There’s a difference between laughing with someone and laughing at them.
Sadly, the folks pumping out endless audition episodes of AMERICAN IDOL haven’t a clue how to distinguish between the two. What’s even sadder is that the sorry mess that is the highest rated (although beginning to fade) show currently on the airwaves is brought to us by Nigel Lythgoe, president of 19 Television, which also produces the sublime SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE? Worse, Lythgoe serves as a judge on the dancing competition, where he actually offers thoughtful, balanced, constructive critiques as opposed to those offered by one-note Randy, waste-of-space Paula and Simon Cowell, who each and every week declares someones performance to have been the worst he’s ever seen, followed by the word “seriously.”
Then again, Lythgoe also knows that DANCE gets a fraction of IDOL’s audience.
Hard as it may be to believe, when IDOL launched back in 2002, there was only one episode focused exclusively on auditions before moving on to the Hollywood round. By season two, we were up to three audition-centric episodes, although even these focused more heavily on the talented singers than the so-bad-it’s-not-even-close-to-good performers. This season — the 7th — we’ve already suffered through four audition episodes, with no end in sight (if only because I’ve stopped looking).
Perhaps the biggest problem IDOL now faces is the fact that it is destroying any credibility it might once have had. By focusing so heavily on the completely ridiculous — such as the guy in a belly dancing outfit who then actually allowed cameras to capture the fun as he had his stomach waxed — IDOL has ceased being a show about talent and instead turned itself into a freakshow. Obviously, someone is screening those who want to audition (I assure you the judges do not see even half of the thousands who show up at each stop) and deciding to allow these untalented messes to go before the judges. Simon can pretend to be disgusted by the complete waste of time as often as he wants, but he knows it’s all part of the schtick.
In fact, it is our time being wasted, and he’s as guilty as anyone else.
Were Simon to offer even the occasional wise word as opposed to the caustic utterings which he seems to think pass as wit, I might be willing to forgive his nastiness. But some of what he says is just plain ugly. Recently, a young man dared to stand before the judges and declare that he had never kissed a girl. Not only did the show mock the young man’s relationship with his father by editing together a segment which turned his wholesomeness into something creepy, but Simon — in continuing his tradition of making extremly offensive, borderline homophobic remarks — suggested that the crooner should kiss Ryan.
You could actually see Randy and Paula cringe.
So while I’m a huge fan of well-done reality (and even some that isn’t so well done), I think I’ll be tuning out the rest of the audition episodes. I’ll check back in when the gang arrives in Hollywood and see if this year’s batch of contestants are worth rooting for. (Hopefully, they’ll be better than last year’s mostly forgettable lot.)
But for now, I’ll be looking for something else to fill those hours. And even with the writers strike, it should be easy to find something far more entertaining than this mess. ACCORDING TO JIM reruns, anyone?