Two hours of "Idol Gives Back" loom ahead of us, two hours of performances, guilt-tripping and inspiration, all leading up to a really awkward and possibly inappropriate elimination.
Click through and follow along after the break...
7:55 p.m. ET If you've read my "Idol" coverage before, you know that I have a pretty simple policy regarding "Idol Gives Back": I mostly don't make fun of it. "American Idol" has given over $100 million to various charities that that's utterly unimpeachable, as aspirations go. Whatever legacy "Idol" leaves on the TV or musical landscape, if even a small percentage of that money goes where it's supposed to go in Africa or in the United States, "American Idol" will be solidly in the "Good" column for all eternity.
7:56 p.m. With that in mind, "Idol Gives Back" has invariably been a bloated and manipulative cheese-fest and if I have to watch and recap any -- and all indications are that one contestant will go home tonight -- I need to be able to make fun of the telecast, if not the overall venture. How to cast my guilt aside?
7:57 p.m. By making a reasonably-sized donation, obviously. I politely encourage all of you to do the same. Here's the "Idol Gives Back" Donations Website. Then, come back and join me in cracking wise!
8:00 p.m. President Obama kicks off the telecast by thanking me and hopefully you for making donations tonight. The First Lady puts the "Idol Gives Back" donation figure at over $140 million. That's amazing. The President quotes The Notorious Randy Jackson and tells the Top 7, "You all my dawgs." Strangely, George W. Bush's Randy Jackson impression never felt quite so genuine.
8:02 p.m. Ryan Seacrest acknowledges that times are tough all over, but that lives can still be saved with any donation, no matter how small. For his part, Simon has donated the top three buttons from his white shirt.
8:03 p.m. Thanks, corporations!
8:03 p.m. Queen Latifah is at the Pasadena Civic Arena where, as of last night, they still hadn't sold out the venue. I really hope they filled those seats. Also, do we assume that The Queen is auditioning for Simon's "American Idol" judging chair? Keep in mind that once upon a time, Ellen DeGeneres hosted an "Idol Gives Back" off-site.
8:04 p.m. "Someone will go home.." Ryan promises before introducing the night's first group lip-synch, featuring the reunited Top 12. Hi, Didi Benami! I missed you!
8:05 p.m. "Idol Gives Back" means lots and lots of white, because our singers can't inspire generosity if they aren't also looking like fallen angels. The director's big task appears to be avoiding up-skirt shots of Lacey Brown and Siobhan Magnus, both sporting mighty short garments for the occasion.
8:08 p.m. Jennifer Garner has gone back to West Virginia to show that even if a lot of this season's money will go to Africa, a lot of it will also go to Americans in need. She's visiting a poor family of six living in a trailer, the Fugits. They don't have enough money for kerosene some winters, so they open the oven for heat. They're being helped by Save the Children. Awww... J-Gar reads to cute little Brenda.
8:11 p.m. Victoria Beckham is back. The former Spice Girl and "Idol" Guest Judge has been doing her part by passing up food. Thanks, Posh! She has two little friends who have been helped by Save the Children. They both look better fed than Posh.
8:17 p.m. Was Queen Latifah's involvement contingent upon advertisements for her horrible-looking basketball movie with Common getting prime placement? Regardless, good for her.
8:17 p.m. SULLY!!!
8:18 p.m. Jonah Hill and Russell Brand show up to promote their upcoming comedy "Get Me To The Greek." The joke is that they've set up a celebrity phone bank. They joke about how they have Hanks and Cruise and "both hot guys from 'Twilight.'" Ha. There's nobody there!
8:19 p.m. Meanwhile, the contestants are sitting off to the side, still dressed in white. The five eliminated singers have been placed in a locker backstage. We'll see if Paige Miles returns again. They're all honored to be here. They're also all sporting very aggressive neckwear, crosses and dogtags and whatnot.
8:21 p.m. "Idol" favorites The Black Eyed Peas are in Pasadena doing "Rock That Body." It turns out that the song was always euphemistic. By "Rock that body," they've really always been saying, "Give generously to domestic and international charities."
8:22 p.m. Fergie's making a courageous political statement singing in a bathing suit and high boots. It looks crass, but you see... it's a one-piece. In poorer parts of the world, some people can't afford *two* pieces. Thank you for calling attention to that problem, Fergie. And, I guess, for calling attention to your rear.
8:24 p.m. Common is in Pasadena. As is Todd Bridges. Is he a recipient of charity tonight?
8:26 p.m. Our next featured charity is Malaria No More, focusing on ailing children and parents in Uganda. 1-877-IDOL-AID, y'all. Just in case you don't have the Internet and that website won't work for you. [And yes, focusing on a child's funeral is almost excruciatingly manipulative. But if mosquito nets are affordable -- two for $10 -- and malaria is preventable... Wouldn't it be nice to prevent such tragedies? Or to try?]
8:32 p.m. "Even though we're giving back tonight, this is still a results show," Ryan declares, bringing perspective to the whole event.
8:33 p.m. There's a joke that they auctioned off the chance to do tonight's results and the winner was... George Lopez.
8:34 p.m. George Lopez makes a Danny Gokey joke. Maybe he's also auditioning to be Simon's replacement. He asks all seven Finalists to stand up. He then tells them to sit down and relax. "It's about time that somebody judged the judges for a change," Lopez announces.
8:35 p.m. Lopez insults Randy for saying "pitchy" and for not formulating his own thoughts. Then he goes on and jokes about how Randy says "dawg" a lot. It's true that Randy said dawg a lot, three years ago. Then Lopez calls Kara "Kara d'Guido." I'd suggest similar things that people might call Lopez that might offend him. He jokes about her tasteful nude pictures and predatory habits. This is an utter waste.
8:38 p.m. When did Simon last call anything "rubbish"? Was it 2006? He then says that America has voted and Simon has to go back to England. But Simon has been saved by the Icelandic volcano.
8:39 p.m. "Erik Estrada everybody," Ryan says.
8:39 p.m. Just because it's a charitable evening doesn't mean that we get to kip the nightly Ford commercial. It's set to "We've Got a Big Mess on Our Hands" and it features some fun freeze-frame graphics.
8:40 p.m. Back to results. Crystal Bowersox and Casey James come down first. Neither of them have been in the Bottom Three before, but one of them is in danger tonight.
8:41 p.m. Casey is in the Bottom Three. Crystal is safe. That sounds about right.
8:42 p.m. Aaron Kelly and Lee Dewyze come down next. One of them is in the Bottom Three and the other is safe.
8:43 p.m. Lee Dewyze is safe, meaning that Aaron is in the Bottom Three. That also sounds right.
8:43 p.m. Back to Queen Latifah, introducing a duet by Jeff Beck and Joss Stone on "I Put a Spell on You." I suspect that Joss Stone probably would have done pretty well on "American Idol." She's kinda talented. And kinda fine. And while Jeff Beck isn't all that fine, he's the reason why Randy Jackson sounds like a fool every time he has raved about Casey James' guitar mediocrity this season.
8:47 p.m. Even in a taped bit, Justin Bieber gets squeals.
8:50 p.m. So all the Boston Red Sox needed to get their bats going was the Texas Rangers? And more playing time for Mike Lowell? Go figure.
8:51 p.m. A commercial for KFC's Double-Down in the ad break immediately following a video clip about starving African children?
8:52 p.m. Ban Ki-Moon -- he's the Secretary General of the United Nations, kids -- thanks you for your generous support. And from Ban Ki-Moon... to Morgan Freeman.
8:53 p.m. Morgan Freeman gets so much squealing, the audience must be confusing him with Justin Bieber.
8:54 p.m. Like Morgan Freeman, I was largely educated in the Mississippi public school system. Unfortunately, while he says he got an excellent education, I'm still functionally illiterate to this day. I blame "Electric Company." Thanks, Morgan!
8:55 p.m. Randy and Morgan Freeman went down to Mississippi to see how Save the Children is helping kids in the Magnolia State. "Literacy is the ladder out, but we have to be fit enough to climb," Freeman tells us. Chew on that for a while.
8:58 p.m. Hi, Alicia Keys. She couldn't help the not-Crystal "Idol" performers to be inspirational, but she's pretty inspirational, even if her voice is clearly shot tonight.
9:04 p.m. Alicia got two full songs.
9:04 p.m. Josh Groban, a "Glee" guest star, wants you to donate.
9:08 p.m. Oh good. Back to the waste-of-time big with Jonah Hill and Russell Brand. "It's literally like the Oscars in here," Jonah promises. He points to Woody Allen and Marilyn Monroe lookalikes and two different Tom Cruise lookalikes, plus the real Slash, Octomom and Tatianna del Toro.
9:10 p.m. Jim Carrey shows up. And leaves after seeing the assembled "talent." Oy. This is going to go on, isn't it?
9:11 p.m. Anything interesting happening in Pasadena? It's Queen Latifah's movie co-star Common. Together, they're simultaneously plugging their upcoming movie and introducing Carrie Underwood.
9:15 p.m. David Arquette is in Pasadena. And other famous people!
