"American Idol": Give Till It Hurts Your Agent

Last year's "Idol Gives Back" fundraiser was so successful the number of celebu-saints wanting to jump on the Do-Gooder Wagon skyrockets to nearly 70, forcing Fox to start the show 30 minutes before prime time, just to fit them all into what turns out to be a 152-minute celebu-thon.

They fall into two categories -- the Caring (real or well-performed) and the Clueless.

Many made only the briefest and most straightforward of appearances, urging viewers to call the phone number on the screen to make a donation that would be given to children's charities at home and abroad. NASCAR champ Jimmy Johnson, George Lopez, Whoopi Goldberg, Ellen DeGeneres, Adam Sandler, Adam Sandler's dog, some of the cast of a "High School Musical," even WWE performers, with videos of them flexing their inhumanly big muscles playing behind them. Mary Murphy mixes things up a bit, offering to scream her head off until we pick up the phone and make a pledge. Which she then does. Way too long.

California first lady Maria Shriver wants to believe "American Idol" viewers know who Gandhi is. She used his gag about us being the change we want to see in this world in her celebu-thon kickoff speech, surrounded by more than 100 volunteers. Sadly, "Idol" producers thought it would be great to play "Maria" from "West Side Story" as she walked on stage. Happily, that song has never been covered by Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, so the irony will be lost on most "Idol" viewers.

Carrie Underwood, Teri Hatcher and some "Idol" shtick. (Ray Mickshaw/FOX)

It doesn't matter if we can't sing, Shriver tells us -- we can serve "and acts of service are the stuff real idols are made of," she says.

Ben Stiller says his Whitney Houston cover CD -- "Stiller Whips Whitney's [Heinie] for Charity" -- lost $3.2 million for "Idol Gives Back" so now he wants us to cough up a "googillion" dollars. He says, he knows that sounds crazy but "isn't that what 'American Idol' is all about -- convincing crazy people they can be on television?" Geesh, this is going to be a tough night for the Idolettes, who are back at the "Idol" studio manning phone lines to take pledge calls.

Jennifer Connelly stars in a video about collecting filthy water in empty diesel fuel cans and serving it to children. Snoop Dogg and Charlie Wilson sing about not being able to say goodbye to the 'hood while trying to get the audience to wave their hands or clap -- apparently without success, judging by the number of times they ask.

"Idol" judge Paula Abdul takes the stage to talk about the number of obese children in America while standing next to judge Randy Jackson, who has put back on much of the weight he lost when he had his stomach stapled.

On the flip side, nearly anorexic Teri Hatcher faux-scolds "Idol" winner Carrie Underwood, who's on the floor with Hatcher's pretend plumber/boyfriend James Denton, who's trying to fix Underwood's sink. This is by way of explaining why Hatcher then sings an Underwood tune, backed up by Denton's Band From TV.

Miley Cyrus -- the new Britney -- is the evening's Queen of Cluelessness. She spends what seems like hours in a lame comedy bit with Billy Crystal -- the new Jack Benny -- the point of which is that she is really young and he is really old and she is really famous, with not one CD but two -- "and I was so excited they both made it to Number 1 which was soooo cool!" Plus, she notes her movie was No. 1 at the box office, while Crystal was in flicks that are so old she wasn't even born then, like "When Harry Met Sally."

Crystal does manage to get in one searing crack about how she's wearing Liberace's jacket, but, of course, she has no idea who Liberace is. If you tell a joke and the person it's directed at doesn't get the insult, did it really happen?

"How long have you dreamed to sing on 'American Idol'?" Crystal asks.

"Forever! This was the ONE thing I haven't had the chance to do yet," says Miley. Jaded, at 15.
So sad.

Miley then begins to sing and fling her big hair and leaps about the stage after which she admonishes her tweener fan base, "We can't just leave this up to our parents" and directs them to cough up their allowance.

