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A night at the ‘Idol’ finale

Variety's up-to-the-minute coverage

7:05 p.m. Winner Announced: 74 million votes. Accountant brings out the envelope. Randy chooses Jordin. Paula loves them both, of course. Simon picks Jordin. And America has chosen Jordin Sparks!! Goodbye, peeps!!!

7:00 p.m. No Paul McCartney. Not even Heather Mills McCartney. And it’s time for the winner, I guess, since we’ve gone well over the allotted time.

6:58 p.m. We’re gonna be going over…. And no Sir Paul. No Fantasia. She’s busy on Broadway. Ruben with Lucy in the Sky. Could it be? Uh-oh. Now we get this year’s top 12. And time’s running out. Are they just teasing us?

6:52 p.m. Kelly Clarkson’s back! Yay! And she’s singing Sgt. Pepper, which means they’ve finally secured rights to Beatles songs I guess. And Taylor’s back. With another Beatles song, “A Day in the Life.” And Carrie with “She’s Leaving Home.” Why all the Beatles? Is Sir Paul here?! Please God, let it not be Ringo.

6:21 p.m. Sanjaya’s back. He’s singing “You Got Me” with Joe Perry of Aerosmith. There’s a wind machine. My ears are bleeding. I’m gouging my eyes. The last three minutes pretty much sum up this season of “Idol.” Maybe Green Day can make things better.

6:16 p.m. The African Children’s Choir, which made Josh Groban bearable during the “Idol Gives Back” broadcast, performs and they are as cute as can be. Although Joe thinks one looks like Gary Coleman. And for every sweet or entertaining bit, they must subject us to something awful.

6:11 p.m. Tony Bennett enters the room we’re in causing a bit of a stir. He’s being interviewed by Cojo. Just picture that. I have nothing to add.

6:06 p.m. Hey, look: It’s Teri Hatcher! And now here comes Clive Davis to tell us how many albums have been sold by “Idol” alum. It’s just as boring as the moment when the president of the TV/music/motion picture academy drones on at the Emmys/Grammys/Oscars. Stop with the self-congratulation! Meanwhile, there’s Jerry Springer again. Can we just open the envelope already?

6:00 p.m. The annual Ford Mustangs are given to the finalists, and they don’t even feign surprise. Maybe they should mix it up and give away Explorers.

The only other star the show has ever produced, Carrie Underwood performs “I’ll Stand by You,” the same song she did in Africa for “Idol Gives Back.” She’s great. Must mean it’s time to bring the show to a screeching halt with another Golden Idol award.

5:55 p.m. Doolittle sings with preeminent gospel duo Cece and Bebe Winans, for whom she used to sing backup. I’m still wistful.

5:50 p.m. Justin Guarini is in the audience, wildly applauding Tony Bennett’s performance. Justin’s presence is proof that “Idol Gives Back” is having a positive impact. Meanwhile, the camera pans to Jerry Springer for the second time. I’m sure FOX execs appreciate the subtle plug for the new host of “America’s Got Talent.”

5:45 p.m. Seacrest intros Tony Bennett (still with an album to sell), and season 4 castoff Constantine Maroulis lurks behind him mugging for the camera and still making those icky faces he’s now been making for 3 years. Jennifer Hudson is in the audience, too. This show really has unleashed the best and the worst upon us over the years, hasn’t it?

5:40 p.m. Gladys Knight performs with the top 6 girls, a couple of whom I can barely remember. Gladys looks and sounds great and has a nice moment with Melinda and LaKisha that makes me wistful for what this season might have been.

5:30 p.m. Blake beatboxes with the “original beatbox” Doug E. Fresh. And anyone over 35 has changed channels by now. And good for them, because they got to miss the next Golden Idol award – this one for the season’s worst singer.

5:20 p.m. First Sanjaya sighting of the night. He’s part of a group sing featuring the top six guys. More confirmation that this was not the guys’ year. Thankfully, Smokey Robinson is here to save the day. Says Kathy: “Much Botox, Smokey?”

Kelly Clarkson, the first and still the best Idol, performs her new single “Never Again,” the one that caused the public spat with Clive Davis, and I gotta side with Kelly on this argument. It’s a good song, suits her voice, and it’s performed well.

Ryan hands out the Golden Idol awards, giving yet more airtime to the freaks and geeks from the first portion of the season. And the segment falls even flatter then it did last year.

Funny how much more overblown this show seems when you’re not emotionally invested in the outcome.

5:09 p.m. Gwen Stefani is the first performer and she’s performing via satellite. “If she’s not here then why is she here?” Joe asks. Well because she still has an album to sell – same reason she was a coach this season. My only question is what the heck is she wearing?

5:03 p.m. First song of the night: Jordin and Blake duet on “I saw her standing there” Says Kathy: “Why?”

5 p.m. Heeeeere’s Ryan. The world is watching, he says. The hyperbole has begun.

4:53 p.m. Seven minutes to showtime. The backup singers are crooning Randy Jackson’s name to the tune of “To Be Real.” We’re watching from one of several press rooms set up for the show. It’s about twelve degrees in here.

4:30 p.m. Welcome, fellow members of “Idol” nation, to Variety’s first-ever Liveblog of the “American Idol” finale. For the next two hours and change, Kathy Lyford and I will be backstage at the Kodak Theater to comment on everything going on at the show. Right now, though, we’re stuck in traffic en route. Welcome to Hollywood.

Recent reviews:
American Idol – Week 19: The Final Two
American Idol: Week 18
American Idol: Week 17
American Idol: Week 16
American Idol: Week 15
American Idol: Idol Gives Back

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