'Idol' padding, lack of energy don't make us proud


With advertisers paying $1.3 million for 30 seconds of commercial time, it is not surprising that the producers of the American Idol finale did some padding to create a two-hour telecast last night. But did it have to be that shameless and interminable before Fox got down to the real business of telling an expected 30 millions viewers who won?

As many predicted, Taylor Hicks, 29, a gray-haired, harmonica-honking soul singer, is the new American Idol, with 63.4 million votes from the viewers, according to host Ryan Seacrest. That took about 10 seconds to finally announce at 9:58 p.m., and it did loose a flood of emotion in Los Angeles' Kodak Theatre that one could almost feel right through the screen.

Why couldn't the producers and Fox TV have found a way to ride all the energy throughout the night - especially with performers such as Al Jarreau, Prince and Mary J. Blige on hand?

Prince was an especially pleasant surprise, and the telecast did have moments of genuine power. Failed ballad singer Michael Sandecki returned to accept a Golden Idol, a dubious achievement award distributed to the most dismal washouts.

Sandecki, who billed himself as the "next Clay Aiken," was offered the chance to sing Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." But the performance wasn't for laughs; instead, Aiken came onstage as Sandecki was singing and brought the crowd to its feet. Sandecki looked as if he were going to faint from excitement.

But it was mostly an evening of false sentiment right from the opening number, an especially sappy version of Barry Manilow's "I Made It Through the Rain" by a chorus of 12 finalists.

Low points? How about Hicks singing "In the Ghetto"? Bring back Las Vegas Elvis, please. Or how about Hicks' flat harmonica work on "Tobacco Road"?

But for his fans, all the emptiness that came before was probably washed away in that soaring moment when Hicks stood amid the confetti and applause while singing his new single "Do I Make You Proud." The producers milked the evening but staged a moving money shot that many will remember.


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