First, I apologize for missing last week's episode of American Inventor while I was in Savannah for the 2005 Inc. 500 conference (which was amazing, by the way.)

Last night's episode marked the end of a nationwide search for a truly great invention. It opened with New Yorker Joey Cup-of-Coffee whose vocabulary actually consists of "bada bing" and "fug-ged-a-bow-tit." His revolving, single-serving hot water dispenser was practical, aesthetic, and--best of all--fun to use. I nearly fell out of my armchair when he described the inspiration for his appliance as being a dream where he was shot with a revolver filled with alternating streams of coffee, tea, and soup. Joey did a victory boxing dance when he won approval from the requisite three judges, which sparked a montage of my favorite judge Ed connecting with contestants.

I like Ed Evangelista a lot. He's an ad guy, sure. He's kind of short (even TV can't mask that). He's a touch pandering, undeniably, but I admire this trait of his, of his ability to find a common factor between himself--a married, corporate, Caucasian man with a wife and 2.5 kids--and those less fortunate masses who have sacrificed mortgages and marriages to bring their vision to life. Ed is also the most delicate of the bunch who all seem either incapable of tactfully declining to send a ridiculous invention (AHEM centerpieces?) to the next round or are too concerned with melodrama for the sake of ratings. In my opinion, none of the judges have mastered the art of the fast and witty insult network television audiences have come to expect, and the value they bring to the table should be their area of expertise. I would much rather hear Doug share brilliant insights into the world of engineering and innovation than his flat summaries of the auditioning invention ("So, this is a cup holder?"). At least Ed shows us why he is on the panel--he is the man who is everyman, who appreciates beautiful women, sports, and family life. He's an easy man to like, lacking the stiff pomposity inherent in co-producer and fellow judge Peter.

Peter, who I suppose was supposed to be the Simon Cowell doppelganger, is starting to grate on my nerves even more than Mary Lou (almost impossible to beat for the title of most irritating). When he rejected the hamster ball baby car seat, I nearly flipped my coffee table over. Not only did the inventor have a compelling, heartbreaking inspirational story, but the invention is actually a really GOOD solution to a HUGE problem. His unwillingness to take the safety device to the next round, his blindness to the potential of the product, just infuriated me. His dismissal of the car armor couple saddened me, too. And I wondered later on in the show, when we met the woman with the character-building bear, what the simple and rugged truck drivers were thinking. A stuffed animal makes it to the next round and an indestructible vehicle shield does not? I am baffled.

Confusion notwithstanding, I can't wait for next week to revisit some favorites from the past month and meet the inventors ABC saved for deeper into the series. It'll be tough to top the remote leash ("I'm really surprised") or Rowena Starling's recording ("Wake up. Wake up. Wake up."), but just as American Idol lured us in with tragicomedy and won our loyalty with Cinderella stories, American Inventor promises to get seriously addictive for geeky consumers like me.