Welcome to Idolator’s American Idolatry, our episode-by-episode breakdown of the hitmaking machine that is American Idol. Tonight is a very special edition of our episode guide–we’ll be live-blogging the two-hour “Idol Gives Back” special, which is part telethon, part kick-off show, and part celebrity-filled spectacle.
Our coverage begins after the jump.
7:59 p.m. A Ford ad leads into the broadcast. Can you feel the earth moving boldly?
8:00 p.m. The contestants have turned into the Polyphonic Spree–and Ryan has turned into someone who can’t read off a Teleprompter! Someone is freaking out about meeting Madonna…
8:01 p.m. Ryan is teasing “the most shocking result in our history.” So does that mean that the 70+ million votes are going to only mean that there’s a $5 million donation? And can it be a “world record” if it’s only for American Idol voting?
8:03 p.m. Everyone is very dressed up. And Ellen is in a vest! But where is Portia De Rossi?
8:04 p.m. Il Divo, Rascal Flatts, and Josh Groban… and Earth, Wind & Fire, who kick off with Philip Bailey sounding a little, shall we say, pitchy. Come on, Phil, let’s get Phil Collins out here and kick into “Easy Lover”!
8:06 p.m. Oh, baby, it’s medley time. But for a truly “inspirational” flair, EWF should have had Stryper join them on the “Shining Star” cover!
8:08 p.m. It’s gonna be an unfocused night, isn’t it.
8:09 p.m. Something to ponder during the Randy Jackson-hosted New Orleans segment: How far would Billie Holiday have made it on American Idol?
8:10 p.m. Though, you know, it’s hard to believe that the “temporary” trailers that were set up after Katrina still have to be there. No, not hard to believe–pretty appalling.
8:12 p.m. The Quincy Jones-produced song, “Time To Care.” It’s, um, no “We Are The World.” And Chris Richardson sure ain’t Lionel Richie.
8:14 p.m. God, this wouldn’t have even been a B-side in the Back On The Block days. It sounds like a song from a circa-1986 Disney Channel exercise show.
8:16 p.m. The first Sanjaya joke! And the sudden fear that this evening is commercial-free, which is quickly scuttled.
8:17 p.m. OMG an acronym ad (aaa?)!
8:19 p.m. The first Sanjaya shot! Actually, at this point, we’d rather watch him than Ben Stiller, whose “I am such a little diva” schtick is very, very, very played.
8:21 p.m. Ben Stiller’s voice: Better than Sanjaya’s? Better than Phil’s? Better than Sundance, that’s for sure.
8:23 p.m. Simon: Making kids cry all over the world.
8:25 p.m. Ben Stiller: Making us cry on our couch.
8:26 p.m. Teri Hatcher has turned into a “hipper” version of Clue-era Lesley Ann Warren.
8:27 p.m. Probably not the best idea to have an ad for the all-you-can-snarf-down Olive Garden during a show about hunger. Also: Why isn’t Haley in the Nair commercial?
8:30 p.m. Our local newscasters are saying that Taylor Hicks is helping “groom” the next generation of Idol contestants. Sponsored by Just For Men?
8:31 p.m. These white suits are here to stay, aren’t they.
8:31 p.m. Melinda: Safe. Like you thought the “shocking” elimination was gonna be that one.
8:33 p.m. Il Divo singing “Somewhere.” WHAT IS WITH THIS GUY’S VOICE. SERIOUSLY.
8:35 p.m. No, really. And people are waving glowsticks?
8:36 p.m. And now, an homage to George Michael’s “Praying For Time” video.
8:39 p.m. So, we’re a third of the way in, and we’re really hoping that the only way from here is up. Kelly Clarkson, please don’t fail us now (and please don’t use the Jeff Beck cameo as an excuse to pay homage to Rod Stewart’s version of “People Get Ready”).
8:41 p.m. Tenacious D has been spotted in the audience, sort of ruining the “random audience member” joke.
8:42 p.m. Jack Black: Much funnier in “Jeepers Creepers Semi-Star.” However, his “Kiss From A Rose” is at least as good as Phil’s version would be.
8:44 p.m. Sanjaya joke No. 2! From Simon! And now, Seal is going to come out and tell Jack Black that he’s OK. It’s like the Marshall McLuhan scene in Annie Hall, except screamier.
8:46 p.m. Blake: Safe. So the “shocking result” is going to mean that nobody goes home, right?
8:47 p.m. Carrie Underwood singing “I’ll Stand By You” in Africa. To scenes of crying children. Wait, why did we decide to live-blog this again?
8:50 p.m. Our couch companion: “Wait, is that Crispin Glover?” Well, it is the David Mamet Ford ad, so who knows.
