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Reality Check: 'Idol' Gives Back ... and Takes Away

So this was the week that the "American Idol" juggernaut took advantage of its epic appeal to ask its viewing audience to help raise money for charities in Africa.

And this year's "Idol Gives Back," which aired for two-and-a-half hours on Wednesday, was both affective (particularly the taped segment and live performance by Annie Lennox) and effective (over $60 million raised).

Still, there's something disconcerting about watching people who make the most astronomical amounts of money possible asking those who are presumably significantly lower-paid to donate.

I know that it's about getting lots of people to give a little, and that it's perhaps wrong to find fault when "Idol"'s intentions are so noble. Still, I can't help but feel that maybe every celebrity appearing on the show should announce how much he or she is personally donating before appealing to viewers.

Also, did anyone else find it downright bizarre to have Brad Pitt introduce, um, Daughtry? I know it's an "American Idol" world and the rest of us just live in it, but does "the rest of us" really have to include Pitt?

Thursday night's show was primarily devoted to the elimination — more on that in a bit — but there still were elements of "Idol Gives Back" incorporated in, including taped messages from our three presidential candidates (which gave McCain the chance to make a wry Simon immigration joke) as well as a rather embarrassing lip-synched version of "I'm a Believer" by the random celebrities who didn't merit their own segments.

While I didn't need, say, a third Miley Cyrus performance, I have to ask: has "entertainment" these days really come down to Dr. Phil and Rob Schneider giving a Neil Diamond song the Ashlee Simpson treatment?

And speaking of low moments in entertainment, can someone please explain to me how Michael Johns got the boot? The guy is gorgeous, talented, sweet, charming, an amazing singer and, in my opinion, has more star quality than almost anyone else on the show. Yet he was kicked off while Syesha Mercado and Kristy Lee Cook remain in the competition.

I know that surprising eliminations happen — I still haven't quite gotten over Alexandrea Lushington leaving us near the beginning of the season — but I practically want to stage a one-woman revolt here.

The only theories I can come up with to explain this indecent turn of events are that either having his wife sitting in the audience every show hurt him (girls couldn't ever fantasize that he was singing to them, the way they clearly do with David Cook and David Archuleta) or that, at 29, he seemed just a bit too old.

Could America be just a big ageist when it comes to their "Idols"?

While Carly looked appropriately devastated by Michael's ejection, Syesha managed to squeeze out a tear and Paula appeared to be clinging to Michael for dear life at the tail end of the show, others — namely Jason Castro, who cheerfully sang along to Michael's final song — seemed thoroughly nonplussed.

I, however, was not among them. My overall feeling is that while "Idol" — and America — gave with one hand, they took with the other. I say: kudos on the $60 mill; now can we have a recount?

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her novel, "Party Girl," is in stores.