell owns the Fox network right now? Don't make me go all Jack Bauer on this show and start shooting people in the leg until I get an answer, people. TELL ME WHO YOUR CONGLOMERATE IS!!!!
9:51: As George Michael continues to sing, two thoughts occur to me: 1)We're late enough into the show that we'll almost certainly be doing without the lame Golden Idol awards (though I would arguably have preferred them to the bit with the "SNL" alum), and 2)It feels wrong to have a George Michael on the Fox network who isn't working at a banana stand.
9:57: We're back from the final ad break. Ryan asks the judges for final thoughts. Randy trots out the Clay/Ruben-esque "You're both winners" theory. Paula gives us a Zen koen. Ryan asks Simon about what it was like on second viewing -- which gives him a chance to apologize and backpedal from the Cook bus-throwing from the night before. Is this a sign that Dial Idol called it right and Simon doesn't want to look stupid? Or just Simon trying not to make the co-winner look bad?
9:59: The accountant certifies the results, Ryan wishes them both luck, and the winner, by 12 million votes, is David Cook!!!!!! Sorry, gonna be impartial for a second. Yes!!!! A total breaking-the-mold choice, proof that you can show actual musicianship and creativity on this show and succeed, and, perhaps best of all, a repudiation of Randy Jackson.
10:01: David fighting back tears. his mom and brother are on stage with him. David calls all the finalists up as he sings the actual coronation song, "Time of My Life." The song is predictably artery-clogging, but Cook's emotions and his affection for his fellow contestants (including David A., who's taking his defeat admirably well) are so palpable that, like Fantasia on "I Believe," I'm okay with it. Justice is served. How 'bout that?