Wednesday, March 28, 2007

An anti-talent contest

If you've been anywhere near a television, the Internet, or one of the millions upon millions of viewers who adhere themselves to American Idol every week, you've no doubt heard the complaints. One of the contestants, picked by many as the worst ever participant in the televised talent show, somehow keeps sticking around. Admittedly, a good portion of this is due to Howard Stern and Vote For The Worst, who have both picked Sanjaya Malakar, he of the flowing tresses and questionable vocal skill, but that can't be the only reason he's still around. It's even gotten to the point where people are starting to whisper in hushed tones, "What happens if he wins? Does that destroy AI, and the faith that we, as Americans, can put into our reality television?"

Over here at the CSM, we find it a little ridiculous that people are postulating that a Sanjaya win could mean the end of credibility for the ratings powerhouse. Truth be told, we find it a little ridiculous that a talent show like this (or, even worse, So You Think You Can Dance?) can be considered a ratings powerhouse, but that's neither here nor there. On the subject of credibility, we could understand if the program was anything more than a televised popularity contest, but it's not. And, every once in awhile, the geeky kid with the faux-hawk and the nails-on-a-chalkboard voice comes out on top. Want proof? Reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Besides, the notion of something like AI having any credibility to lose is a bit of a laugh, anyways. True, it has produced award winners like Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson. Except that Jennifer Hudson won her award by following a different path, actually having been voted off of AI during her stint. And remember how we (as the American consumer) were expected to choke down Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, and Kelly Clarkson for a few years? The only one with any real modicum of success was Clarkson, and she got it by abandoning the styles that Idol had groomed her for. And don't even get us stated on the whole Taylor Hicks/Katherine McPhee thing from last year. Yeah, we've got a McPheever... but we took some DayQuil, and are feeling much better.

When a program claims to be about supporting the best in talent, and yet every year forces its audience to sit through not one, not two, but three WEEKS of "audition" footage, showcasing just about every single bad (and/or crazy) singer, while barely even allowing glimpses of the gifted performers, you've lost some credibility. When people show up in costumes to the auditions because they know they've just increased their chances of getting highlighted on something other than According to Jim, you've failed as a brand maker. When the decision is left in the hands of the American public, as opposed to people who actually understand music (come on, folks... Kelly Osbourne had a brief musical career because people recognized her family line, and yet Common Rotation can't get radio play), the country as a whole has shot themselves in the foot. And when a website like VFTW pops up, and draws as much support as it does, you know you've crossed over into unintentional comedy.

We can't even take the hunger strike girl seriously.

Honestly, we didn't expect to spend this much time discussing American Idol over the course of a full year, let alone in one day. And yet we were compelled to drink the Kool-Aid, and join with the millions of other bloggers who have already given their opinion (and will simply recycle those posts again next week, should Sanjaya stick around). So we say, by all means, support those you feel do the worst job. Vote loudly and often for the people who have no business actually receiving your vote. And when the inevitable demise of American Idol comes, be prepared to wave a torch around the funeral pyre, but be aware that you may have also helped usher in a new era of bad script writing to fill the void left behind.

After all, if it works for the American political system, why can't it work for American Idol?

No comments: