Last night's two-hour finale extravaganza took under an hour to watch, if you were armed with a DVR and an inability to watch a lot of old footage from throughout the season. The highlights of the finale episode were the hometown crowds cheering on their favorite contestant via satellite feed, and the live performances. As for the rest -- "fast forward" is your friend. It was a Christmas-y episode, with lots of carols and holiday standards performed by the contestants and guest stars like Justin Bieber, Stevie Wonder, 50 Cent, Leona Lewis, Ne-Yo, Pitbull and the top 12 acts from the past season.
As predicted, Chris Rene fell first, leaving Josh Krajcik and Melanie Amaro to battle it out for the top spot, which includes a $5 million recording contract, a sweet Pepsi commercial all their own and bragging rights as the first U.S. X Factor contestant.
It might be too much to ask to bring a finale in under two hours, but hopefully in the future producers will find a way to do it without beating topics to death. Video montages included the Simon/L.A. rivalry, a "who cries more, Paula or Nicole" segment, complete with clock counter, and the obligatory sections of following the finalists along their road to fame. OHMAHGAWD, please just announce the winner.
Most of the musical performances were good. I'm not a Belieber, but Justin Bieber caught our attention with his duet with Stevie Wonder. We'll cop to fast-forwarding through most of 50 Cent, Pitbull/Ne-Yo and Leona Lewis. SORRY. Some of us have to get up in the morning.
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Steve Jones guided us in his usual stilted manner through the two-hour extravaganza. Poor Steve -- at one point Rachel Crow comes out to greet her fans and she tells him that everything has been good since her dramatic elimination, and then informs him that she's going to steal his job. Steve laughs woodenly, but it's not clear whether he understands how much better Rachel would be at what he does.
Finally it's time to reveal the winner! Steve brings Melanie and Josh on stage with their mentors, then invokes his patented Long, Awkward Pause to Build Suspense. Will gospel singer Melanie Amaro best the soulful, messy-haired burrito slinger Josh Krajcik?
The answer: YES. America's first X Factor champion is Melanie Amaro! Josh takes the whole thing in stride, with a genuine grin on his face; he congratulates Melanie enthusiastically, while her friends and family rush the stage and interrupt Steve's attempts to interview Melanie post-win.
It's been a wild ride, and FOX promises to bring us more X Factor in the future -- the show was picked up for another season back in November. You can watch video excerpts from last night's episode online.