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.

Sheesh.

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.

Whew.

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'?"

Zing!

Can't wait for next year.

.

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

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