OK, so this hasn’t been a very good “American Idol” season.
    Simon Cowell has been, um, preoccupied with his upcoming exit. And Paula Abdul’s absence has, at least in part, led to a competent, but bland, class of “Idol” possibilities, the kind of contestant that Cowell favors.
    If we go by talent, this year’s finals are an overwhelming mismatch. Crystal Bowersox has been solid all season, with flashes of brilliance, while Lee DeWyze has been OK, with flashes of better-than-Tim-Urban.
    But, regardless of what Cowell says, “American Idol” really isn’t a singing competition. It’s a popularity contest and a pretty skewed one at that. And this year, it’s skewed toward Lee.
    Yes, Bowersox could still pull it out if she overwhelms DeWyze and he stumbles. But that’s unlikely. (Just in case, we'll be live-blogging the show tonight. Come join us starting at 8 p.m.! ) Barring some sort of “Idol”-miracle, the paint salesman from Chicago will be crowned the new “American Idol” tomorrow night.

Here’s why:

“Idol” producers want him to win.
DeWyze seems far more pliable and fame-hungry than Bowersox, which would make him a much easier “Idol” to deal with. The preferential treatment he received last week, as Cowell gave him “Hallelujah” to sing, with a gospel choir backing him to create a dramatic moment, practically proved it.

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“Idol” fans want him to win. As Kris Allen showed last year, in “Idol” world, nice guys generally finish first. And as Adam Lambert has shown since, the real world doesn’t always agree with “Idol” world. Nevertheless, DeWyze fits the profile of what has traditionally worked with viewers, a nice unknown who grows during the contest into a more assured performer. Crystal has always seemed assured, to the point that she had to ward off criticism that she was overconfident and rumors that she was ready to quit.

He’s a guy. Motivated “Idol” voters are now overwhelmingly female. They kept Casey James and Tim Urban far longer into the competition than unexpected and sent three female singers home right off the bat, leaving Crystal as the only female in the Top 5. The gender balance shifts slightly during the finale, as one-time viewers tune in and vote, but not by that much.