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?

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  • http://www.givememyremote.com gmmr

    CT – It sounds like you’ve never seen IDOL before :) It’s been this way for 6 seasons now. And I would venture to say that this season has been by far the least harsh when it comes to humiliating the not so talented contestants.

    I disagree that the show’s focus on the ridiculous is leading to its decline in credibility. I personally believe the decline has much more to do with the inability to turn its winners into superstars year in and year out.

    I find SYTYCD a far superior show, but that too focuses on the absurd and ridiculous contestants for far too long.

  • Stef

    Gmmr…I agree. This season seems to be a little softer than previous years.

    However I am also sick of the city auditions. Why can’t we get the 2, 2 hour episodes and that be it? They can edit a lot of stuff out. We don’t need to see all the crazies! It’s been done for the last 6 years, and we get it!

    I also hate how we get 1 Hollywood episode…that’s where the good stuff happens and we get to know the contestants more…but what should be a few episodes is 1 and what should be 1 is 3 weeks worth. Maybe the producers will get it right next year before the show loses too many viewers.

  • ct

    Gmmr – I respectfully disagree. As I said, if you look at season one, there was NOT this focus on the auditions, and the episodes which did focus on the auditions were not nearly so negative.

    Interestingly, I will say that last night’s episode – which I was forced, practically at gunpoint, to watch — was much less negatively skewed. And I’d be willing to bet CASH MONEY that the episode was re-edited following the massive amount of negative publicity — not to mention the decline in ratings (which, granted, was not monumental, but definitely noticible… including by the powers that be) which greeted the opening episodes of the season.

    But the first episodes of the season were as nasty, if not nastier, than those of previous seasons.

  • Crowned rules!

    I love Idol….I do think that contestants are being planted as Vote for the Worst has written:

    When American Idol debuted in 2002, its supposed goal was to find the best undiscovered talent in America. Singers like Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken, who had dreams of stardom but never had the connections, were catapulted to megastardom. The producers found diamonds in the rough and launched their careers. But a disturbing trend has surfaced with the spoiled contestants of American Idol 7 – they’re no longer even remotely undiscovered talent. A large percentage of them are failed singers and entertainers who have already had their shot at fame. Yet Idol thinks that repackaging these failures is a good idea to make us watch their show. Gone are the days where you or your friends could try out for Idol and make it big. Now you have to already have connections. Read on to find out more about how this year’s show will just be a boring hash of recycled pseudo-celebrities who weren’t good enough to make it the first time around. And keep checking back as this article is updated almost every day with new information.

    Thanks to sources like JoesPlace, Vote for the Worst has been checking out the contestants who have allegedly made it to the top 50 of American Idol 7. The top 24 has not yet been decided, and the dreaded chair episode has not yet been filmed. But already, we’re seeing a disturbing trend. To try to combat Sanjaya fever from last year, American Idol producers have gone out of their way to place people into the top 50 who already had a shot at stardom in the past. It seems like a good idea at first- they’re stacking the deck with professionals to try to prevent a Vote for the Worst takeover. But then you realize- if these people didn’t make it big before, it’s highly unlikely that people will care any more about them now. And if all of these people with industry connections made it to the top 50, what about the average Joes who are looking for their shot at stardom? Were they just cast aside this year to make way for the plants? It’s likely that if you tried out for the show and failed, or if a friend with an amazing voice tried out and was turned away, it was to make room for the established professionals. This is not to say that these ringers are any less deserving of stardom, or any less decent or nice, but that the days of everyday people becoming the next American Idol are over.

    The biggest offender by far is Irish singer Carly Smithson (formerly Carly Hennessy before she was married). During season 5, Carly was pimped by Simon Cowell before the show even started as “the only person I can genuinely remember from the auditions.” Simon said something similar about Carrie Underwood the season prior. Carly was fortunately dropped from the ranks for not having a visa. Nigel Lythgoe, one of the obnoxious executive producers of Idol, is already back to hinting about her even though she’s never said a word on the show. So why is Carly getting so much hype, and what happened in her past?

    Carly Smithson is the epitome of a record industry failure. She was brought to America by MCA Records and recorded a bland pop album that sold only 300 copies (that’s not a typo). Then she faded into obscurity. Now, a mastermind behind the scenes at Idol has decided that instead of just signing Carly to an Idol-affiliated record label, she should be pushed down America’s throats as a contestant on American Idol. Back with brand new tattoos and an “edgier” sound, the record execs connected to Idol are probably hoping that Carly will finally catch on when she’s featured on the #1 TV show in the country. To make things even messier, one of the songwriters for Carly’s album also wrote songs for the debut albums of Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, and Kimberley Locke. There’s a definite Idol connection here, folks.

    So what’s wrong with this? Well, it’s forcing Idol to expose its hand as the premiere marketing tool for struggling artists. Instead of discovering the next big superstar, music executives are deciding who should be popular and getting them on to Idol. Many people watch American Idol because they think they can help make the next big music star out of an Everyday Joe or Jane. But Carly and her large number of has-been companions are merely failed artists who are being planted on the show by their sources to promote themselves. Would the hundreds of thousands of people who auditioned this year be happy to learn that their spot was given to someone who already had connections?

