It's the big night. It's gonna take two hours. But we will have an end. And it's not like you even have to bother. Because you know what the end is. Taylor Hicks won. Hasn't DialIdol showed him way ahead every single damned week? So they actually have to try to entertain us. That's the upside of all this nonsuspense.
In Phase 1 of this attempt to entertain us, they bring out rejected Idols and their idols. Paris Bennett sings with Al Jarreau. Is Al Jarreau embarrassed to stoop to this or happy to get such a gigantic audience? I don't know. But I wish him well. He's a brilliant singer. People like him used to go on "The Ed Sullivan Show" where they were juxtaposed with puppets and acrobats. Why is this different? Leave the lovely Mr. Jarreau alone. We see Chris Daughtry singing with Live, side by side with Ed Kowalczyk. Is Ed comfortable? Is Ed thinking I'm doing this for money? Is Ed thinking God bless Chris for loving me enough to imitate me or is he just exploding inside at the bizarreness of it all? Then the weirdness climaxes as Meat Loaf sings with Katharine McPhee. Noooo. I've blotted that out. What was Meat thinking? That she was horrible? That if he was as sexy as she he'd be the biggest star in the universe?
And stuck in there is a cute and genuinely funny comedy routine with Wolfgang Puck and Kellie Pickler. He's trying to teach her about food, and she's hiding the escargot in the napkin. Give that adorable girl a TV show, please.
In Phase 2, they purport to give out awards. This is just an excuse to go way back into the bad auditions file. We hear four bad women and four bad men, one of whom cavorts on stage for us.
After the longest commercial break in the history of television, we get another dose of Puck and Pickler. (She goes all Annie Hall about lobsters.) Then Phase 3 begins. Ryan introduces: GUYS! "Takin' Care of Business." It's Ace 'n Kevin 'n Bucky 'n Chris 'n Elliott. Now Taylor comes out, harmonica-ing. "Tobacco Road." (I was just hearing this song on XM Radio today, the Ten Years After version.) Now it's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." Suddenly, it't the 1992 Democratic Convention. Yesterday's gone!
Uhh...ohh... we seem to be back in Phase 2, with "Proudest Moment" awards. Elliott's mom wins, and, really, she's about the coolest Idol family member ever. Claudette! She's adorably jolie laide, and she looks just like Elliott. Now, Elliott Yamin sings. And introduces Mary J. Blige! All the stars are getting in on this action tonight. And what a tribute to Elliott: Blige shows up. "American Idol" rules... if Blige shows up.
Carrie Underwood sings. She's in a country place. I haven't been following this. "Don't forget to remember me." I kinda have.
"The Randy Jackson Award for Public Speaking." To Ronetta, for bleepable crap. This is the low point of tonight's show. I don't like this disrespect to Randy. Ronetta plays the role of Ronetta, accepting the award. Let's ignore this.
Cut to Taylor. He starts "In the Ghetto," then introduces Miss Toni Braxton! Disturbingly, she can hardly sing. This is a weird moment, and it's clipped short. What just happened?
Time for the big "GIRLS" medley. "I'm a woman. W-O-M-A-N." Lotsa Paris here. We feel that if only she'd had a chance to prepare -- lord, she's only 17 -- she'd have held up the female end of the competition. "I'm Every Woman." Nice to see Mandisa back. But then... it's also too strained, too desperate. (Bring back the guys.)
Back to the awards. The next one's for imitation. And the guy who wins is the Clay Aiken imitator. He accepts his award and agrees to sing. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me." Midway through the song, the real Clay -- the guy! -- comes out and is singing along. Fake Clay freaks out but does the duet anyway. Omigod! It's Clay! In person! It's Clayyyyyy!!!!
Phase 4. Burt Bacharach is introduced and he staggers over to the grand piano, but I'm not going to make fun, because he starts to play a beautiful, beautiful song. "What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love." Taylor Hicks begins the sublime lyric. Hey, dammit, the show is really entertaining tonight. It's two hours, but they've got material. "The Look of Love." Ace and Melissa (I think it's Melissa). "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" -- Kellie. Aw, now it's Bucky singing "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." Aw. Mandisa sings a little prayer for us. Lisa Tucker sings "Alfie." What's it all about?... Are we meant to take all that we give?...
"A chair is not a chair..." It's that absurd lyric Tamyra once sang, and now it's Elliott. Dear, sweet Elliott. "What's New Pussycat?" Kevin Covais. Ick! But kinda awesome. "Caught Between the Moon and New York City." "Close to You."
Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Dionne Warwick. Well, it's established: "American Idol" is the new "Ed Sullivan Show." Dionne Warwick is here, singing "Walk on By" and "That's What Friends Are For." Taylor and Katharine wander out and then all those other characters. Taylor holds Dionne's hand and popdom is complete.
There's a "male bonding" interlude here... I've got nothing to say about it. Aaahhhh... come on! We're so close to the end. Let's get to it!
Finally, the results....
And... I'm speechless... it's Prince....
Aw... that's sublime....
Now, Taylor's singing "The Time of My Life" and Katharine bops out over to him. They can both relax and enjoy the moment. They totally know what the answer is on this suspenseless but awesome night. I think the lack of suspense pushed them to make it a good show, and they did.
Ryan tells us it was 63.4 million votes, more than any President has ever received.
"Here we go. The winner of 'American Idol,' Season 5, is: Taylor Hicks!"
Taylor: "Soul Patrooooooollllll!"
Hey, don't complain. He deserved it. He made America love him. What did he have? A bit of a voice. A love for soul music. A willingness to throw himself into the spirit of it all. We laughed. We responded. Who else ever made that happen? He's just a guy in the middle of music who made us feel something. Shut up!