8:53 p.m. Sanjaya joke No. 3–and it’s turned into a donation pitch/Rascal Flatts intro. Oh, Rascal Flatts, you sure do know how to … use hair gel.
8:57 p.m. TOM FROM MYSPACE DOES THE TOM POSE WITH BACKPACK!!!! And says nothing! Because you don’t need to hear his voice to feel his presence.
8:58 p.m. Also, the “36 people perform ‘Stayin’ Alive’ in two minutes” idea fills us with dread.
9:04 p.m. A local-news ad for “what you’re really eating” at fast food restaurants. Doesn’t anyone vet this stuff?
9:05 p.m. Freddie Mercury is turning over in his grave at the death of camp. Or is this Ford music video the most camp thing ever?
9:06 p.m. Thirty-six drunk, awkward celebrities lip-sync “Stayin’ Alive.” Including Chris Kattan, Micky Dolenz, Rob Schneider, Kirstie Alley, and LeBron James, who seems to be in a different studio than everyone else. And Kevin Bacon and Good Charlotte, which completely messes up the “Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon” game forever.
9:08 p.m. Is it too much to hope that David Cross was hiding in the Blue Man Group? Or Jeffrey Tambor?
9:08 p.m. Phil: Also safe. Get ready for next week’s double-elimination, folks!
9:13 p.m. Ellen DeGeneres breaks the tension by challenging her rich friends to a DONATION DUEL.
9:16 p.m. Yeah, we’ll never get Josh Groban either.
9:19 p.m. We’ve been in enough Bakers outlets to know that Candie’s isn’t really the most tactful company, but really, Fergie’s ode to being nouveau riche is another song that probably should have been avoided from airing during this episode’s commercial breaks.
9:23 p.m. Kelly Clarkson seems to have gotten dressed somewhere in Boca Raton in 1968.
9:31 p.m. Ben Stiller returns. And he is talking to his hand.
9:31 p.m. Oh, a Simpsons parody with Lisa as a sorta drunk Paula. But hey, at least we are hearing Simon’s “vocal” talents…
9:33 p.m. Lakisha needs a pin to fix her buttons, but she doesn’t need a tissue, as she is not going home this week. Yep, everyone’s safe tonight.
9:35 p.m. The King. And we don’t mean the Burger King.
9:36 p.m. Is this footage from The ’68 Comeback Special? Is this really happening? How did they get that lousy-video look on Celine Dion? And why does she look like Audrey from 24?
9:37 p.m. The purpose of the white suits: Revealed! Truly, we live in miraculous times.
9:38 p.m. Ashley Ferl returns! And she is not crying!
9:39 p.m. Madonna in Malawi: “I’m surrounded by these amazing children … and I’m going to take one home tonight.”
9:44 p.m. $30 million raised already, which is kind of amazing–and what’s even more amazing is that, despite the telethonmania, they still managed to sneak in the “are you a sentient being who has ever heard of American Idol?” contest. Now that’s stage-managing.
9:46 p.m. Simon’s charity, alas, does not extend to Ryan’s need to improvise a line during an onstage glitch.
9:49 p.m. Annie Lennox’s voice sounds a bit … Phil Stacey-like. (Maybe it’s the Idol mics’ faulty interaction with a certain timbre of voice?) But we still love her.
9:51 p.m. Not telethon-related, but can anyone tell us what indiepop band does the music for this diet Coke ad? How did we not already hear them on a blog?
9:54 p.m. As it turns out, we may have already heard about them on this blog. Whoops.
9:56 p.m. Chris: Safe.
9:56 p.m. Jordin: Also safe! Nobody’s going home! This is not shocking to anyone who’s read the Internet! Ha ha, you suckers who voted, you got rooked into giving money to charity!
9:57 p.m. Bono: Standing in the door, like it’s the beginning of a video, only he’s singing about the promise of bringing together hip-hop people and soccer moms.
10:00 p.m. Well, if this Idoling thing doesn’t work out for Phil Stacey, he can always go into the Bono-impersonation route.
10:01 p.m. Not to go for the crass tie-in, but these lyrics are not really all that smarter than a fifth grader. (Update: As a commenter noted, they are also about half as old as a fifth grader.)
10:02 p.m. That little ad-lib = the best Lakisha has sounded in weeks. And with that, we’re done.
10:12 p.m. We’re going to wager that this whole experiment will raise about $75 million–but we’ll have a full roundup tomorrow, after all of America has found out that their votes won’t count in the sad way until next week. For now, we’ll be trying to erase any remaining traces of that Dion/Presley duet from our crainial corridors.