My visit to Idol Gives Back
Keep in mind, there will be spoilers. It's not like I found out the secret to Lost, but I figured I would still give fair warning. The show will air on Wednesday April 9th at 7:30 pm ET / PT. For what happened at the taping and in the press room, read on after the jump. And check back for Jason's review Wednesday night.
Children's Defense Fund: Representative Mickey McKinney credited key board members Katie McGrath and Reese Witherspoon with getting FOX involved with her organization. CDF, a first-year beneficiary of Idol Gives Back, works relentlessly to level the playing field for children of all socio-economic backgrounds. They have outreach programs for summer and after-school and scholarships for students who have achieved academic excellence despite adversarial circumstances. "I'm a fan of Simon," McKinney smiled. She added that because of his interest in this organization Simon Cowell is her "hero." Maybe Jay will add this to his list of why Simon should be president.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria: Representative Rajesh Anandan said that his organization was the largest funder (25%)of programs to fight AIDS. Also, they provide two-thirds of the funding to fight TB and Malaria. According to Anandan, Idol has been "courageous to connect this consumer audience" to what's going on in the less developed countries of the world. U2 frontman Bono is a major advocate for this group and did a video package for Wednesday's show.
Malaria No More: Representative Laurie Rubiner said that her organization was devoted to ending deaths from Malaria, a disease kills more children than AIDS and TB. Last year with the help of Idol Gives Back, MNM was able to save more than a million lives by purchasing insecticide-treated bed nets for people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Celebrity spokespeople include Forrest Whitaker and former Idols Melinda Doolittle and Jordin Sparks. Whitaker and his wife visited Africa and contributed a video package for Wednesday's show.
Children's Health Fund: Dr. Arturo Britto explained that CHF "provides healthcare services all across America to children in need." Over 20 million American children do not get complete healthcare. Britto also mentioned that it was FOX who contacted them and they were honored to be selected for Idols Give Back for the second year in a row.
Save the Children: Mark Shriver commented that last year Idol Gives Back benefited the organization's work in Africa and this year the funds will help children in America. Randy and Paula came to see STC's after-school programs in Southern California. According to Shriver, having Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul both impacts the morale of the folks running the organization and "raises the visibility of our work to a whole new level." The video package is on the show. The Manning brothers and Miley Cyrus were also part of video packages for Wednesday's show.
From the press room:
Snoop Dogg, Teddy Reilly and Charlie Wilson: When asked if being on American Idol hurt his reputation as a 'gangsta,' Snoop said, "Why not? I am an American idol. I'm Snoop Dogg. Baby, what do you mean? How could this hurt me? This is beautiful." On whether or not we see another season of Fatherhood, Snoop said, "maybe." Also, he clearly doesn't watch the show this season (or probably ever). "The one that can sing," he quipped when someone asked if he had a favorite.
John Legend, who has an infectious laugh, said "part of what I do is to give back...and to educate people." Also, he's glad that Idol is providing that forum for artists to give back. But does he watch the show? "I do not," he said quickly. His third album is due out in September.
Heart: They said they were honored to perform last night and very worried about cutting "Barracuda" down to three minutes (usually a five and a half minute song). The singers also laughed that because of Idol and Guitar Hero, they see younger faces at their concerts.
Annie Lennox: On the importance of being on the show, Lennox remarked "the medium of television is very powerful and it's going to go into millions of livingrooms." Of her trip to Africa Lennox said simply, "a very strong experience, a very deep experience." She continued that she's had the opportunity to see the human face of poverty and witness the struggles.
Carrie Underwood: "It's wonderful. It's always great coming back to Idol," she gushed. About this season so far, Carrie commented, "I think there's a lot of great people. I'm not going to say a favorite." As far as what issue Underwood holds dear, she says education is important. "I'm in a family of teachers," she explained. She wishes teachers got paid more and thinks someone should "step up and do something for education." Lastly, she was asked about the George Michael song she performed last night. "It's not about self-promoting. And that's a song that I've always loved. It took me forever to sing that through without crying," she answered.
- The So You Think You Can Dance kids did the opening number with the Idol cast to Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music." Awesome. That's all I have to say about that.
- Maria Shriver came out to an instrumental version of "Maria" from West Side Story. I wonder if she just wanted to die when that song played. She didn't waiver though. After all, she's a Kennedy so she's kind of a pro at this stuff. Shriver brought out some volunteers and asked to America not only to give money but to offer up their services and time to help their communities.
- Snoop Dogg performed with Charlie Wilson who had trouble hearing his feed. The Dogg wore an American Idol sweatshirt and had a bedazzled microphone. Both were ridiculous. A bunch of little kids (I think from Snoop's football league) joined them onstage. It was pretty cute.
- John Legend sang "Show Me." Fergie joined him but they cut the feed in our room so we could interview Snoop. Fergie also performed with Heart and did a cartwheel on stage. Whoa.
- Billy Crystal came out and told the audience how Idol keeps him in touch with pop culture, "without Idol, I wouldn't know how to use the words 'yo dawg' in a sentence." Crystal then introduced Miley Cyrus. After some banter, Cyrus sang "Broken Chains." It was meh. I would love to hear Simon's critique of it. Miley performed later on: a faster song that allowed her to gyrate all around the stage. Or is she Hannah Montana when she does that? I don't get her.
- Annie Lennox did a rather touching video package about the AIDS epidemic in Africa and then appeared on stage. She sang "Many Rivers to Cross". Her performance was beautiful (no big surprise there).
- In his onstage bit, Jimmy Kimmel said "Simon Cowell is the reason Governor Schwarzenegger must work to secure the borders of this country." Then continued to roast the outspoken host of the show making fun of his shirts, his haircut and even his nipples.
- Carrie Underwood wore a iridescent ballgown and performed a George Michael song called "Praying for Time."
- Gloria Estefan sang "Get on Your Feet" with Sheila E. on percussion. And it looks like the So You Think You Can Dance cast made a second appearance on stage. Sarah Silverman came on stage afterwards and joked, "That song is so inspiring I almost got up and made it happen."
- Robin Williams pretended to be a Russian Idol hopeful.
- While she wasn't there, Jennifer Connolly did a video package about the importance of bringing clean drinking water to underdeveloped countries.
- Celine Dion contributed a short video about her trip to Africa and the AIDS epidemic.
- You'll see these celebrities doing little recorded announcements throughout the show: Kobe Bryant, Triple H, John Cena, Julianne Moore, Dolly Parton, Keifer Sutherland, Ellen DeGeneres, and George Lopez who did one in Spanish.
- Nigel Lythgoe came on before the taping to get the audience psyched up. He mentioned that they had two video packages from the Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to show the live audience. They also had a video package from John McCain but there was a technical problem with it so the live audience won't get to see it. He mentioned that Idol has a higher standard for production quality and the McCain package would be replaced by the time the show airs on Wednesday.
- Paula wore a bouffant hairdoo. It was slightly ridiculous. You'll see what I mean when the show airs. She had on a gorgeous red dress though.
- Reese Witherspoon had trouble with her mic and had to re-record her onstage segment. "Nevermind," she said as she went backstage to begin again. She's adorable.