Idol Thoughts

I have a few things to say about American Idol before the season gets filed in the TV archives. Many people have told me and I have often read on-line that this has been “the most boring season yet. Worst year ever. No talent. AI is done. The phenomena is over. It’s going downhill.”

Wait! Worst year ever? NO TALENT?

Can you say Melinda, Lakisha, Jordin, Blake, Gina, Chris, even Phil if he’d kept a stetson on his balding* head and truly channeled Garth? Excuse me, but when did a lot of talent turn into NO TALENT? You see, this is the problem. We hard-core Idol fans are desensitized. We’re experts now, so the slightest break in a warble becomes a reason to dismiss someone as a hack, has-been, get rid of ’em no talent. We want the BEST? And we got it. Think about it. Would any of the superstar guests actually get into the top twelve today? Which ones? Akon? Gwen? Barry? uh-hem.

Of course, getting rid of the contestants is the whole point and so the unpredictability of both the performances and the results is the hook, and it works. It worked this year too.

“Idol’s going down hill?” I get cranky when people start making sweeping statements based on a 10% dip in a couple of shows. Let’s face it, part of the dip is do to some valiant efforts of competing networks, and the age of AI itself. There will be attrition. There always is. So what’s the problem this year?

2007 may have produced the most talent ever. And this talent weeded out most of those who might have brought controversy to the show. There were so many strong, interesting voices and personalities–especially among the ladies–that there was no room of those who might develop as the season went on. We even had to lose two fabulous competitors in Stephanie Edwards and Sabrina Sloan.

The only weak link in the beginning appeared to be the men and they were more diverse than the women. However, the men failed to step up and it was only the numbers quotas (12 guys, 12 girls and later 6 guys, 6 girls) that kept some of them on the stage. The final twelve all gave at least one good performance (I would argue this is not true for Sanjaya, but there are those including the judges who thought he acquitted himself well on Latin night).

And the Top 12 bonded. They didn’t even seem to resent the fact that Sanjaya stole the stage from more worthy candidates. The biggest factor to the “It’s boring” comment is that every one of the final 12 idols seemed to be genuinely friendly, passionate, caring, non-controversial, unrebellious, and well, NICE. Anyone will tell you, “nice” is boring. The only two who provided any attitude were Sanjaya and Lakisha. SANJAYA! How can a show have Sanjaya in it and be boring? And Lakisha, her ‘tude was subtle and wouldn’t even have shown if the rest of them weren’t wearing those toothy grins.

But what most people fail to talk about is the good that American Idol does. Why it ultimately succeeds every season. Idol creates uncommon common ground. While it’s always different each season, the basic elements of the show bring people together, exposing them to a wider variety of music and talent than any other program before. While the demographic may be younger (I have no idea about the stats), the audience overall is composed of people of all ages, colors, tastes.

My daughter still can’t get over the fact that Chris Daughtry lost. I still miss George Huff. This year my mother-in-law loves Melinda, can’t understand a word of Blake’s music (it all sounds alike), and claims a great injustice has been done. But, every Friday at lunch, we engage in a lively conversation about music, people who strive, digging deep to keep one’s determination, living through disappointment. All because of Idol. This is bad? This is boring? A show that brings together generations to discuss life lessons such as what it takes to do the best you can, to be critiqued and live through it, to be dumped from the show and end up on the charts for, what, over 20 weeks?

No. The premise and the people aren’t boring, but the audience demands lively entertainment and the show is often crass, over dramatic, stagy, and manipulative. And that CAN get boring. It’s up to the producers to respond by listening to the fans and to continually refine the format.

Who will win? Bottom line: it doesn’t matter. What IS really important , as in real life, is the journey and where it takes you.

*I mean no offense to bald people. There’s good bald (Chris Daughtry, Michael Stipe, Ben Kingsley, Bruce Willis, Telly Savalas) and bad bald (Donald Trump, Britney Spears). Sorry Phil. Take a hint from Kenny. He is NEVER without a hat.

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