David Cook Wins it All, Named 2008 American Idol

May 22, 2008

Welcome to the two-hour Fox promo machine – I mean, the season finale of American Idol.  And believe it or not among all the stars, a new star was crowned in what had to be one of the closest finales in seven seasons.

Cook rocks his way to victoryIt was easy to forget that the purpose of the night was to award the Idol title as Fox paraded star after star among this season’s Top 12.  But never fear, the answer to your long awaited question of who is the next American Idol is answered.

With a fairly narrow 56% of the record-setting 97 ½ million votes, David Cook beat out David Archuleta for the 2008 American Idol title.  Who knew that the cougar vote was more powerful than the teen vote?

Seriously, I was sure that Archuleta had the crown cinched especially after the judges gushed all over him last night.  But just before the winner was announced, Simon apologized to Cook saying that after rewatching the performances from Tuesday night, he didn’t give Cook enough credit and that the race was closer than he thought.

As the new Idol, a very emotional Cook closed out the show with a performance of “Time of My Life,” the songwriting contest winner.  This song was worthy of the award and suited Cook to a tee.  It was a nice finish to a busy night.

Individual Performances

But if I was Cook, the highlight of my night would have had to been jamming with ZZ Top to “Sharp Dressed Man.”  Second on the list would have been doing the Guitar Hero commercial a lá Risky Business – which for me was the best cross-promotion of the night (sorry Archuleta, your boxer version just didn’t cut it).

But sing with a star was the name of the game tonight.  Archuleta sang the hit “Apologize” with One Republic.  And I actually liked him with this group.  Maybe there is hope for him yet.  But did anyone else notice that he seemed to have a little trouble keeping up with the group?  I think the multiple performances were taking their toll on him.

Syesha Mercado returned to sing “Waiting for You” with Seal.  I’m not sure if it was the time off, the song or her duet partner, but I thought she sounded great.  Guess it’s easier to perform without the pressure of being judged.

But apparently the producers couldn’t find anyone willing to sing with Jason Castro, who gave us an encore performance of “Halleluiah.”  My husband kept wondering if he’d remember the words.  I think the song was handpicked for him because they knew it was his best performance all season.

Brooke White teamed up with Graham Nash to sing “Teach Your Children,” a song that suited her style well.  She seemed more relaxed than ever.  Maybe she wasn’t struggling with stage fright afterall, but with the stress of the competition.  Either way, I was impressed with her performance.

Carly Smithson rounded out performances of the Top 6 by teaming up with fellow contestant Michael Johns to perform “The Letter.” 

Group Performances

The finale was packed with so many performances by the Top 12 that it seemed more like a preview of the upcoming tour with special guests.  But if the confident performances we saw tonight are any indication then the tour shouldn’t be as bad as I once imagined – at least for the more individual performances.

The group numbers weren’t quite as impressive.  The finalists of So You Think You Can Dance joined the Top 12 to liven up the opening number.  Clearly the producers are saying they don’t expect the Idol contestants to have any dancing abilities.  Do you think the dancers will be going on the tour too?

The two Davids treated us to a duet of Chad Kroeger’s “Hero,” a performance that clearly exaggerated the differences between the two and why Cook deserved the title.  As my husband said, Cook has a rocker sound that is more interesting to listen to.

The Top 6 women did a medley with Donna Summer featuring her new song “Stomp Your Feet.”  I was not impressed with this number.  Amanda Overmyer looked totally uncomfortable – maybe it was all the red outfits for “She Works Hard for Her Money.”  Somehow with these outfits the song wasn’t bringing to mind a woman working as a waitress.  But even with the prostitution undertones, Brooke still managed to look pure and innocent. 

And then there was the aging Donna Summer who had to be helped down the steps.  Couldn’t they come up with a better entrance that didn’t make her seem so feeble?

The Top 6 men had a better outing with their Bryan Adams medley.  They all looked sharp in their dark suits and Adams aged better than Summer.  He sang his new single “I Thought I’d See Everything.”

And finally the Top 12 performed a George Michael medley with the man himself.  Who knew that the Wham alum was resurrecting his career with his first American tour in 17 years?  Personally, I can do without the medley numbers.

Additional Filler

The musical side of the show was rounded out with performances by past Idol winners Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood.  The Jonas Brothers also performed.  I guess they had to have someone on the show that was within Archuleta’s age range.  But even the Jonas Brothers made Archie look young.

While I expected to see the array of singers, I was a little shocked by the number of comic acts.

