Elvis v. Elvis: The Next Best Thing Finale

Guilt, man.

It don't feel pretty.

There I was, with the gall to gush and call myself a fan; meanwhile, it was late July, and I hadn't managed to catch a single blessed installment of ABC's celebstitute celebration The Next Best Thing since its sophomore ep, way back on June 6.


A fraud, I was. A poser. I was playing a part, cheerfully passing myself off as someone I wasn't.

(Which is fitting, I suppose, in a way, .)

At any rate, when news of Wednesday's live season finale reached me (thanks to my wonderful mother-in-law, who wields the considerable powers of the TiVo box with an ease and virtuosity reminiscent of Sir Ian McKellan's cavalier manipulation of the laws magnetism), I resolved then and there that I would no longer sit idly by, satisfied to live my life as a lying, poop-faced liarhead.

Rather, I would sit idly by ... and watch.

The farewell show opened cleverly, with an Oscar-style red carpet setup, complete with limo arrivals for the finalists and a Joan Rivers impersonator (I think; she was durned good ... ). Fake Paris Hilton (Natalie Reid), whom I remembered from the June 6 episode, was the first to show. 6/6 was fairly well-represented, in fact -- if I'm not mistaken, at least three (Paris, Roger Kabler as Robin Williams, and John Morgan as George W. Bush) of the final 10 doppelgangers debuted there. Other finalists: Barbra Streisand (Sharon Owens), a young Elvis (Donny Edwards), an older Elvis (Trent Carlini), Sinatra (Sebastian Anzaldo), Lucille Ball (Suzanne La Rusch), Tina Turner (Cookie Watkins), and a ridiculously good Little Richard (Garry Moore).

Once inside L.A.'s Orpheum theater, the whole lot of surrogate stars assembled onstage for a wholly surreal, "We Are the World"-ish opening number that I swear must have been a joke (sample lyrics: "Reachin' up / Climbin' high / To that rainbow in the sky," "There's a star that I'm wishin' on tonight") -- except that nothing else about the way it was presented was as over-the-top as the song itself, so I'm confused. After that, the Elvises did the late-Elvis tune "Burnin' Love" -- rather unfairly, as my mother-in-law pointed out, since the one guy's an early-Elvis specialist (did I mention I watched this at my wife's family's house? 'Cause I did); Streisand and a smooth Sinatra duoed on "Witchcraft"; Dubya and faux-Paris (who, apparently, has not only already appeared in Playboy as the heiress but also been the subject of apocryphal, Paris-worthy rumors) followed with a formidably entertaining magic trick, wherein the would-be Ms. Hiton invited the prez to step "into my box," and made him disappear; Lucy and Robin Williams did a slapsticky dance. For the closing number, the fantastic pseudo-Little Richard and the pretty-good-too Tina Turner tag-teamed Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" -- until curtains opened and the real Little Richard (sort of tired-looking and plagued by mic problems, unfortunately) joined them. Whereupon, things got a little nuts: Panelist Jeffrey Ross, apres-performance, stood and said -- and this is what you hire Jeffrey Ross for -- "We open with two kings, and we end with three queens. it's a full house!" To which real-Little Richard took some exception, and sort of stumblingly called Ross a queen back, and told him to shut up. Everyone kinda laughed it off, but it may've been the single most awkward moment I've ever seen on TV.


Anyway, older-Elvis won. I was pulling for Little Richard, but hey.

Asked for comment by hostess Michelle Merkin, older-Elvis goes, "I'm all mixed up, man." To which my brother-in-law (also a Little Richard guy) responded, rolling his eyes, "You mean, 'shook up'?"


Can't wait for next year.



Brian Villalobos lives in Austin, Texas (practically), writes on film and TV, and totally cried at Stuart Little.

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