Not be outdone, Fergie writhes and does actual cartwheels on stage in black rubber pants while singing "Barracuda" with Heart.

Brad Pitt offers his "Idol" bit. (Ray Mickshaw/FOX)

Victoria Beckham wants you to know she and her husband, David, have "enjoyed success in many countries," which brings her around nicely to the many, many people in the world who have not enjoyed success in even a single country -- millions of whom need our financial help. David pitches in and, once again, ruins all our fantasies about him with his high-pitched voice.

Annie Lennox is too old to try cartwheels or black rubber pants. She made a video about four more victims of the AIDS pandemic in Africa -- young brothers who have lost all their adult relatives. We see her in the video, clearly wrung out by the experience. Cut to Lennox on stage in a touching performance of "Many Rivers to Cross."

Celine Dion, last seen on "Idol" dueting with Dead Elvis, doesn't try to top that; she simply appears in a video from South Africa.

Jimmy Kimmel wants some of the money raised tonight to be set aside to buy "Idol" judge Simon Cowell a shirt that fits and hides his man breasts, which Kimmel says, look like the Olsen twins.

Kimmel's girlfriend, satirist Sarah Silverman, thanks ExxonMobil, which will never happen again in my lifetime or yours. ExxonMobil is one of the show's sponsors.

Reese Witherspoon marvels that "when 'Idol Gives Back' asked me to particiapte tonight I didn't hesitate for a moment."

Forest Whitaker appears in a video about a little girl who nearly died of malaria when a $10 mosquito net might have prevented it, after which British Prime Minister Gordon Brown appears via satellite from 10 Downing Street to say his country is pledging to buy 20 million nets.

The studio audience is not very good at math and Brown's announcement doesn't get much of a rise out of them. So show host Ryan Seacrest -- the new Jerry Lewis -- explains it means the PM has just pledged $200 million. The audience roars its approval.

Look, Miley is back for more "Miley Gives Back"! Only this time she's added a Lolita-ish come-hither look to her routine. Then she takes us on a video trip with Dad Billy Ray to a poor area of Kentucky. Miley's been stripped of her hair extensions and makeup and is dowdied up for the visit.

Robin Williams's bit as the winner of "Russian Idol" is indescribably painful: "My father won 'Anti-American Idol' in 1978."

Mariah Carey performs. (Ray Mickshaw/FOX)

Rob Schneider tells us we may think Bono has enough money to fix "whatever is going on in Africa" but apparently Bono has "only half, which is why we need your help... also feel free to send some money to me."

Tyra Banks says nothing is more fierce than giving back.

The show's nearly over. Time to bring out the royalty. Mr. Angelina Jolie. Head-scratchingly, "Idol" producers decide David Spade should introduce Brad Pitt. The audience gives Pitt a standing ovation; he's lost his microphone. A female producer walks on stage to reclip it to him and makes a crack about just needing a reason to touch him. Pitt's embarrassed. Turns out, Pitt is here to -- introduce former Idolette Chris Daughtry?

Daughtry went to Uganda with his band, Daughtry. See Daughtry help an AIDS-stricken women to her feet. See Daughtry teach little children to sing a refrain from their song. See Daughtry hold the children's hands. See the children cling to Daughtry's arms.

Mariah Carey is next. She's unusually clothing non-challenged a she belts and trills and high-pitches her way through her number about flying like a bird.

Seacrest declines to tell us how much has been raised, but does let us know the phone lines, which he'd said earlier were jammed -- just like on "Idol" performance nights -- will "stay open." Out come the Idolettes, all dressed in white, to wrap things up with an inspirational song.

