Wednesday, January 18, 2006

American Idol Detour

***We interrupt this news and politics oriented blog for an American Idol commentary***

The world's most popular talent contest American Idol returned for another season last night and I took it in along with my wife(she's a big fan). Once again I marveled at the absolute ignorance and general lack of self awareness or dignity of most of the contestants. The lengths people go to embarass themselves is amazing and one would hope that someone would give them an honest critique of their performance before permitting them to be a potential target for Simon Cowell's acerbic(and most likely scripted) insults.

Well, let me back up a minute. There is no doubt that American Idol is a reality TV show which by definition means it is a carefully crafted reality versus an all access, raw footage reality like say Cops or the news. One example of this included the grandmother who said she would give the judges a piece of her mind if they rejected her grandson's horrible singing. Of course they obliged us with Simon Cowell leaving the audition room during a break, with security, and walking right past the waiting(and rejected) contestants. This of course produced a "confrontation" carefully instigated by host Ryan "Waiting for Dick Clark to Retire" Seacrest. The confrontation was contrived and about as spontaneous as breathing.

That being said, a smart viewer can actually figure a few things out. One, as my wife pointed out, is that when they show extensive footage of a contestant's personal life or hometown, then it is a safe bet, that person is going to Hollywood. Common sense simply dictates that AI is not going to waste sending a camera crew to Hoosierville, IN to film a contestant if they had not already been chosen to go to Hollywood. Also, it is very difficult to tell to what extent the certain bad singers are being egged on or even paid to exaggerate their defense of themselves as bad singers or even the outlandish reactions we get from them. In fact the show led off with a guy who claimed to be able to sing in three pitches, two of which are not even technical musical terms. He then was given a second chance to comeback and then we were treated to footage of him singing to people on the stree with Seacrest in tow to get a critique of his singing. Sure, maybe the guy stood in line for five hours and he really believes, as he said, that "he is so good it cuts off circulation sometimes" However, I have a hard time believing he acted this way of his own volition, which would be disturbing in and of itself considering he was not that good of a singer. Of course if that was the case, then Fox and AI are even more disturbing in their actions for manipulating the guy to act in this manner for the camera. My opinion: 10 to 1 he was an actor or 50/50 he was not but got paid anyway to exaggerate his behavior.

This is the real clincher of shows like AI and some of the worst reality based programming out there is how far the producers go to exploit people who are too ignorant to know they are being used. We saw numerous cases of people who could not sing, if Simon had taken a gun out and pointed it at them threatening to pull the trigger if they missed one note. What's more is that following these horrid performances Simon provided the entertainment value by comparing their singing to a cat or someone's aunt or some such nonsense as that. And while a great deal of crafty editing goes into shows like this, there are real instances where rejected contestants come out in a profanity laced tirade proclaiming themselves to be better than people who made and that one day they would be sorry that they rejected them when they reached stardom on their own. These are people are so far out of touch with reality that they think they can actually become famous in a business where the odds of even being discovered are remote already. It also should be noted that AI producers take X number of people from the 10,000 or so that stand in line. Of that number, they automatically take people they know have no prayer of getting past the judges but they do anyway because no one wants to tune in just to see the good ones. The bad ones make for compelling entertainment because, as NASCAR has proven, we enjoy the wrecks far more than the race itself. And if not, then why does the southbound lane of the interstate always slow down for a wreck on the northbound side? Simple, we enjoy wrecks, disasters, and general mayhem any way we can get it. AI provides that in droves, albeit, on a smaller scale.

Based on that the question begs to be asked: If aiding and abetting stupidity, self-delusion, or general insanity were a crime, how many indictments would we have against AI creator Simon Fuller and Fox? And how many of us would be indicted for conspiracy for watching it and speaking our own insults as we watched it? We laugh, we give them ratings to the tune of a 29 share, we talk about it with our friends and push daggers into these people 100 times more than what they received from Simon or the general experience. On the other side of the coin I am also a believer in a person being responsible for their actions. These people should know better and some of the reactions we get are comical because they act as though they have not been watching this show for the past four years and should know exactly what they are getting into when they sign the release forms to appear. Then again, Fox and AI have full intent of exploting people who, while they should know better, for some reason do not, and on some level that makes them morally bankrupt. So maybe the best thing is to turn it off and wait until the Hollywood section of the show when the best singers start singing. And perhaps friends and families of these poor deulsional folks should step up and be a real friend. As I told my wife during the second season, I want to got to AI auditions and sell T-shirts which say: "Friends don't let friends go on American Idol"

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