Of course, we’d be treated to a promo for the new Mike Myers’s movie The Love Guru.  The mock advice of the guru was cute, but it was when Ryan almost drove his “flying pillow” off the edge of the stage that I laughed.

Surprisingly, Jimmy Kimmel (not a Fox product) put in an appearance to give us a season recap monologue.  Unfortunately, his Simon video just didn’t compare with his Ben Affleck video.

My favorite comic act of the night was the try outs for Gladys Knight’s Pips which featured funnymen Ben Stiller and Jack Black, and the surprisingly stoic Robert Downing Jr.  This skit was my favorite bit of the night.

It definitely beat out the return of Renaldo Lapuz who got to perform his original “My Brother” song with the USC marching band.  This Best of the Worst feature was still better than last year’s “awards.”

Overall, the two hours of fluff could have been worse – at least most of the time was filled with performances and a few of them were even good.

What do you think?  Did the best David win?  Was the show a complete waste of two hours or have the producers finally found a good mixture of fluff and performances?

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Davids Duke it Out for Idol Title

May 21, 2008

Tonight the Davids faced off in the finals of American Idol in a battle that pit a rock star versus boy wonder.  But who will pull away with the title?

David and DavidGoing into this final night of competition I still believe that David Cook is the better choice for the Idol winner because he offers the whole pop star package.  Even in the cheesy eight-minute Ready-to-Rumble introduction David Archuleta couldn’t muster up enough character to make the whole “fight night” ambiance believable.

This final battle was fought in three rounds before 7,000 fans in the Nokia Theatre with Clive Davis and Andrew Lloyd Webber helping the Davids prepare.

Round 1 – Clive’s Choice

Songs for Round 1 were chosen for the contestants by Sony BMG Worldwide Chief Creative Officer Clive Davis.

In the first round, Cook proved that he was in it to win tonight, opening with a slowed-down rendition of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” that started the show off on a high note and caused Randy to forget the year when he called this the Dual of 2007. 

But if you liked Archuleta coming into this show, then you loved his version of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”  It was his every performance personified, then amplified.  I’ll agree that it was one of his best performances.

Although the judges gave this round to Archuleta, I’d say that Cook won it.  While both sang well, Cook worked the stage and the crowd better.

Round 2 – Songwriter Contest Choice

This round was for those of you that wanted to see what the contestants could do with something original. 

And what Cook did was rock a song with only mediocre lyrics.  In fact, I think his rendition of Emily Shackleton’s “Dream Big” could actually become a hit for him despite second-rate words.  The arrangement was likable, fun and easy to rock out to.

The lyrics of “In this Moment” by Ryan Gilmore might have been better, but for me Archuleta’s performance was forgettable.  As I listened, I kept wondering what Cook could do with this song.  We all knew what Archuleta would do – sing it as a ballad, squint his eyes and hold out his right arm as he sang.

While I thought it was cool to see some original work, I have to wonder at the wisdom of choosing from songs that weren’t good enough to win the songwriting contest.  The judges also gave this round to Archuleta.  But was it because they liked the lyrics better?  I still think that Cook did more with what he had.

Round 3 – Contestant’s Choice

The songs selections in the Contestant’s Choice round were better than last week.

Cook showed his versatility by slowing things down with Collective Soul’s “The World I Know.”  For me, his performance felt intimate despite the venue.  I think it was a cool move on his part that, even on the last night with the title at stake, he didn’t take the easy way out with a song he’d already performed.  Instead he challenged himself with a new song.

On the other hand, I was not impressed with Archuleta’s “Imagine” the first time he sang it.  And an encore performance did nothing to improve his standing with me.  But on a similar note, I wouldn’t have been more awed if he’d chosen a new song since I think all of his performances sound the same. 

Again the judges gave the round to Archuleta, but it was Cook who proved his range and his flexibility with his choice.

If anyone had any doubt that Archuleta was being set up to win had to just listen to the judge comments tonight for proof.

Cook clearly out sang Archuleta showing his versatility and originality while Archuleta’s songs were all alike – right down to the hand gestures.  But still he got the praise.

What do you think?  Who sang better?  Who deserves the title?

———————–

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The Davids to Battle it Out in Idol Final

May 15, 2008

And then there were two.  In a very predictable finish to the American Idol Top 3, Syesha Mercado is eliminated leaving David Cook and David Archuleta to vie for the title next week.

Syesha MercadoWhile the pairing of the Davids in the final is something fans have been predicting for weeks, I am surprised by Syesha’s third place finish.  For several weeks in the middle, I was sure that she was marked for an early exit.  But the last few weeks, we have seen Syesha pull out all the stops with Broadway-worthy performances.

