Was 'American Idol's Big Finale Too Big? | VIDEO

The votes are in, and either there are more than 62 million Americans with too much spare time … or 20 million with a penchant for repeat dialing.

Regardless, new "American Idol" champ Taylor Hicks got more votes than any president ever elected, which host Ryan Seacrest proudly pointed out during Wednesday night's floundering finale.

Hicks, the male muse behind the aptly named "Soul Patrol," not only had the vocal machinations to seal the deal but a highly regarded mane of prematurely gray locks that set him squarely apart from his competitors.

More impressive than Hicks' victory was "Idol's" ratings: An estimated 17 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 49 watched the show. That's almost one-fifth of the under-50 adult population.

Want to know where most of your co-workers were last night? Guess!

'Idol' Attempts Musical Comedy

The thing is, if you look at the quality of the show itself, it was a bloated, anti-climactic excuse for two hours of network programming. It reminded me of a kid who keeps stretching a piece of gum from his mouth to the floor over and over. How long can you watch? Then what does he do with it? Put it back in his mouth? Spit it out? It's used, it's a little nasty to look at, it's done. Kind of like Wednesday night's show.

One of the worst offenses was the "Golden Idol" awards -- a segment in which they looked back on the entire season recognizing some of the unusual contestants. The especially silly Randy Jackson Prize for Public Speaking went to the most foul-mouthed of the early auditioners, Rhonetta, who appears via satellite, reprising the performance that earned her the trophy.

The "Brokenote Mountain" piece was no better, taking three auditioning "cowboys" and reuniting them in a taped spoof of "Brokeback Mountain." They then appeared onstage for a live rendition of "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." Garet Johnson, the kid who used to sing to his turkey, had his 15 minutes of fame, shame and -- for the rest of us -- pain.

Oh, and lest I forget Clay Aiken's duet with Michael Sandecki, who won a Golden Idol award for the best Aiken impression. Sandecki is perhaps this year's William Hung, but more than that, Aiken's hair was frightening. It was a darker version of Florence Henderson's pageboy from the later "Brady Bunch" episodes. You simply could not enjoy Aiken's voice looking at that hair, or Sandecki swooning over him on a nearby stool.

They did try to pull out all the stops through celebrity guests. But honestly, their choices ended up flat. Meatloaf sounded like Bo Bice after dental surgery. Toni Braxton's performance of "In the Ghetto" with Taylor Hicks was inaudible. Dionne Warwick's joining the 12 finalists in "That's What Friends Are For" with Burt Bacharach accompanying was about as schmaltzy as TV gets, especially since none of the 12 seemed overly friendly toward each other.

At one point, completely unannounced, Prince emerged for a two-song performance of material from his new album. The tunes were bad enough to ensure they will never hit the radio airwaves.

But if you made it through all that, finally at 9:55 p.m. ET, Seacrest opened the envelope and to absolutely no one's surprise, Hicks was given the new title.

Was it worth it?

Heidi Oringer is director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio.

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