View Photo Gallery: Highlights from the season finale of “American Idol.”

Phillip Phillips becomes the fifth consecutive super-safe white guy with guitar to win “American Idol.” Here’s how it happens:

The finale opens at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, with the Idolette finalists in a group sing of “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars. They’re all dressed in white suits, like this is a vision of heaven, the “Idol” Afterlife. Joshua Ledet tries a split, but falls over; someone behind him helps him off the stage.

Time for the judges to make their final Judges’ Entrance of the season. Steven Tyler is dressed as an eggplant-colored leather couch. Randy Jackson is wearing a robin’s egg blue Captain Kangaroo suit. And Jennifer Lopez looks lovely in her designer shrink-wrap. Show host Ryan Seacrest is looking very dapper in his tux.

The voting, announces Seacrest, set “a new world record. A staggering 132 million votes came in.” An awful lot of homework did not get done by tweener chicks.

Seacrest brings out the two Idolettes left standing. They must be so excited they couldn’t have slept last night, Seacrest guesses. “I slept a little,” says Jessica. “I slept nine or ten hours,” says Phil.

Well, if he’s not going to play along with the whole notion that there’s any suspense left in re who’s the next “American Idol,” we’re not going to either.

First special guest of the evening: John Fogerty from Creedence Clearwater Revival, to harmonize with Phil2 on “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” and “Bad Moon Rising.” And when we say “harmonize” we mean in the manner of two guys closing down a bar for the night.

Roll the traditional wacky auditions tape, including one of our all-time favorite moments of Season 11. Seacrest and some giant relative of an auditioner are waiting outside the audition room. The giant studies Seacrest for a while and says, “So, who are you?”

Joshua Ledet returns to sing Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot.” He stops mid-streams and shouts, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce the biggest inspiration of my life – Fantasia Barrino!” We flap our arms like Skylar Laine and squeal. He copies her faithfully; she brings out the best in Joshua and her new wig is sick.They just keep singing on into the commercial break, they’re having so much fun.

Roll a blooper tape of Chief Mentor and Truth Teller Jimmy Iovine, who all season long has been calling Jennifer Lopez “Jessica” in his canned comments about previous nights’ performances. We see him suggest to a producer that all his “Jessica’s” be strung together and shown to JLo to drive her crazy. Back to the live show, he kneels and kisses her hand, seeking forgiveness.

The Top Chick Idolettes are brought out to sing a medley of Chaka Khan tunes — and then out comes Chaka for a very loud production with Chaka’s voice flying over the top of it all, like a high pitched shriek.

All season long Phil Phillips has been avoiding doing those Ford video/commercials. And don’t think the marketers at Ford haven’t noticed, and want to break this boy’s spirit. So the final Ford Music Video of the season opens with what must have been the only moment they captured of Phil on Ford tape, followed by a medley of other Idolettes riding around in Fords and doing their bit to pay the bills in Idol Land.

Seacrest hands out some car keys to Phil’s brother-in-law, his musical mentor, and a family friend of Jessica’s, her mentor, and then to Phil and Jessica.

Rihanna is here to perform those three notes and six dance steps she does like nobody’s business — this time in support of her new single, “Where Have You Been.” Plus, she’s brought lots of dancers, and laser lights, and her astonishing “legs.”

This season’s country contestant, Skylar Laine, got compared to Reba McIntire a lot, so out comes Reba to duet with her on “On The Radio.” The singing is fine but they have no chemistry. Reba seems almost workmanlike in her approach.

We go on a visit to Steven Tyler’s trailer, which turns out to be staffed by Playboy bunnies. Steven carries his pet sloth on his shoulder. His elderly sister is making out with an old gent on the couch. He’s had his former manager, a zebra, stuffed.

In one of those whiplash-inducing changes of pace for which “Idol” finales are famous, Jessica Sanchez sings Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Jessica is the best voice this show has discovered.

The Guys of the Top 12 will sing a medley of Neil Diamond tunes which can only mean…yes, here he is, Neil himself, who, in his old age, has adopted the talking/singing style of Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins, which he’s about to take on the road, says Seacrest.

For years, Randy Jackson has been tossing out that old “you could sing the phone book” cliché, here and there. So the producers shoot the Idolettes, dressed in choir robes and actually singing from the phone book. After, Seacrest present Randy with a gift wrapped phone book and tells him to get some new material. We second that.