Although I’d much rather see Syesha over Archuleta in the final, I’m not surprised to see her go.  Cook has stood out as a favorite among fans looking for originality and the complete package while Archuleta is a favorite of the judges and teenage girls.

In addition to the group number to “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” – an appropriate title for the night if not a mediocre performance –  the Ford “Heaven” video and a performance by Idol winner Fantasia, we were treated to videos of each contestants tearful homecoming.

Archuleta headed home to Murray, Utah where he performed at his high school and, of course, visited the mall where he was surrounded by – what else – throngs of teens.  His big concern – where did they all park?

Syesha was so welcomed in Sarasota, Florida that the mayor was doing handstands.  She rounded out her very emotional visit with stops at Bradenton and her alma mater Booker High School.

Cook’s trip to Blue Springs, Missouri read like a wish list – he did the weather on the local TV station, gave a concert downtown where even the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the masses, got to thank his elementary school music teacher for inspiring him to get into music and threw out a pitch to for the Royals.

It should be interesting to see how next week pans out.  I still think that Cook deserves the title more, but that it’ll be Archuleta walking away with it.

What do you think?  Was Syesha the right person to send home?  What are your predictions for next week?

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Reaper Heats Up with a Big Revelation

May 14, 2008

Tonight’s episode proved that Reaper deserves the sophomore season it was just awarded.  Since its return from hiatus, the show has turned up the heat on the plot culminating in a big revelation which will come to a head in next week’s finale.

The Leak****The following could contain spoilers****

In the last few weeks, the plot has thickened on this supernatural comedy.  An unwilling bounty hunter for Hell, Sam has been a part of a demon rebellion, helped discovered a mole in the Devil’s ranks and finally told one of his girlfriends about his second job.

But even Sam has no clue about the news revealed in the final moments of “The Leak” episode.  When Andi convinced Tony to use his demon contacts to check Sam’s contract with the Devil for a loophole, she had no idea what they’d discover. 

But what Tony and his friends find is missing pages that suggest that Sam is the son of Satan – a fact that I speculated about three weeks ago.

Now that I’ve finished patting myself on the back for my foresight I can to begin to speculate what will be in store for next week’s finale when it appears that Sam finally learns about his genealogy.

What do you think the ramifications of Sam’s parentage are going to be?  Can he then chose to no longer be a reaper?  And who will die in the finale?  Any guesses?


Idol Top 3 Fail to Wow with Lackluster Performances

May 14, 2008

American Idol is down to its Top 3 contenders and the contest should be heating up, but the competition tonight was uninspired and predictable.  With three songs a piece, did any of the contestants really stand out?

David, David and SyeshaTonight each contestant got to sing one song chosen for them by one of the judges, one song of their choice, and one song chosen by the producers.  Let’s just say that the producers should stick to producing and not selecting song (as if the themes from this season are proof enough).

The sole bright spot tonight was David Cook, but even his performances weren’t top shelf.

Simons’s choice of a Roberta Flack song for Cook seemed off the wall at first.  But I have to give Simon credit for picking something outside of the box and let’s just say that once again Cook rose to that challenge with a tear-jerking performance of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”  I had no idea how was going to pull of such an old-fashioned song, but he not only did, he made it sound current and hip.

Next was Cook’s song choice.  The fact that he picked a Switchfoot tune didn’t surprise me, but it did disappoint me.  His rendition of “Dare You to Move” sounded exactly like something I’d expect to hear from Cook.  But I was hoping for more – more originality, more extraordinary – another “Hello” or “Billie Jean.”  And I didn’t get it.

And as for the producer’s choice, Cook definitely served up the best performance in this category.  I’m pretty sure that an Aerosmith tune wouldn’t have been what I would have picked for Cook, but he nailed the performance of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and did songwriter Diane Warren (who was in the audience) proud.

Syesha Mercado, on the other hand, didn’t fare as well.

I can see why Randy picked an Alicia Keys balled for her.  Syesha definitely has the voice to carry off a powerful song like “If I Ain’t Got You.”  And Syesha even gave the number a little pizzazz.  But just like the Whitney Houston and Celine Dion songs that she gravitates to, it’s hard for Syesha to stand out against the originals.

Now Syesha made an excellent song choice for herself.  Tunes like Peggy Lee’s “Fever” are a perfect fit for her.  Not only does she get a chance to showcase that nice bluesy-soul sound with her voice, but she gets to flaunt her stage skills.  I know the judges didn’t like this performance, but I think it played to her strengths.

