Surprise!!! Or Not. It's Taylor Hicks.

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By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, May 25, 2006

Captain Kangaroo won "American Idol" last night, edging out pretty Katharine McPhee in the Fox singing competition.

Taylor Hicks, the 29-year-old Captain K ringer from Birmingham, kept up the South's winning streak on the most popular television show in the country. More than 32 million viewers had watched the two finalists' last performance the night before.

They cast 63.4 million votes Tuesday night -- "more than any president in the history of our country has ever received," show host Ryan Seacrest told viewers at the end of a two-hour orgy of excess jammed with performances by some of the hottest and some of the oldest pop stars around.

For a show totally lacking in suspense, it was quite the drama.

After putting viewers through four years of "Idol" finales puffed up like blowfish with backstage blather and visits to the finalists' hometown high school gymnasiums, this year the producers had a bright idea: Entertain the audience at home with actual music performances by actual stars.

Duets maybe, with "Idol" finalists?

And so, Paris Bennett kicks things off with Al Jarreau, singing "In This Love Together."

Next, Chris Daughtry sings with his favorite band, Live. Remember when he aped Live's cover of the Johnny Cash classic "Walk the Line" and the judges complimented him for making the Cash tune "his own"? Good times.

Standing next to Live lead Ed Kowalczyk singing "Mystery," Daughtry looks like one of those Here's How to Get the Look for Under $100 models. He looked exactly like the Live Lead -- a Live Lead Look-Alike -- only less.

And what's an "American Idol" finale without tacky shtick?

This year it's in the form of two running gags: the Golden Idol Awards and Puck 'n' Pickler interstitials in which Little Kellie Pickler, the former "Idol" contestant from Albemarle, N.C. -- the one who'd never had calamari, or spinach salad for that matter -- is taught by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck all about food that doesn't start with "deep-fried."

First, Puck introduces Kellie to snails, which she spits into her napkin.


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