REMOTE ACCESS IN-DEPTH: ‘Idol Gives Back’ makes powerful pleas, great music and a few errors in judgment
If you didn’t laugh much at Ben Stiller or Robin Williams on last night’s “Idol Gives Back” special, you should still applaud them for giving their time and (possibly too much) effort toward the larger-than-life telethon.
The moving footage of families of all kinds in Africa and the United States made for gripping, emotional montages. I teared up with Annie Lennox when she said goodbye to four orphaned African children who would return to raising each other. And when Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus headed to the poor sectors of Appalachia, my sight became cloudy again.
It’s become clichÃ© to say, but millions of people need help. And say what you will about the behemoth that is “American Idol.” For better or worse, the honchos recognize the national and international influence they wield, and in this case, they’ve decided to dedicate that energy toward charity these last two seasons.
This isn’t to say the special and its premise don’t have their flaws. The series is neither angelic nor transcendent when exploiting emotionally unstable contestants in the opening rounds of auditions. Some of the corporate sponsors and one Los Angeles Laker to appear on the special need the good P.R. The special teetered on absurdly tactless when the logo of a dilapidated Chevrolet truck in Appalachia was pixelated into a blur just because Ford was one of the show’s, and charity’s, biggest sponsors. And, let’s face it, the nearly three-hour special was just too damn long.
But even I’ll defend that last point because I realize that a longer special means greater exposure to a larger audience that’s already tops in the country, meaning there’s that much more of a chance for more money to be donated to some amazing causes.
Bonus points go to the celebrities who traveled to learn more about and promote the “Idol Gives Back” causes in video montages, including Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, Bono, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Annie Lennox, Celine Dion, Forest Whitaker, Keisha Whitaker, Reese Witherspoon, Alicia Keys, Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Brad Pitt, Chris Daughtry and his band. (Also: Fantasia Barrino and Elliott Yamin, whose “Idol Gives Back” African trip was highlighted in an earlier episode.)
“Idol” gave back. And for that, we should all take notice and give something of ourselves to the needy and deserving.
Sometimes a few solid Jimmy Kimmel jokes at the expense of a good-natured Simon Cowell can help us take a tiny step toward a better world. Or at least a buttoned-up shirt.
A semi-chronological breakdown of last night’s show is after the break. Read more of this entry »
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