American Idol gave back last night - to the tune of $30 million raised for charity. It was an impressive show and haul.
TV Guide now takes us behind the scenes of the show, one that also surprised us by NOT eliminating a single contestant. Not even the screamer known as Lakisha Jones ...
Price of Admission: The place to be for free stuff was Idol's home studio where, upon entering, audience members were handed white rubber "One" bracelets in honor of guest mentor Bono's charity. And upon exiting at show's end, they received snazzy multi-colored canvas bags, courtesy of Ikea. And while tickets to view the event at Idol's home base were free - as they are all season-long - front-row attendees at Disney's Concert Hall revealed they shelled out $1,000 per ticket. Pricey, yes, but hey, it was for charity.
Fashionably Late: Just under ninety seconds before the show went live, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell were nowhere to be found. Finally, one minute before, Paula came running into the studio as fast as her sky-high platform heels would carry her. Seconds later, the lights went down and a page ushered in recent American Idol castoff Sanjaya, along with his sister and pot-smoking mother.
As for Simon, he still hadn't taken his seat when Ryan Seacrest began his opening monologue. Maybe that's why the usually unflappable host flubbed his lines and had to start again?
Kleenex Please!: As footage rolled of the trips taken by Ryan and the three judges to devastated areas in this country and abroad, Simon put a comforting arm around an overcome Paula. Of the white-suited Idols, the most emotional by far were Melinda Doolittle and Chris Richardson, who teared up at least five different times â€" once during Josh Groban's stirring rendition of "You Raise Me Up" â€" and went through several Kleenex. At one point, the Justin Timberlake-esque singer left the stage, presumably to compose himself. When he returned, the other five Idols enveloped him in hugs.
Signs of the Times: If the number of audience members' signs were any indication of who will win, Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis have the edge. When Blake spotted an "I Brake for Blake" banner, he showed his appreciation by doing The Robot. Perhaps the strangest sign of the night was the one that read "Long Beach Misses Gina and Pickle!" Surely, the long-ago ousted rock chick and her good-luck-charm stuffed lizard would've been proud.
Don't Cry-a for Sanjaya: The infamous former Idol was the social butterfly of the night. Clad in a dark blue suit, with his hair admirably tamed, Sanjaya spent the evening greeting his (mostly pre-teen) fans and even got up during one commercial break to go shake the hand of one young boy who'd yelled out his name. During another break, he ventured to the judges' table, where Simon announced, "Sanjaya is back in the house!" before shaking his hand. (He got hugs from Randy and Paula, who absent-mindedly pulled stray hairs off his lapel as they talked.)
Asked and Answered: During breaks, audience members were allowed to ask the judges questions. While one girl wanted to know where Simon gets his shirts (Armani), another asked why Paula wanted to be a judge. "I didn't wanna be a judge," she replied, before explaining that what interested her about Idol was the chance to be involved with talented people and nourish their dreams.
Also Spotted: Co-host for the night Ellen DeGeneres shaking her booty to the Idol theme... Blake laughing hysterically when Ben Stiller name-checked him... All three judges deciding Madonna's taped appearance was the perfect time to take a break and duck out of the studio together... One side of the audience at Disney's concert hall yelling, "We love you, Kelly!" when first Idol champ Clarkson took the stage, prompting the other side to scream, "We love you more!"