9:15 p.m. Carrie Underwood will be donating 36 cents from every ticket sale to Save the Children. That's nice of her. For how long?
9:16 p.m. Oh. That's why David Arquette was on camera. He and Ellen DeGeneres travelled to Monrovia, California to learn about Feeding America and about the number of working Americans who have found themselves in need of food bank assistance in recent years.
9:19 p.m. Ryan warns that this show is going to go late. Sorry, "Glee" fans.
9:22 p.m. In the spirit of charity, Josh Beckett just gave up a game-tying home run to Josh Hamilton. You too can recover from drug addiction, kids.
9:25 p.m. Bill and Melinda Gates are to charitable giving what Crystal Bowersox is to this "Idol" season. I still resent Bill Gates for the several years of my life that I've wasted working on buggy Microsoft systems, but I recover from that resentment when I look at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
9:28 p.m. Wanda Sykes has a show on FOX. She's also going to say something funny now, right? She says she's an "American Idol" fan. Then she says that the season is getting really exciting, which means that she stopped watching six weeks ago.
9:29 p.m. Comedians like to keep it fresh. They do this by making repeated jokes about Simon Cowell's nipples.
9:30 p.m. Wanda could replace Simon Cowell. Or maybe she could replace Ellen and then somebody else could replace Simon. She's got amusing and truthful material about "Idol" asking eliminated contestants to sing before leaving and reminding America why they didn't vote for them.
9:31 p.m. Wanda kicked George Lopez's unfunny butt right there.
9:32 p.m. Oh. Right. RESULTS! Siobhan Magnus, Michael Lynche and Tim Urban come down next. We're assuming Tim is in the Bottom Three and the others aren't, right?
9:33 p.m. Siobhan is safe. That leaves Mike and Tim. Ryan reminds Big Mike that Matt Giraud lasted only two weeks after being saved last season. But Mike will do better. He's safe and Tim Urban is in the Bottom Three.
9:34 p.m. A Casey/Aaron/Tim Bottom Three is probably appropriate.
9:34 p.m. David Cook is not in the Bottom Three. He was, however, in Ethopia. He learned a lot. I haven't linked to the "Idol" donation page for a while. Lest we forget... Click here.
9:36 p.m. African children love David Cook. And good for the UN Foundation.
9:43 p.m. Fact: If you throw a telethon and don't invite Annie Lennox, all donated money goes to Donald Trump. Meanwhile, I'm already feeling like I didn't give enough money.
9:45 p.m. Annie Lennox is stranded in London. Stupid Icelandic Volcano, you ruin more things than Scott Baio.
9:47 p.m. The Icelandic Volcano cannot, thankfully, prevent Annie Lennox from performing on tape. Suck it, force majeure.
9:56 p.m. How do you follow Annie Lennox? With Mary J. Blige and a random assortment of all-stars doing "Stairway to Heaven." Wherever Mary J. Blige is, it must be sunny.
9:58 p.m. Way to jam, Randy Jackson!
9:59 p.m. Assembling an all-star back-up ensemble for Mary J. Blige seemed like a good idea. Getting them all to play the same song would have been an even better idea.
10:01 p.m. Simon Cowell went to Douglas, Arizona to see what "Idol" donations and the Childrens' Health Fund have done for rural communities.
10:03 p.m. How can we make more Dr. Johns? Well, one could certainly donate.
10:04 p.m. We've raised over $15 million since the show started.
10:05 p.m. Ben Affleck wants you to donate. He, however, cannot be bothered to shave to make his plea.
10:09 p.m. The Queen is in Pasadena with Sir Elton.
10:10 p.m. Sir Elton says to use condoms and get tested for AIDS and HIV. He also teaches millions of young viewers the word "Luddite." Big ups to Sir Elton. Oh and he also performs. Well. Very well.
10:16 p.m. That's it for Pasadena.
10:16 p.m. "Thank you, Queen Latifah," Ryan says. "Thank you, Elton." Wait. Seacrest respects Latifah's honorific title, but not Sir Elton's? That's one uppity colonialist.
10:19 p.m. A commercial for "Get Him To The Greek" seems to suggest that we're approaching our last programming block.
10:20 p.m. Results? For reals?
10:21 p.m. The first person back to safety is... Aaron Kelly.
10:22 p.m. Teflon Tim is heading home! Farewell, Tim Urban.
10:22 p.m. Good bye, TUrban. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
10:24 p.m. Well, it's been a pleasure spending these past 144 minutes with you. And it's been a pleasure losing Tim Urban. And don't forget that it isn't too late to make a donation. If you want to, I mean...
So what'd you think of "Idol Gives Back" and how'd you feel about the "Idol Gives Back" results?