Inside the American Idol Surprise: Idol Gives Back

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Thanks to USA Today for this in-depth look at the much-talked about American Idol surprise this season ...

The show will be adapted to become a two-night special (April 24 and 25) called Idol Gives Back. It's described as a special "raising awareness and funds for organizations that provide relief programs to help children and young people in extreme poverty in American and Africa."

On the 24th, the usual Tuesday performance show will feature the remaining six finalists singing songs "that can be considered 'Life Anthems' ... all the songs performed will be about compassion and hope." Viewers will cast their votes as usual, but show sponsors Coca-Cola and AT&T, along with other contributors, will donate money to the Chairty Projects Entertainment Fund, which will distribute funds to Save the Children and other U.S. organizations dealing with poverty in this country.

Idol Gives Back
CPEF will also distribute proceeds to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and other organizations involved with health and education programs in Africa.

The Wednesday (25) results show will be expanded to two hours (8-10 p.m. ET live/PT taped), adding a ton of entertainment, including Gwen Stefani, Josh Groban, Pink, Michael Buble, Annie Lennox, Il Divo and Borat Sagdiyev (aka Sacha Baron Cohen). Viewers will be encouraged to make their own donations on toll-free lines and the Internet, and the funds will be distributed similarly.

The charitable effort is a spinoff of the U.K.'s Red Nose Day, which according to the press release has raised $820 million via the BBC. Red Nose co-founder Richard Curtis, director of Notting Hill, Love Actually and other films, worked on Live 8 with Bono, who lent a quote for this occasion:

Said Bono: "We'll see worlds collide when Africa appears on America's most-watched TV show. This is a big deal, a little bit of pop history ... I wouldn't underestimate the reach of this show or the impact its audience can have."

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.