Now the song that the producers picked for Syesha did just the opposite.  The tune from the movie Happy Feet was a nice dance number.  But when you get up and dance it’s easy to forget who’s performing and unfortunately that’s exactly what happened with Syesha’s rendition of “Hit Me Up.”  It was fun while it lasted, but it was easily forgotten.

And finally, David Archuleta showed us all the same moves he’s been using all season.

Archuleta was right about one thing – the Billy Joel song Paula chose for him is a pretty song.  And Archuleta’s rendition of “And So it Goes” wasn’t bad.  But the performance wasn’t really any different that every other song he’s every performed on the show – nice, but forgettable.

Picking a Chris Brown song was a smart choice for Archuleta if he was trying to appeal to his teenage fans.  But unfortunately Archuleta is not Chris Brown.  He lacks Brown’s smooth moves and performance skills, leaving his version of “With You” looking and sounding like bad karaoke.

Archuleta concluded his set with another uninspired choice – the producers chose yet another ballad for the 17-year-old – “Longer” by Dan Fogelberg.  As expected, Archuleta performed the song in exactly the same format that he’s performed all the rest of his ballads – no surprises and no wow factor.

I thought Archuleta was the least impressive tonight.  It’s not that he doesn’t have a nice voice; it’s just that every song sounds the same with him.  But since he’s a favorite of the judges, I’m going against my better judgment and predict that Syesha will be going home on Wednesday.

Who do you think had the better night?  Who should go home?

———————–

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Bones’ Big Finish Leaves One of their Own in Danger

May 13, 2008

I thought last night’s Bones was going to be a fun episode in which Bones and Booth poked fun at wannabe singers and shows like American Idol.  However, I was not prepared for the episodes’ serious ending that left one of their own in peril.

Bones sings \After watching the final seconds of “Wannabe in the Weeds” all I can say is Oh. My. God. And that’s not even the season finale.  I can only speculate how exciting the finale is going to be.

****The following contains spoilers if you didn’t see the episode****

With former Idol contestants Ace Young and Brandon Rogers guest starring, I was all prepared to write about Bones and Booth’s banter about people’s need for fame and acceptance, and why they would participate in open mic nights and reality contests like American Idol.  I was even prepared to talk about how much fun it was to see Brennan cut loose with her rendition of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” or what a surprise it was to find out that Zach had such a nice voice.

But in all honesty, the rest of the show is shadowed by the final moments.  I still can’t believe that Booth was shot!  I totally didn’t see that coming.  I’d even read spoilers that said there would be a death in this episode, but since someone dies every episode, I didn’t put much stock in that tidbit.

But even more shocking than Booth’s injury (he was after all being stalked by the creepy Pam) was Bones reaction.  Without hesitation, she picked up Booth’s gun and fired a kill shot.  This might be a woman you make fun of for not knowing who Kelly Clarkson is, but she’s definitely someone you don’t want to mess with when her life or the lives of her friends are in jeopardy.

So is Booth a goner?  I doubt it, but the shock value of his shooting was still stunning.  He was shot in the shoulder and with immediate medical attention he should survive without incident.  Or maybe his past life as a vampire left him with some extra healing powers.

Seriously, I can’t imagine one of the leads of the show being offed so easily and the gang is going to need Booth back on his feet to help find the Gormogon killer next week.

But Booth’s plight gives Pam Nunan (Jennifer Hasty) a notch up on the creepy factor.  Even before she gave Booth socks, my husband said she reminded him of Kathy Bates in Misery.  And I have to say she’s no less dangerous.  Who knew Sweets was going to be so right about Pam?

Let’s hope Booth heals well and quickly because I’m very excited about the season finale next week.

While I’ve been enjoying all the episodes since the hiatus, I thought this episode was one of the best this season.  What did you think of the episode?


Five Season Finales Sure to Keep Fans in Suspense

May 12, 2008

Just last month our favorite shows returned from the hiatus forced by the writer’s strike and now it’s already time for the shortened seasons to come to an end.  But which series season finales promise the most bang for our buck?

This season fans will have to bid good bye to more than their shows for the summer.  Several series will be saying farewell to longtime characters – or at least these characters’ fates hang in the balance.

Beware:  the following might contain spoilers.

