Well, it finally happened. After the call-center controversies, the vote-for-the-worst campaign and the cultural punditry; after the crying fangirl and the multisectioned Mohawk; after a solid month of being the most compelling reason to watch "American Idol," Sanjaya Malakar is gone.
Frankly, only an event that momentous could salvage a show that was otherwise nothing more than a 58-minute time suck. I won't call them "highlights," but here's what else happened on Wednesday night: Simon Cowell clarified that he didn't roll his eyes on Tuesday night when Virginian Chris Richardson expressed his condolences to the Virginia Tech shooting victims; Fergie and Martina McBride each performed a song; the "Idol" contestants got to watch "Shrek 3"; and Antonio Banderas made a cameo.
Now back to Sanjaya. I can't help wondering if Sanjaya's dismissal is at least partly due to Cowell's harsh criticism on Tuesday night. On that show, after Sanjaya gave a typically lackluster performance, Cowell laid into the kid, calling him "utterly horrendous." Then, Cowell seemed to directly address viewers: "I know this has been funny for a while," he said of Sanjaya's run on the show, but "we are supposed to be finding an American Idol." Maybe that straight talk smacked some sense into the audience, or maybe people finally cottoned on to the fact that the earnest warbler from Federal Way, Wash., was markedly inferior to the other contestants, but the truth is Sanjaya didn't do anything different this week from what he'd done all season -- he gave us the same enthusiastic mediocrity that had kept him alive until now. Were Cowell's words enough to sway the voters? Or had the Sanjaya phenomenon merely run its course? I don't know the answer to those questions, but I do know that a new chapter of "American Idol" has just begun.
-- David Marchese