Ellen Gray: It may be Lambert vs. Gokey in an 'Idol' final two

Adam Lambert (right) just may edge out Ellen's favorite Allison Iraheta (left) in the "Idol" finale.
Adam Lambert (right) just may edge out Ellen's favorite Allison Iraheta (left) in the "Idol" finale.
Posted: April 14, 2009

AMERICAN IDOL. 8 tonight, Channel 29.

LOS ANGELES TIMES blogger Richard Rushfield warned recently of "a showdown that threatens to bring to the surface the yawning, but heretofore avoided, chasm between two sides of American culture."

Red states vs. blue?

Cats vs. dogs?

No, Adam Lambert vs. Danny Gokey.

That, of course, is the final pairing the judges on Fox's "American Idol" appear to be anticipating (with the possible exception of Paula Abdul, who seems to have predicted at least four different contestants would make it that far).

Assuming the judges are right - and that my own current fave, Allison Iraheta, doesn't knock one of these guys out of the game - an Adam-Danny finale would offer a study in contrasts.

One's a native of southern California with an extensive professional background in musical theater, the other a church music director from Wisconsin.

One looks a little like Elvis, the other like a way-too-cheerful Robert Downey Jr.

Danny, who lost his wife four weeks before his first "Idol" audition, making his cheerfulness all the more remarkable, was a big story in the early weeks of the season. But it's Adam, who pairs even his edgiest performances with a disciplined, unthreatening demeanor in front of the judges, who's generating most of the media buzz now.

On Sunday, the New York Times devoted a good chunk of its Style section front to asking whether a gay contestant could win.

And not just any gay guy, but one who'd given in to his "inner Maybelline girl."

"Leave aside for a moment the answer to such a question, or even whether Mr. Lambert is gay," wrote Guy Trebay. "He may be. He may not. Fox, which owns 'Idol,' is not saying; neither is the contestant himself."

Don't ask, don't tell? That does sound like "Idol."

But as much as I shake my head over the numbers of postings I've seen on the Web from girls who refuse to entertain the possibility that a guy who wears that much makeup might not be meant for them, I don't need Adam to say if he's gay or not.

He's already rendered an important service just by being possibly gay.

Don't know if it's the way he towers over host Ryan Seacrest or that his voice has judge Simon Cowell seeing dollar (and pound) signs, but those two seem to be engaging in far less of the homophobic banter that's rendered so many "Idol" interludes icky in recent seasons.

What's more, Simon seems lately to have abandoned the description "Broadway" for performances he doesn't like, or worse, for contestants whose voices were honed in an art form generally considered more demanding than Motown week on "Idol."

He could make a liar out of me tonight, when the remaining seven contestants are scheduled to perform songs from movies, with film director Quentin Tarantino as guest mentor.

But if anyone up until now had come in for the "Broadway" bad-mouthing, I'd have expected it to be Adam, who was, after all, in the touring company of "Wicked" and whose theatrical training is evident in every performance.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Simon's anti-Broadway bias has always struck me as particularly unfair, coming as it does from a man who's made part of his living packaging and selling other people's voices but who can't be bothered to appreciate the genres, from country music to musical theater, that helped make them worth listening to.

'Life' - and letting go

While some viewers continue to bemoan the hastily pulled together finale of ABC's "Life on Mars," I'd like to put in a good word for NBC's "Life," which last week wrapped up its second, and quite possibly, final season with an episode that never left the planet but left this fan, at least, feeling surprisingly elevated. Even serene.

Must be that Zen tape Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis) keeps playing.

Don't know if "Life" will be going on - most indications are that it won't - but enough questions were answered to not leave viewers hanging. At the same time, things weren't tied up in the kind of possibly too-neat bow that "Mars" used in its finale (which, yes, actually went to Mars).

With the fall-schedule announcements coming next month, we've entered the save-our-shows season, and with NBC's "Friday Night Lights" secure for two more years, thanks to DirecTV, the focus is on shows like NBC's "Chuck" and Fox's "Dollhouse," and maybe on "Life."

Not being part of a Nielsen household, I have considerably less control than the judges on "American Idol," who at least get the one "save."

If I did have a save to buy one show another season, I'm not yet sure where I'd use it.

Are you? *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com or follow me at twitter.com/elgray.

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