ST. LOUIS, MO -- It was the unkindest cut of all. "And the winner is…. David…."
For millions of TiVo and DVR subscribers who relied on the digital recording services to watch who won America's #1 television show on their own time, the answer never came.
While the fact that "David" would win was the source of endless jest throughout the two-night telecast - from the mock boxing championship to the shameless (but still amusing) "The Love Guru" movie promotion -- the reality that millions of fans went to bed heartbroken was decidedly unfunny.
Both finalists were named David. We get it. But the cute coincidence took a cruel twist when Ryan Seacreast opened the official golden envelope and proclaimed with patented but excruciating pauses, ""Ladies and gentlemen… David and David… the winner… by 12 million votes… of American Idol… 2008… is David…"
Insert blue pop-up screen asking "Delete Recording" or "Don't Delete Recording." No joke.
Since Fox's live broadcast ran long, millions of DVRs stopped recording at exactly that moment. Any other year, just hearing "David" would have been enough. But this year, the double denomination left millions stunned on their couch, unable to tell if Seacrest's open mouth was trying to form a vowel or a consonant.
Never mind that the Fox show continued for another six minutes and 14 seconds. Never mind we missed the triumphant David Cook's amazingly good final song. We just wanted to go to bed knowing who had won. Suspense is great. A crying 9-year-old is not.
The exact moment of Idol's premature ejection was unprecedented bad timing. Imagine the last three seconds of the NBA finals, the winning throw forever frozen in midair just a foot from the rim. An airborne Hail Mary pass during the Super Bowl after the clock has stopped hovering over the end zone, inches from a receiver's fingers. Or, as my nine-year-old tearfully proclaimed, "It was like waiting all night for Santa, and he never shows up."
"American Idol" is arguably the best thing to happen to families in modern television history. Squeaky clean - David Hernandez aside - the show offered the perfect bridge between generations. Music will indeed, bring us to together.
As we watched the finale, my attitude-challenged tween and I bonded. I told her all about George Michael (well, not all about…) while she introduced me to OneRepublic (or 1R as it's known to the text set). She asked when she could have a purity ring like the Jonas Brothers (I wept inside). I explained how when I called David Cook my "boyfriend," I was only kidding.
As blown away as we were by last season's Blake, this season was the hands-down best. Kids had a great role model in smooth-cheeked David Archuleta. And smoldering David Cook gave moms their own reasons to watch. We learned about church morals and when cancer hits close to home. And we knew, we just knew, Simon wouldn't be able to corrupt our beloved Brooke.
I won't hear it that I should have watched it live. It was a school night and most of us had homework and smaller children to put to bed. That's why TiVo was invented, wasn't it? We wanted to watch the real-time elation with the lucky in-studio crowd of course, but we had to settle for a bath and a half-hour delay.
And we were truly left winner-less. After sitting in shock for a full five minutes, we ran to the computer to look up the winner. Nothing was updated, not even American Idol's home page. The winning moments weren't posted on YouTube until 2:30 am (I couldn't sleep…). Where were you, obsessive bloggers? I needed you!
The cruelest cliffhanger of all time did not have to be. Edward Boddington, deliverer of sealed results, couldn't you have walked a little faster? Randy, since you stated it was 2007 during final performances, are you to blame for Ryan's overly enunciated "2008"? And Jimmy Kimmel, I just want my two minutes back on principal.
I'm not sure the producers at "American Idol" and Fox can ever make this up to me and my daughter. It was a record-breaking moment for us. David Cook is our first home state winner, and we Missourians don't have a lot of famous people to idolize. Chuck Berry was a long, long time ago. (Apologies to Nelly, you're wicked cool, but I can't have my children singing your lyrics.) David Archuleta actually kept his boxers on during his Guitar Hero commercial (see, TiVo-ers do watch the adverts). And let's not underestimate the importance of an Idol who was finally closer in age to me than my daughter. We all know who controls the checkbook.
It's too late to apologize. But tickets to the American Idol tour and a Backstage Pass? All is forgiven.
About Heather Maclean
Heather Maclean, mother of three, is the founder and President of Little Laureate, the foremost provider of premium, high-quality developmental products for small children and their caregivers.
Named one of the "16 Best Entrepreneurs in America" by Sir Richard Branson, she accompanied the adventurous business legend on a 50,000-mile trip around the world, alternately helping improve the lives of others (designing sustainable development initiatives in South African villages) and fearing for her own (rappelling out of a Black helicopter in a Moroccan sandstorm).
She is also an accomplished speaker and author. Her first book, The Baby Gizmo Buying Guide was released by Thomas Nelson in February 2008.