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American Idol’s Sanjaya survives because he’s fun

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ALL SANJAYA, ALL THE TIME: There are other singers competing on American Idol this season, though it seems so very long ago now that we were talking about LaKisha Jones’ virtual lock on the prize, especially now that we’ve entered the Sanjaya era. One day we’ll all look back and laugh about this I’m sure – and if we haven’t, it’ll be because it has really been an alien plot, and we’re toiling in the guano mines for our sentient pigeon masters under huge murals of a porcelain-toothed, pony-maned Sanjaya.


According to Tom O’Neil on a Los Angeles Times entertainment blog, Sanjaya is a master showman of camp, playing on the same forthright but largely ignored strain of enthusiastic bad taste that gave careers to Liberace and Tiny Tim. He’s really just Taylor Hicks with better hair – a middling talent at best, but an enthusiastic performer delivering the goods to an audience that could care less about “song choice” or vocal chops.


“Sanjaya,” O’Neil wrote, “is exactly what "American Idol" deserves. Early on in the TV season producers played up the worst acts as a way to pump ratings. Now it's their own fault that one deliciously, hilariously lousy act survived and is drumming up legions of fans the same way that camp rockers like Ozzy Osbourne fill football stadiums - because they know how to ENTERTAIN.”


The rest of the contestants are exhausted and running on fumes, but Sanjaya is thriving, according to an L.A. Times blog devoted to Idol insider news. (If case you thought Metro was devoting a lot or resources to Idol, the L.A. Times should probably rename itself the L.A. Idol.) Joanna Weiss, TV critic for the Boston Globe, thinks Sanjaya is a master player, galvanizing a disparate fan base using everything from charm to appeals to pity, while the perverse element behind movements like votefortheworst.com tip the balance, and individuals like Brian Brickley of Burlington, Calif., who says he’s voted for Sanjaya about 300 times to amuse himself and make his fiancée mad.


“Sanjaya is bringing out all the people who would love to see the show a) brought down a peg or b) destroyed,” writes Ken Barnes on USA Today’s Idol Chatter blog. “They're the folks who would love to see Sanjaya win so the show takes a huge credibility hit and hordes of viewers decide never to watch again. They'd love to see it become a laughing stock. They'd love to see Simon squirm over his pledge to quit if Sanjaya wins. They're the kind of people who are sick of Idol striding over the contemporary TV landscape like a Zilla and would love for it to suffer a crippling blow.”


In the meantime, a woman who calls herself J has called off her hunger strike after 16 days for medical reasons, after pledging to starve herself to protest Sanjaya’s reign of terror, and none other than Little Richard told Access Hollywood’s blogger Laura Saltman that he loves Sanjaya but won’t see him win since “they will call American Idol a joke.” As for me, I’d be blissfully ignoring all of this if I wasn’t being paid to spend many, many waking hours contemplating it all; if anyone deserves pity right now it’s me.



rick.mcginnis@metronews.ca