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David Cook

There may have been two Davids in the "American Idol" finale, but there's no Goliath.

No matter the winner, there's a glitch in the "Idol" star-maker machinery. Ratings are down. Charisma and energy are missing.

"Idol" is having an identity crisis, and not just because two guys, David Archuleta, 17, and David Cook, 25, with the same first names were the top two finalists.

This year, there are plenty of winners and losers to go around.

Losers: The judges, who've spent an entire season phoning in their critiques. It wasn't just Paula Abdul who embarrassed herself by reviewing a song that hadn't been sung yet. Randy Jackson stuck to a tired script of phrases like "It was just all right for me." Simon Cowell seemed completely disengaged. If they don't care enough to be excited, why should we?

Winner: The person who decided to let contestants play instruments. The innovation proved "Idol" is capable of making the changes necessary to get back on track. Brooke White's piano, David Cook's guitar, even Chikezie's just-learned-it harmonica were all welcome additions.

Winners: Clean-speech advocates, who appreciated the various exclamations of "gosh" uttered eight times by David Archuleta (in a slight Napoleon Dynamite voice) during his visit to his hometown. David A. has made wholesomeness safe again for America's youths. Don't you just want to squeeze his head off?

Loser: Jeff Archuleta, who was banned from his son's rehearsal sessions, an indication the rumors of his stage-dad ways are true. Maybe this is why poor David A. looks like a deer frozen in the headlights as he awaits the judges' comments.

Loser: The questions-from-viewers-at-home segment that helped fill the empty minutes of those hourlong "Idol" results episodes. Why did the producers persist in running the questions on the giant screen before the fans had a chance to ask them via phone? To make it extra boring?

Losers: The girls instructed to stand in front of the stage and wave their hands, pretending they're thrilled by every performance. Next year, let's give them cigarette lighters to hold up, to make it extra hokey.

Winner: After serving as an "Idol" mentor, Neil Diamond racked up his first No. 1 album. Berate "Idol" for its faults but fear its power.

Loser: Musical theater legend Andrew Lloyd Webber, who seemed way too geeked at being an "Idol" mentor (and proved how irrelevant he is to current audiences when Jason Castro admitted he didn't know "Memory" was sung by a cat).

Winner: Carly Simon, who wasn't a mentor and still got an "Idol" publicity bump, thanks to Brooke White's Carly-like vibe.

Loser: The bandannas favored by top-24 finisher Robbie Carrico, whose attempt at a rockin' head wrap only spurred rumors he was bald.

Winner: Ascots, the effete neck scarves that inched back toward coolness when Australian Michael Johns wore them.

Loser: Ryan Seacrest, for milking the drama the night Johns got kicked off. Seacrest first paused to remind viewers nobody was sent home last year on "Idol Gives Back" week. Then he gave Johns the boot. Nice fakeout — if you're a sadist.

Winner: David Cook's hairdressers. Cook started off as a permanent hair don't with a combed-forward 'do and stringy bangs. The stylists tamed his locks, and Cook helped matters by wisely making fun of himself and revealing his big-head baby pictures.

Winner: Dreadlocks. We love you, laid-back dude Jason Castro, but we can't imagine you reaching the final four with a buzz cut.

Winner: Arm tattoos, which helped Carly Smithson connect with younger viewers even as the judges tried to beat the angry spunk out of her.

Loser: Full body tattoos, which made Smithson's husband look weird and scary to older viewers at home and probably cost her some votes. Leave the total inkage to Michael on "Prison Break."

Loser: Amanda Overmyer, the skunk-haired nurse who finished 11th, one short of making it into the "American Idols Live!" cross-country tour.

Winner: Overmyer's tough-chick credibility, which would have been ruined by a summer of "Proud Mary" medleys.

Winner: The hauntingly beautiful "Hallelujah," which soared in popularity when Castro performed it.

Loser: Former winner Fantasia, who earned a stare of bafflement from Cowell near the end of her no-holds-barred guest performance last week. Either he hated the song or ... he really hated it.

Winner: Broadway musicals, which have become a career opportunity for "Idol" alums like Fantasia, Clay Aiken, LaKisha Jones and (soon in the "Grease" revival) Taylor Hicks. Most likely to join the list next is Syesha Mercado, who was practically dragged to the exit by the judges and flown to a "Rent" audition.

Winner: Country music. With Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler paving the way for beautiful blondes with a twang, Kristy Lee Cook should find a happy home in Nashville.

Loser: David & David, the '80s pair who scored a hit with "Welcome to the Boomtown." The song is so obscure now, nobody's even suggested it for a David A. and David C. duet.