Thursday, May 01, 2008


I’ve been a little out of commission lately due to a Hawaii trip, schedule changes at work, and my son’s upcoming graduation from collage (wow!). I intend to really start cracking the whip soon. There’s a lot I want to get to. But, for now, I wanted to stand up at the meeting and admit I am powerless over my disease. I watch American Idol.

As this season wheezes to a close, and in light of Paula Abdul’s career defining moment Tuesday, it seems like a good time to point out the think that is my very most favorite thing about American Idol – its utter amateurishness allows for real moments to crack through the feeble attempts at the show (the producers, if you don’t like me nebulizing the blame) “controlling” what’s going on. I think this is my favorite thing, in a way, about just about all reality shows that I watch – no matter how much people might realize that the things going on are on camera, ultimately in the live environment people can’t help but let themselves seep out through the thin spots of whatever image they are trying to construct. This is also why I don’t watch shows like the Hills which give me the existential willies, as they posit the emergence of a generation (albeit one that may be restricted to So Cal) who are their on camera persona. The abyss stares back.

Back to the point: I find it really charming that all the aspects of Idol seem locked down and controlled in a way that is so poorly executed that everyone can figure out what is really going on. Paula telling multiple versions how it happened? The gaff was obviously a ticking time bomb, and how they did not have an immediate meeting post Tuesday’s show to figure out their story is beyond me. Instead Lithgow blows up during the event (anyone had to know that would get out), Paula gives the “I read the notes for Cook” (which didn’t make any sense as an explanation as she liked Cook’s performance), then changes her mind on Seacrest’s show the next morning, essentially admitting to something damaging, only to have Seacrest bring the whole thing up in a particularly unsatisfying way on the results show, that served only to piss off people paying attention, and remind everyone else that it happened. This is lousy crisis management, but brilliant television.

The Idol producers have no idea how to run things in a professional manner. Their crisis response has always done more harm than good - their only good decisions seem to be when they decide to say nothing and wait it out. Otherwise it’s some version of the same story: first, lie really badly; then, go back on the lie without admitting the lie, and tell the partial truth, usually the most damaging part of the truth, cushioned by easily fact checkable lie; then, comment once more in a self defeating way, without apology, and in the most insulting way possible to the audience; finally, steadfastly pretend it never happened.

This kind of stuff is what keeps me watching the show. The way that they support and pimp plants and crappy singers that they, for some reason, want to see go all the way is what makes the perseverance of interesting or different people so compelling, and keeps me rooting for them when there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I WOULD EVER LISTEN TO THEM SING OTHERWISE!

Watching the show is like some crappy pop culture version of reading Moby Dick (my favorite book, which has been on my mind lately thanks to Battlestar Galactica), where watching the creation struggle against it’s bonds, the structure threaten to fall apart, and the (mostly not overtly present) creator(s) struggle and succumb to the untameable nature of what they created are the most gripping parts. Only Melville was a really terrific writer not an incompetent committee of producers.


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