    American Idol judge Randy Jackson was quoted in a Rolling Stone article as saying that people watch Idol for “the Rocky story in it…We’re not out to find the poster kids and say, “Let’s sign them.” We’re out to find the best undiscovered [talent] and really herald that.”

    “The best undiscovered talent”, eh? Apparently that quote was only valid back when it was said to Rolling Stone in 2006. And when he said it here in 2005. And here. And about 1000 times on the show. Simon says it here, that they ask every contestant when they try out if they think they are the best undiscovered talent in America. What is someone like Carly supposed to say? “Well, I’m talented, but technically not undiscovered.”

    The sad part is that Carly is not an exception this year. There are many, many more contestants who are supposedly in the top 50 and have failed careers. Michael Johns is another notable contestant. An Australian import, he was formerly the lead singer of a band called The Rising and a band called Film. He also changed his name from Michael Lee. Michael was signed to Maverick Records with Film, and they were supposed to release a debut album in 2003. But according to one of the group members, Michael allegedly screwed over Film by leaving the band and stealing their songs, claiming he wrote them. This guy sounds like a real winner. I wonder why he isn’t already famous?

    It doesn’t stop there. Here are some more has-beens who have failed at becoming famous yet snuck their way onto the show:

    Kristy Lee Cook was signed to Arista Nashville, had Britney Spears lined up to appear in her debut video in 2001, and is managed by Marty Rendleman, who previously managed Leann Rimes. She also apparently loves to alienate most of America by singing in front of a Confederate flag in a video. Looks like her connections may not help her after all…

    Lorena Pinot was in a post-Gloria-Estefan version of the Miami Sound Machine and toured internationally. She has recorded a solo CD and was planning on releasing it this year. How convenient.

    Jason Castro was on the television show Cheyenne and played the love interest of the main character.

    Robbie Carrico is a failed singer from the pop group Boyz N Girlz United (check out their terrible music video). The band opened for Britney Spears and LFO before disbanding, and he was even one of Britney’s first boyfriends. Robbie now fronts the band Missing Picket that rocks just about as hard as Daughtryback.

    Syesha Mercado was on the failed television show The One and is the daughter of a Motown backup singer.

    Shaun Barrowes is an established songwriter and producer for artists on Sony and Universal Records. His website states that he has “recorded, collaborated, and trained with some of the best musicians and music producers in the country; musicians with artist credits such as Madonna, Michelle Branch, Destiny’s Child, Stacie Orrico, Joe Cocker, ZZ Top, No Doubt, and many more.”

    Joanne Borgella is a plus sized model and won the televised beauty pageant Mo’Nique’s Fat Chance in 2005. She previously sang with Patti Labelle, Mary Mary, and American Idol’s own Bo Bice for a Christmas special. Joanne also appeared on the Tyra Banks Show, Good Morning America, and Hot 97 with Miss Jones.

    Samantha Sidley is currently pursuing her degree at the Berkley College of Music, which seems innocent enough. But no, in August of 2002 she performed “The YaYa Sisters – An Evening With Samantha Sidley and Katharine McPhee” at the Gardenia in West Hollywood. The same Katharine McPhee who became runner up during American Idol’s 5th season. The site also says Sidley’s “first tentative steps in the performing arts were as a 12 year old in a performance workshop with Peisha McPhee at Los Angeles City College. Samantha was also quoted as saying she would never try out for American Idol because she’s a jazz singer and not a pop singer. Odd that she changed her mind, huh?

    Amy Davis sang in a band with 2 members of Survivor and was a round 2 qualifier for 2007’s Nashville Star. She is also a fairly successful model.

    David Archuleta won Star Search at age 12. During Idol’s first season, he met all of the finalists and even sang for Kelly Clarkson and the gang. A few days later, David met with a host of record labels and producers with connections to the show.

    Brooke White opened for Phil Vassar on tour.

    And last but not least, Jermaine Paul made the top 50, but according to JoesPlace, he smartly dropped out. The biggest plant of all, Jermaine was already signed to J Records (home of Clive Davis, he who signs most of the winning Idols) and was nominated for a Grammy for a duet with Alicia Keys on her second album. Alicia Keys is known as Clive Davis’s most recent pet project. Jermaine also appeared on a remix to Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” as a part of the group Focus. Jermaine’s website has mysteriously disappeared recently.

    These are only the backgrounds from the contestants we know so far. There are still plenty more names to come, and we’re sure most of them have connections as well.

    So were the auditions just a formality this year? Because we’re fairly sure that if you have a Grammy winning duet with Alicia Keys, a producer credit on famous artists’ albums, or a prior relationship in show business, you probably weren’t waiting in line like the rest of the people who mistakenly assumed American Idol was a competition to find “the best undiscovered talent in America”. Then again, we all know what happens when you assume.

  • Crowned rules!


    Yee Haw!

  • shanna

    And all this bull is why I don’t (and won’t) watch a single hour of Idol ever.