Thursday, February 01, 2007

Snap judgement: American Idol

Although I am fan of America and singing, I had never seen American Idol. That is not to say I don't have a substantial body of knowledge pertaining to the show. American Idol is a viewer participatory competition with real time aspects to it. It also dominates the ratings with its rapidly growing audience. This combination results in it getting covered like a sporting event, and a consumer of media like myself can not help but being attuned to its goings on.

Already up to the waist in American Idol, last night I decided to take my maiden hour-long swim.

The show started by introducing us to a rather unusual contestant. A young Los Angeles man who had, oddly, taken on the mannerisms and demeanor of a wild panther. Despite his handicap, panther man expressed his desire to make his mark as a singer and dancer and in a host of other entertainment-related fields generally closed to members of the big cat family.

His first step was to impress the judges of American Idol. He stalked around the stage, growled and violently hooked his imaginary claw at imaginary threats. I was wondering if he would sing and finally, with prodding from the judges, he did.

I've never really thought much about it, but if a panther was to sing it would probably be in a high pitched rapid fire falsetto -- which he'd alternate with primal hisses. And that's exactly what this panther man did.

I didn't expect the judges to pass him to the next round. America is not ready for an idol so genuinely feline. But I was surprised by the curtness all the judges -- not just Simon Cowell -- dismissed him with. The guy really was like a panther. I would have at least expected an acknowledgement of his uniqueness.

Although maybe the chimera contestant is commonplace. If so, I could see that getting tiresome.

Grease star and pop singer Olivia Newton-John made a special appearance last night as a guest judge. Newton-John is the granddaughter of Noble Prize winning quantum physics pioneer Max Born. Fascinating lineage aside, I can not imagine anyone contributing less to an hour of television than Olivia Newton-John did yesterday.

Going forward, the show followed the expected formula of a quick back story followed by the audition. About half the applicants were good and half really bad.

As for the really bad, I was expecting having-fun-with-it bad. The kind of bad that made William Hung an international sensation for a week or two a few years back.

What I got was tragically delusional bad. The kind of bad that starts with singing worse than me in the shower and ends with begging and hysterical tears.

There is nothing fun about that kind of bad. I would rather be forced to spend the day staring bums in the eye than have to watch a sobbing, crestfallen 18-year old girl be told her voice is an act of aggression (and agree completely with the assessment.) If this is the appeal of the show, they may as well start broadcasting Gitmo interrogations.

Not all the tears came after bad auditions. There was one almost touching moment when some old codger who had to petition to be on the show -- there is a 16 to 28 age limit -- sang a song for his "lady friend" recently deceased. He was a good singer, and his performance triggered unrestrained weeping in Paula Abdul.

I found something out about myself last night. When Paula Abdul cries . . . let's just say it wasn't my manliest moment.

The hour ended with hijinks born from an inside joke I didn't get. The judges all chased each other around the studio, at one point almost knocking over host, ever-tanned Ryan Seacreast, who no longer employs the "Seacreast out" catchphrase. I heard people found it annoying.

For the most part, I hated my hour with American Idol. I will never watch it again. Its popularity is grotesque and scary. Even more so than the hideous man-beast hybrids I now find myself imagining.

Because I don't like to end a post with such negativity, I will note that the girl who was runner up last year is very nice looking.

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