Ben Stiller walks onto an empty "Idol" stage, wondering whether they've reached a googillion dollars yet. When he realizes everyone's gone home, he begins to mutter expletives at Seacrest, which are bleeped and his mouth pixelated. Call me crazy but it seems an odd way to wrap up a charity fundraiser.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  April 10, 2008; 6:56 AM ET "American Idol"
Previous: 'American Idol': 8 Stabs at Inspiration | Next: "American Idol" Keeps On Giving, Whacks Aussie


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Great stuff. We literally had to strain to understand what David Beckham was even saying. My wife cracked: "They should subtitle him, too." And the last bit with Ben Stiller was an awful misstep by the producers, gutting the inspirational uplift that the Final 8 provided in the evening's farewell song.

Posted by: Booklover1 | April 10, 2008 8:13 AM

Shame on the celebs for shame-less self promotion. That said, I thought the opening act with the Idolettes and the So You Think You Can Dance crew was actually pretty good, except that David A. couldn't keep up with the Michael Jackson sampling. I really thought the Terri Hatcher singing Carrie Underwood was a joke, she was so bad, and was really surprised to find that it wasn't a bit. And maybe I was just over-tired and punch-drunk, but I thought Robin William's bit was actually pretty funny...

Posted by: Lisa | April 10, 2008 8:25 AM

WOW, was that CRAP-Tastic!

Posted by: Tony Kornheiser | April 10, 2008 8:45 AM

Simon going to (what seemed to be) the Bronx and comforting a woman with lupus was the strangest, most cringe inducing two minutes of television I've repeated over and over on my Tivo this year.

Posted by: Jerry | April 10, 2008 8:46 AM

Coroner Munchkin pronounces last nights show "Really Most Sincerely Dead"

Posted by: Toto | April 10, 2008 8:50 AM

Simon going to (what seemed to be) the Bronx and comforting a woman with lupus was the strangest, most cringe inducing two minutes of television I've repeated over and over on my Tivo this year.
He referred to them as "that family", and I'd bet $1M that he didn't even remember their names. (chuckle)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2008 8:52 AM

Appreciate your cynicism on most days, Lisa, but dissing Gandhi is poor form. Sure the quote may seem trite today, but the sentiment has been inspirational to many who have gone into public service and have sought to do more with their money than buy new Manolo Blahniks. AI is one of the few non-cable shows on television parents actually can watch with their kids, so to say that no Idol viewer knows who Gandhi was is ridiculous and patronizing.

Posted by: trishrosenthall | April 10, 2008 9:16 AM

Thank you so much for confirming I missed nothing. You are a life-saver, Pookie!

Posted by: djibuddha | April 10, 2008 9:31 AM

I thought stiller's first bit was funny. Didn't see the 2nd one, because the show ran over 10:00PM (and my tivo switches to 2 other shows at 10 on Wed).

The biggest surprise for me of the night was how good of a singer Fergie is. Seriously, WTF. The song she sang with John Legend was great, and then she flat out Wailed with Heart.

Is it a sad comment on this, the "most talented Idol Season ever," when I don't think that any of the contestants are as good........as Fergie?

Posted by: Duffman | April 10, 2008 9:51 AM

I think the most sincere part of the show, and the BEST live performance both go to Annie Lennox.

Yikes, was she AWESOME on the ivories, and her vocals and performance were bursting with passion.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2008 10:11 AM

I concur with Duffman. Fergie's first performance was great and then she upstage the Wilson sister (the heavy one - I can never remember who is Ann or Nancy). She brought energy and a great vocal to that Heart song. If any of this seasons Idols could do that on a semi-regular basis would be nice. The season crops just don't have it.

Posted by: Irish_Ed | April 10, 2008 10:41 AM

I happened to flip over to AI last night, just at the moment of Teri Hatcher's performance. Which was just stunningly bad. It made me wish that they had set up charitable phone lines to vote for the worst performance. They could have collected funds, say 5 bucks per call, for charity, and let people have a little fun. I woulda called for that Hatcher performance, a buncha times. It was really lame. But it ensured that I flipped away from AI and stayed away.

Posted by: NW DC | April 10, 2008 10:49 AM

-I agree Annie Lennox was the most sincere person there, and there only reason to watch.

