11. "America's Best Dance Crew" Goes Gaga - "ABDC" had previously paid full-episode tribute to many icons of music video--Michael and Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Missy Elliott, Beyonce--and Stefani Germanotta joined those illustrious ranks for "The Lady Gaga Challenge" episode this year. The result was one of the best shows in the series' five-season history. This one was a monster, people.
10. RuPaul's Video Is A Total Drag - Avid Dragracers like myself acrylic-nail-bitingly awaited the premiere of "Jealous Of My Boogie," RuPaul's music video starring the top three "RuPaul's Drag Race 2" finalists (Tyra Sanchez, Jujubee, and my personal favorite, Raven). And when the video finally arrived--complete with lots of big '80s hair, "Dynasty"-style face-slapping, claws-out catfighting, vicious wig-snatching, OTT costuming, and absolutely fabulous lip-synching for their lives--it was cause for celebration. If you haven't seen it yet...You. Better. Watch.
9. Too Cool: 'X Factor' Twins Jedward Perform With Vanilla Ice - As Simon Cowell prepared to bring "The X Factor" to the States in 2011, twins John & Edward--aka "Jedward," the breakout stars of the talent show's 2009 U.K. season--continued their flat-topped rise to the top...with a little help from their logical predecessor, Vanilla Ice. At Britain's National Television Awards, as Simon himself looked on in wonder, the "Double Divas of Dublin" reprised their history-making and eyebrow-raising "X Factor" Queen Night performance of "Under Pressure" (mashed up with "Ice Ice Baby"), accompanied by Mr. Ice himself. And it was very cool.
8. Armless Pianist Defies Odds on "China's Got Talent" - Heartening tales of overcoming adversity are typical fodder on "Got Talent" and other reality shows, but the shocking saga of "China's Got Talent" contestant Liu Wei made this season's batch of "America's Got Talent" sob stories look like the pampered brats on VH1's "You're Cut Off." Liu lost both of his arms in a freak accident when he was 10, but this tragic circumstance didn't stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming a concert pianist--playing with his FEET. It turned out Liu had more talent in one of his pinky toes than most four-limbed piano players have in both of their hands, and he went on to win the entire competition.
7. Casey James Gets "Jealous" - True "wow moments" were sadly few and far between on Season 9, what was arguably the most disappointing season in "American Idol" history. But on Lennon & McCartney Night, third-place contestant Casey's emotional rendition of John Lennon's dark and desperate "Jealous Guy" was unexpectedly magical. His voice, possibly due to an authentic lump in his throat, took on a gruff, Eddie Vedder-esque quality during his raw performance, and he seemed genuinely choked up. And so was I by the song's end. For the first time in weeks, I became legitimately excited about Season 9, and I was grateful that Casey had restored my flagging faith.
6. Mia Michaels Makes Emotional Return With "Bitter Earth" Routine - "So You Think You Can Dance" fans wept unconsolably when genius choreographer Mia sat out Season 6 of the show, and then cried tears of utter joy when she returned and choreographed her first routine of Season 7, inspired by tragedies and epiphanies in her life (her mother passed away earlier this year). The piece depicted the three stages of human existence--childhood, adulthood, and old age--and drove home the point about how quickly youth, vitality, and time itself pass. I smell an Emmy here.
5. "X Factor" It-Girl Cher Lloyd Gets Her Swag On - 2010 was the year that "The X Factor" supposedly got "edgy" (ultimate winner Matt Cardle's debut single was a cover of a song by British alt-rockers Biffy Clyro), but never was the show cooler than when 17-year-old baby diva Cher Lloyd was onstage. Her audition--an R&B remake of a Soulja Boy hit--even landed her on British indie mag NME's 2010 "Cool List," which ranked her higher than Muse's Matt Bellamy, Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, and even Soulja Boy himself.
4. Prince Poppycock Waxes Bohemian Rhapsodic on "AGT" - With his pancake-thick mime makeup, satin pantaloons, harlequin leotards, and towering powdered wigs, this flamboyant opera fop was far-and-away the most entertaining contestant on "America's Got Talent" this year, or any year. All of his glam "AGT" extravaganzas were worthy of making this list, but it was his "Bohemian Rhapsody" tour de force that would have even earned Sir Freddie Mercury's vote.
3. It's A Mad World on "So You Think You Can Dance" - My favorite routine of "SYTYCD" Season 7, this Stacey Tookey-choreographed "Trading Places"-style dance dramatization, with contestant Billy playing a homeless man and allstar Ade playing a businessman who shuns him, gave me goosebumps. It gave my goosebumps goosebumps. The fact that Billy was eliminated the following night proves Americans wouldn't recognize great dancing if it came up and hit them over the head with Ade's briefcase. What a "mad world," indeed.
2. General Larry Platt Sings The Best Belt-Buckle Jingle Ever - It says a lot about "American Idol" Season 9 that its standout performance was by a 62-year-old novelty rapper, not by any contestant actually eligible to compete on the show. Civil Rights Movement veteran General Larry Platt upstaged all the "real" singers on the Atlanta auditions episode this year with his instantly viral hit, "Pants On The Ground," which was quickly spoofed by everyone from former Idols Alex Wagner-Trugman and Jackie Tohn to Jimmy Fallon. Later, on the Season 9 finale, Platt performed "Pants" with special guest William Hung, and the circle of infamous "Idol" auditions was at long last complete.
1. Simon Cowell Gets a "We Are the World"-Style Sendoff - Simon launched the careers of many Idols, and dozens of them joined forces to bid him farewell on "American Idol's" Season 9 finale. It was like the "Idol" version of Band Aid, and it was genuinely touching to see so many Idols gathered all in one place. Simon must have felt like a proud papa; in fact, when he joined the mob onstage to deliver his parting remarks, he was uncharacteristically sweet. "I didn't think I was going to be this emotional, but I genuinely am," he said. "I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support and the fun....When everyone asks who is going to replace me, the truth is you guys [the viewers] are the judges of this show, and you've done a great job." Then he looked over at Ryan Seacrest and added, "Even you, I'm going to honestly miss." Aw. I miss Simon already.
[photo courtesy of Fox]
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