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'American Idol' finale: Who'll win season 9?

THE SHOW "American Idol"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday night, 8-9; tomorrow, 8-10:07 p.m. on Fox/5

REASON TO WATCH The season 9 winner is named, plus "surprise guests" (Paula?) and Simon's farewell. And there are the two finalists. Let's handicap them:

LEE DEWYZE, 24, Chicago The former paint salesman with a couple of albums has had a charmed run by avoiding the bottom three, which is a sure sign someone - lots of someones - out there likes him. He had pitch issues early on, but his voice and stage presence became assured, and going into tomorrow's show, he is your front-runner.

CRYSTAL BOWERSOX, 25, Elliston, Ohio She nearly dropped out early in the competition because of diabetes complications, has been the best singer of the entire season, and would rank in any of the previous eight seasons. But she seems unapproachable at times, while her personal style is often more of a defiant statement than a compliant one. She doesn't seem to care what the judges or fans think. Inner confidence and toughness should help in her career, but won't necessarily score "Idol" votes. (And so what?)

MY SAY What happened to this season? Judges, music, mentors, contestants, one too many product placements? Who or what is to blame for the dismal, dull, downbeat ninth? Can't blame the mentors, some of whom (Usher, Harry Connick Jr.) were quite good. Music is music, though it's hard to fathom how "Idol" could turn theme weeks that revolved around Elvis, the Rolling Stones, Lennon-McCartney and Sinatra into such forgettable editions.

That leaves contestants and judges. As the former go, this was hardly a standout class - no Chris Daughtry or Melinda Doolittle or Glambert. They were all good, just not memorable. Finally, the judges. At moments we suspected that if rules had allowed, Simon would have literally phoned it in from his hermetically sealed limo. Instead, he often phoned it in from the panel. Bored? Yes, we know you were, Simon. And as newest judge and Paula Abdul replacement, Ellen DeGeneres was more of a distraction than valued contributor. Too famous, too funny, too middlebrow in her assessments, she did little to guide the contestants. That left the heavy lifting to Randy and Kara.

BOTTOM LINE It can't end soon enough.

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