- Terri Hatcher's singing is as bad as her face in HD.

Posted by: Brooklyn | April 10, 2008 10:59 AM

the whole david spade - to introduce brad pitt - to introduce chris daughtry was one of the more bizarre parts of the night. and i believe daughtry was introduced as the "number one band in america right now" or something. which makes me think i'm missing something...

Posted by: interesting. | April 10, 2008 11:02 AM

Reading this I see we missed the first half hour -- our TV listings said it started at 8. We came in at the dumb Miley and Billy bit. Jack Benny hahaha! Lisa, as usual you have a gift for the perfect analogy.

Then the Baltimoron Fox affiliate cut it off abruptly after Daughtry's visit to the Ugandan slum to bring us the 10 o'clock news. We thought that was a strange ending. It would be nice if these stations would tell us what they're doing rather than leave the viewers scratching their heads, esp. considering the large audience for Idol. Sounds like we didn't miss much.

Annie: Boy was she great. And it was refreshing to see a female performer who is allowing her face to age gracefully.

Fergie: Yep, Duffman, was having similar thoughts about the voice. Here I'd thought of her as a sort of second-string Gwen Stefani, but given something better to sing than "London Bridges" (it's all about song choice, dawg) she sounded great (although I could have lived without all the manic slinking around the stage and the gymnastics). But yeah, would that one of this year's Idolettes could sing like that.
On the other hand, they ALL sing better than...

Miley: Since my kids are teenage boys and not in the Hannah Montana demographic, I was curious to see her since I was reading all last summer about how it was all but impossible to get tickets to her shows, she's so popular, etc. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised that she's getting by on looks and personality rather than any actual singing ability, but I was surprised at how thin and bland her voice was. Talk about something I'd expect to hear at a high school musical (at an actual high school, not the Disney show of same name). I am willing to bet that zillions of girls with voices like hers show up at Idol auditions and turned away by the screeners without a chance to visit the inner sanctum to sing to the judges.

That being said I'm glad they showed the Cyrus's visit to the people in Kentucky, and the dignity they showed amidst the conditions in which they live. Having spent a week visiting families in a similar community when I was teenager, I am often pained by the way people feel free to make fun of "white trash."

On that cheery note...

Posted by: owingsmills | April 10, 2008 11:19 AM

Oh, and one other small gripe.

When Simon introduced Carrie Underwood, he stated that he said she would sell more albums than any Idol and was right.

But Kelly Clarkson has sold more albums than she has.

That is all.

Posted by: Duffman | April 10, 2008 11:52 AM

Yea, shame on you for calling Gandhi a cross-dressing weasel and insulting the millions of goodhearted and MENSA qualified AI viewers who show their compassion by purchasing Coke and ExxonMobil products by the googillion? Please, a little more gratitude for the good people at Exxon, who continue to push the frontiers of American Law by continuing to stiff Alaskans smeared by Valdez crude and dispelling the global warming "myth." You KNOW they're just trying to make the world a better place and not pandering for goodwill, right?

1. Robin Williams is NEVER funny. Ever.
2. Please don't lump Miley into Britney category -- of course I said that about Jamie Lynn too, but cross your fingers.
3. Where was Naomi Campbell? She must be pro-poverty.
4. There is no level of snark that can do justice to last night's travesty. I couldn't endure it even with TIVO.

Posted by: Doorknob | April 10, 2008 12:36 PM

owingsmills wrote:

"Then the Baltimoron Fox affiliate cut it off abruptly after Daughtry's visit to the Ugandan slum to bring us the 10 o'clock news."

I Tivo'd it last night from Fox 45 and got the whole show so I'm not sure what happened on your end, but, they definitely showed Mariah and the lame Ben Stiller ending.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2008 12:39 PM

Thanks for this recap! I couldn't bring myself to watch the show, but your recap makes me think I should have. I would have had some good laughs.