Here’s my list of the Top 5 Season Finales to watch:

1.  Supernatural

Dean’s (Jensen Ackles) deal with the crossroads demon from last year’s explosive finale finally comes due this week.  But holding the contract is Lilith (Rachel Pattee), the newest bad ass on the block and she’s gunning for Sam (Jared Padelecki).  Can the Winchester brothers defeat this pint-sized demon with enormous power?  Will Dean find a way out of the contract without sacrificing Sam or will he join the demons he hates in Hell?  And if Dean is hellbound, can Sam survive without him? 

I’ve heard no word that Ackles is leaving the show (in fact, I’ve heard he wants to stay) and I can’t image Supernatural without Dean, but I have a feeling the executive producer Eric Kripke isn’t going to give Dean an easy out on this deal.  Expect an exciting hour with killer music, the return of Ruby (Katie Cassidy) and one very big cliffhanger.  The Season 4 finale airs May 15 at 9 p.m. on CW.

2.  NCIS

Rumors have been flying since this show returned in April that one of the main characters will not be returning in the fall.  The absence of Director Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly) in the “Stakeout” episode where Ducky (David McCullum) handles some blood work for the director has many speculating that Shepard is on her way out.

But this fifth season death won’t be from any long-term disease.  It’ll be murder and from what I’ve read it’ll be a tragedy that devastates the entire team in the two-hour finale.  We seen many of the characters put in jeopardy during the last few weeks, but my money is still on the director.  But we’ll have to wait until the finale airs on May 20 at 8 p.m. on CBS to find out.

3.  Bones

I’ve read that in the Season 4 premiere that Dr. Brennan (Emily Deschanel) will be looking for a new full-time forensic anthropologist.  But just why is Bones looking for a new staff member?  Well, the Gormogon killer returns for the season finale and all the clues point to an insider in the Jeffersonian.  Will the killer off one of Bones’ own team before Booth (David Boreanaz) can find him or could one of the team members be the killer?

If a serial killer in the lab isn’t enough, Angela’s (Michaela Conlin) long-lost husband shows up.  Will his perfectness be enough to drive Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) to homicide or will Angela finally get the divorce that she wants (she still wants it, right?)?  The third season finale airs on May 19 at 8 p.m. on Fox.

4.  Numb3rs

If this year’s season finale is anything like the Season 3 finale we are in for one helluva ride.  Last year’s finale was by far one of the best season finales on TV last season.  On Friday, we will hopefully learn more about Megan’s (Diane Farr) mysterious personal leave that sent her to the East Coast in the last episode before we bid her character farewell.

But Megan’s exit seems minor compared to a case that is about to set the Eppes brothers at odds.  While Don (Rob Morrow) and the FBI deal with a potential terrorist attack, it’s a battle of knowledge vs. security that Don will wage with his brother Charlie (David Krumholtz). Season 4 concludes on May 16 at 10 p.m. on CBS.

5.  CSI

For the last three seasons, the season finale has found a member of the CSI team in peril – last year Sara (Jorja Fox) was kidnapped by the miniature killer, the year before Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) was in surgery after being shot and in Season 5 Nick (George Eads) was buried alive.  But this year, Warrick (Gary Dourdan) is in jeopardy – and I have the feeling that he’s not going to fare as well as his teammates.

We already know that Dourdan is leaving the show, we just don’t know yet how.  In the season finale, Warrick is once again in trouble – this time he’s a suspect for murder of a big-time Vegas gangster.  Is Warrick headed for lock up or will he be a victim of retaliation?  The eighth season finale airs May 15 on CBS at 9 p.m.

And one series finale that I’m not looking forward to – Smallville.

In its seventh season, Smallville is about to loose the best villain on TV at a time when it is already showing its age.  I’ve already talked about how Smallville needed to take the next step and let Clark Kent (Tom Welling) don his cape.  I was hoping to see Clark make the transition to Superman in this season finale – and what I thought would be a series finale. 

But due to the shortened season, the powers that be have granted this superhero another season.  But the eighth season looks to be a shell of the former series.  The series already lost Lionel Luthor (John Glover) earlier this year.  And word has it that Clark’s arch nemesis Lex (Michael Rosenbaum) and his high school sweetheart Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) will not be returning as regular cast in the fall.  And now there’s a possibility that we’re losing Chloe (Allison Mack) too.  Add that to the fact that the show will also lose the two men behind the show – Alfred Gough and Miles Millar – next season and it doesn’t bode well for the future of the show.  However, if you’d like to see what Lex has in store for Clark before he parts, tune in to the season finale on May 15 at 8 p.m. on the CW.

What series finale are you most looking forward to?  Which characters will you miss the most?