THEY’RE HE-ERE: Thanks to judicious but generous sacrifices to various and sundry Gods, I’ve managed to avoid Idol duty this year. (I’ll never forget the face on the guy who sold me the live goats when I told him what they were for.) Still, ignoring Idol – much as I might want to – in the midst of the scorched earth of primetime is virtually impossible, especially in light of many confident predictions that its ratings will likely hover somewhere between the finale of M*A*S*H and the day when they break into the middle of Saturday morning cartoons and cooking shows to announce that the earth-killing meteor is on its way, and you can forget about paying off the mortgage or finishing your night school bartending degree.
Entertainment Weekly’s Leslie James Streeter covers the Idol beat for the magazine (“five months of (my) life every year to the coverage, consideration and critiquing of everything Idol,” the poor dear), and her recommendations for making those months tolerable took the shape of a list of everything Idol has done wrong since its reputed season 2 high point. The consistent critical dismissal of Jennifer Hudson and Elliot Yamin were credibility-blowing in retrospect, especially considering Hudson’s Oscar and 3rd-place Yamin’s hit album while Katherine McPhee and Taylor Hicks – 2nd and 1st place, respectively – recently lost their record contracts.
The unaccountable advancement of mediocrities like McPhee, Sanjaya Malakar and Antonella Barba, with the suspicious complicity of the judges, did a lot to make the show look like a fixed race according to Streeter, while last season’s contest-winning Idol song, This Is My Now, was as bad or worse than the professionally-written dreck featured in past season finales, and one suspiciously better suited to winner Jordin Sparks than runner-up Blake Lewis.
Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune is another pitiful soul stuck in Idol purgatory, and her Idol wish list was a plea for Fox to make the show more “bearable.” Don’t mock mentally handicapped hopefuls during the try-outs, Ryan begs, rein in Paula Abdul’s blubbering and non-sequiturs, try to make sure the finale doesn’t go overtime, and spare us Bette Midler – “How much pain do you expect us to endure, anyway?”
Ryan implores Idol’s makers to spare viewers “too many overly polished, robotic singers,” though there are rumours circulating already that a large minority of the top 50 singers have had some professional experience and even record contracts. Judge Simon Cowell has – once again – promised a reduction in the bland factor, but they say that every year. Taking the last season of Canadian Idol as an example, allowing contestants to accompany themselves with instruments was supposed to encourage idiosyncratic talents, but we still ended up with Brian Melo over Jaydee Bixby in the end. Try as you might to fix Idol – in every sense of the word – the sonic equivalent of Ipecac inevitably ends up triumphing on this particular American Blandstand.