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A sorry ending to a sad season of 'American Idol'

Wednesday night's "American Idol" felt more like a wake than a finale -- a wake for what was once a vital, dominant force in popular culture. The show that brought an end to the most lackluster season in "Idol" history left me so cold even I had to think hard to remember how crazed I was by last year's finale when Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert against all musical and performance logic and soul.

So, Lee DeWyze won. Who cares? If I passed him on the street or heard him on the car radio, I couldn't distinguish him from a dozen other non-distinctive performers. As for Crystal Bowersox, I am worn out by all the Janis Joplin wannabes they have run across that stage. No more "Me and Bobby McGee" -- PLEASE.

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Even the appearance of Paula Abdul couldn't save last night's finale. I was almost sucked back into the phony finale emotion of "Idol" there for a second when Paula appeared, but then she opened her mouth and started talking -- and I remembered how annoyingly loopy and disconnected she could be.

What was that "teacher-student" thing she was talking about her her and Simon anyway? He thought student-teacher, she thought partnership. Who cares?This was not Tracy and Hepburn.

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All that matters on the Paula front is that the greedy producers of "Idol" and the executives of Fox made a decision not to give her a few million dollars more, and it cost them tens of millions in lost ratings -- and screwed up the core chemistry of the series. And all the talk from Simon and Paula and Randy and Ryan about "Idol" re-inventing itself and moving on won't change that. The amazing story to me is how fragile this former ratings monster of a franchise proved to be.

As for Simon's farewell -- which is what the finale was really all about, given that the finalists were so uninspired -- couldn't he at least have acted like he cared (to paraphrase Shepard Smith's commentary on BP)? All I felt as I watched him almost try to phone in a few words that might have passed for heartfelt in a parallel universe where inhabitants had been stripped of all sincerity and emotion, is what a sucker I have been to have ever rooted for, cared or been upset by anything that ever happened on this series.

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