I missed hearing Fergie's great singing. That's something I can't believe until I hear it. I think the gymnastics was a little ridiculous, grandstanding.

I hope Terri Hatcher hears how bad she sounded. Someone should have told her she was embarrassing herself.

I wish I could have seen Annie Lennox's performance. She's always been one of my favorite singers and I'm glad that she did a good job.

Posted by: tyjoun | April 10, 2008 12:42 PM

Oh my god! Thank you for this article. "Idol Gives Back" was one of the most atrocious, self-congratulatory "television events" so far. Here's a very funny link about how Most of Us viewed it:


Posted by: LordFlashheart | April 10, 2008 1:34 PM

Another grateful reader. We were out until just after 8:00 and forgot to set up the VCR (yes, we don't do TiVo). When we got home, we put it on for about 5 minutes (including the horrible Miley/Crystal segment) and decided to turn it off and watch some DVD's that we're trying to catch up on. I knew that I could read the Snark report and I think my time was better spent this way. The only thing that I really wanted to see were the two Idolettes numbers anyways and I got to see them on-line and saved myself a painful 2.5 hours.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | April 10, 2008 1:50 PM

was it just me; or did mariah lip-sync her way through that song??? when she tried to 'thank' randy.jackson (for what, who knows???) -- no sound came out...

Posted by: gfb | April 10, 2008 2:26 PM

I'm a little surprised no one has mentioned anything yet about the completely hideous group rendition of "Seasons of Love." I almost vomited when Kristy did her very poor solo. None of their voices are really suited to that song.

Posted by: yuck | April 10, 2008 2:48 PM

I recorded AI last night knowing I could not possibly watch 2.5 hrs, but was eager for Lisa's report. Grateful to know what to ff through to see: Annie Lennox. Did manage to sneak in watching 15 minutes to see some of the train wrecks: Terry Hatcher - OMG. She reminded me of a drunk broad in a cheap bar singing karoake at 2:00am. Yes, it was REALLY THAT BAD! Lisa, you were too nice.

And Miley Cyrus and Billy Crystal's routine was beyond self-serving lame. Sorry, the kid is not talented. Her success comes from Daddy's connections. If she had auditioned for idol, she would have never made Hollywood Week. It made me suddenly grateful for our idolettes. Miley can't sing or move on stage, and we were beating up poor little Ramiele about her moves and Kristi for her voice. Shame on me, shame on us all.

And the Randy/Paula bit was awkward. Tiny Paula talking about an obesity epidemic standing next to big ole'Randy. Whose bad idea was this?

It is startling to me that the script for the little I saw of this show was so HORRIBLE! High school students could have done better. Doesn't Fox know the writers' strike is over? I think AI/Fox is so full of themselves that they don't think they can sound/look bad with all those celebrities wandering in/out of show.

Okay, so I did my 10 minutes of watching dreck. Will only bother to watch Annie, maybe Fergie after this.

It was embarrassingly bad.

Posted by: Idle fan | April 10, 2008 4:00 PM

Too bad Matt Damon and Ben Affleck didn't join Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel on stage...

Posted by: Rob Iola | April 10, 2008 5:07 PM

"I wish I could have seen Annie Lennox's performance. She's always been one of my favorite singers and I'm glad that she did a good job."

If you're looking for any of the performances you missed, go to youtube.com and do a search for "Idol Gives Back 2008." Annie, Teri and the gang have all been uploaded by industrious and altruistic people who Upload So You Don't Have to Have TIVO.

As for our assumption that Fox 45 cut it off at 10, I guess when we saw them play the news theme and the anchors came on and introduced the night's top stories, it looked like Idol was over and they were starting the newscast, so after a couple of minutes we snapped off the TV. Oops!

Posted by: owingsmills | April 10, 2008 5:31 PM

You are hilarious. I love reading your stuff!

Posted by: Debbie | April 14, 2008 4:26 PM

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