Inspiring Reality TV

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'American Idol' (Fox)

american idol

Sure, the tube's top-rated talent show has its share of weirdness and snark—particularly in the early going. But once the back stories are told and the songs start soaring, "American Idol" can manage to wring tears from even the most jaded of couch potatoes.

We won't even begin to single out one performer or one performance here. Rather, we'll go with one goosebump-worthy gimmick—the "Idol Gives Back"-themed shows that aired in 2007 and 2008. The charity shows, stocked with guest appearances and show-stopping performances, raised somewhere north of $130 million combined, with the proceeds going to a handful of charities in Africa and the United States.

One postscript: The show punted "Idol Gives Back" for 2009, citing the poor economy (according to the New York Post). So charities need less money during a recession,?

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