Kris Allen beats Adam Lambert in not-so-surprising upset

In a Dewey versus Truman moment, the Associated Press sent out a one-sentence story to the wire tonight that said Adam Lambert won American Idol 8, confirming what most people expected. But no: Kris Allen actually won the competition, forcing a correction.

The AP can possibly be forgiven, since the biggest! upset! ever! was even a surprise to the winner. When Ryan Seacrest announced he’d won, having received the majority of the world-record nearly 100 million votes, Kris Allen’s always-cute face said it all, but then the mouth part of his face said even more: “Are you freakin’ serious?” he said. “It feels good, but Adam deserves this.”

Both that awkward, not-quite-epic moment and Ryan Seacrest’s comments–he said “the underdog, the dark horse, comes back and wins the nation over”–immediately established Kris’ victory as an upset.

As surprised as I was, upon second thought, Adam’s loss and Kris’ victory is not all that surprising. Besides the failure of conspiracy theories and the general unpredictability of viewer voting habits, Adam and Kris have been basically tied: three weeks ago they were in the bottom three together, and last week just one million votes separated them. For all we know, Kris was in the lead both weeks. Here’s my expanded thinking on why this shouldn’t have been a surprising outcome (if that doesn’t work, check back; the story will be live shortly).

The shock came after plenty of previous shocks during the 127-minute finale–which finished on time, and even a full minute early. Incredible, just as it was incredible that the whole set stayed intact after the show started with an amateurish technical problem: Adam and Kris’ mics weren’t turned on when Ryan Seacrest asked them questions. It’s challenging for the show’s producers to come in on time and pot up a mic. And while there was a lot to mock and make fun of, and it went on too long, it was actually a decent finale.

While I’m going to forget and try to ignore the lame faux-awards presented to the losers from the auditions (which was topped off by a staged routine in which Tatiana pretended to take over, but was so fake it wasn’t even funny), there were other amusing moments, like Jason Mraz singing and wearing a hat like Matt Giraud’s, and Santana singing while wearing a hat like Matt Giraud’s. And let’s not forget Steve Martin promoting his album The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo by playing banjo during a song he wrote, “Pretty Flowers,” even while looking pretty much like a lot some of the guest stars: uncomfortable about having to perform with the top 13 losers that kept joining them on stage.

Ultimately, though, the talent was strong and relatively credible, definitely more than it has been in the past, from Queen Latifah to Queen, Cyndi Lauper to Kiss. Kris Allen did a duet with Keith Urban, and Adam Lambert performed with Kiss and tons of pyro and a costume that seemed like it was about to light up because he looked like a float in the Main Street Electrical Parade. Together, Kris and Adam performed “We Are the Champions” and were joined by Queen, and unsurprisingly, Adam owned it more than Kris.

When the Black Eyed Peas performed, they were apparently censored; an awkward moment of silence and a shot of the stage was inserted in the middle of their performance. But a Fox rep said it was pre-planned, which makes it seem even stupider than censoring something. The AP reports that “[a] Fox spokesman said it was singer will.i.am’s decision to stay mum, apparently to keep an expletive from airing during Wednesday’s performance.”

If that was true, though, wouldn’t they have just shown the dancing that was happening on stage, even if he skipped a line in the song? Clearly, they didn’t trust him.

But they did trust Kara DioGuardi to strip to a bikini, sort of. First, Katrina Darrell, also known as Bikini Girl, showed up along with her brand-new girls, which Ryan Seacrest made an actual joke about: “I was going to ask you what’s new but I think I know.” The producers let her sing, but only so she could be interrupted by Kara joining her on stage, an awesome moment if only because it clearly pissed off bikini girl Katrina. And at the end, Kara unbuttoned her dress/coat/thing to reveal a bikini undereneat, Criticize Kara all you want, but I can’t see any of the other three judges even considering to do the duet, never mind the swimsuit part.

That was just one of many nutty moments, from to Danny Gokey’s male camel toe, which we learned during the live blog is called “moose knuckle.”

Speaking of the live blog, if you weren’t one of the 700+ people to join us live, or if you were and find yourself bored today, relive the finale minute-by-minute with both my comments and the far wittier and hysterical comments of other readers whose thoughts made it past my autocratic filters. We’ll definitely do it again soon, as long as TV keeps giving us great crap like American Idol.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.