JLo herself takes the stage to entertain us with “Goin’ In” from the upcoming dance themed movie “Step Up Revolution,” joined by rapper Flo Rida. She dances around with a crew of chicks all dressed in white with white baseball hats. Then she switches into a Latin mood to plug her upcoming tour with Enrique Iglesias, singing “Follow The Leader”. She’s joined on stage by Latin rappers Wisin y Yandel. She’s a hard worker, that JLo.

Ace Young, from “Idol” season five, and Diana DeGarmo, from “Idol” season 3 are sitting together in the audience and Seacrest brings the spotlight on them, then calls them on stage and we are immediately on our guard as to why these heretofore forgotten un-winning Idolettes are being shown so much favor while truly memorable un-winners like Mr. Pants On The Ground continue to languish in obscurity.

Sure enough, the whole thing is a set-up. Ace is going to propose marriage right here on national television. Look surprised, Diana! Here is his proposal in all its cheesy glory:

“We have conquered Broadway together, we have created all your new music together, we have an amazing group of people around us, and with the help of David Webb Jewelry, I have a way to make this fun last forever. Are you ready?”

Needless to say, she accepts to wild applause from the audience and though we’re pretty sure she has an acceptance speech prepared, thanking her agent, her manager, and especially David Webb Jewelry, available at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and fine stores every where, their moment is over. “American Idol” can now count an on-camera inter-Idolette marriage proposal in its rich, 11-season history.

“Idol” almost-finalist Hollie Cavanagh duets with Jordin Sparks, a winner from back in the days when chicks stood a chance of winning “Idol.” They sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel.” Hollie is more Celin Dion-like than ever. They’re followed by the Guydolettes doing a BeeGee medley in honor of Robin Gibb, who died Sunday.

Here’s tiny Jessica Sanchez, going toe to toe with Tony award winner and Broadway veteran Jennifer Holliday on the “Dreamgirls” hit, “And I’m Telling You.” Holliday seems intent on winning this battle, and her scenery chewing and facial contortions frighten children watching at home.

We’d like a moment to rest and recoup after that ordeal, but it is not to be.

“I’ve been waiting for two years to say this: Ladies and Gentlemen – Aerosmith!” Seacrest enthuses.

The old guys from Aerosmith perform “Legendary Child” and “Walk This Way”; Steven Tyler wails away but, in the great tradition of “Idol” sound mixing, they’ve bumped up Joe Perry’s guitar too loud, so it’s instead a Joe Perry concert. Perry and Tyler have a lot of fun on stage. But we miss the sloth.

Next, in a show of no hard feelings, Jessica and Phil2 will duet and, to make it easy on inevitable winner Phil, the number is Joe Cocker’s “Up Where We Belong.” Their voices make a nice contrast — like running back and forth from a hot sauna to a cold shower.

Well, we’ve run out the clock and that must mean it’s time to declare Phil… sorry, declare one of these two talented kids the winner. One hundred thousand people auditioned, and it’s come down to this moment, Seacrest reminds us.

He summons some Brit — sounds like “Telescope’s Edward Boddington” — to come forward with the results. Who or what Telescope is, we’re not told, but it’s enough for Seacrest that someone with a Brit accent has verified that the results are correct.

Dim the lights, Seacrest commands. And, as America mouths the words along with him, he names Phil Phillips the American Idol of Season 11.

Last year’s winner Scotty McCreery hands over the trophy, shaped like an old microphone. Then Phil is left alone with his guitar, center stage, to sing “Home” — the simple little song the producers chose for him to record and he first sang the previous night. But, this time, the magnitude of the occasion calls for fireworks to rain down, followed by confetti. Phil sings tentatively at first, then breaks down in tears and stops singing. It’s nice to see he’s a human, not an ambition machine.

However, humanity was not in the script, so the marching band is dispatched to stomp across the stage on cue, and the chorus keeps singing backup, while Phil takes off his guitar and walks down into the audience to hug his family, and the house band vamps until the time finally runs out on “Idol XI.”

Related reading:

This week’s final performance show: Phillip Phillips steals the show on final performance night

Last week’s results show: Joshua Ledet exits; Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez head to the finals

Last week’s performance show: The final three perform, and search for a “moment-moment-moment”

TV Column: Fox execs say ‘Idol’ will be “tweaked” next year; reports surface that J-Lo is quitting

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