American Idol is a microcosm of all that's bad, and a little of what's good, in the U.S. right now.
I swore I wasn't going to watch it this season. First of all, I don't like watching TV. I mean, I actually do like watching TV at times, but mostly I feel the way I do when I eat cotton candy - I'm sluggish from too much sugar, and I didn't really enjoy the experience enough to merit that much sugar in the first place. And committing to watching American Idol is committing to spending many, many hours in front of the boob tube.
Secondly, I'm pretty sick of watching Randy, Paula, Simon and Ryan all make the same jokes, do the same things, make the same comments, etc. And I hate the audition segments, because I think, for the most part, they're cruel.
But I kept hearing hype that the singers this year might be the finest ever, and when Simon came on board and said that yes, he'd felt last season was weak, and yes, this season has enormous potential, I decided I had to check it out.
Mainly because I love music. And I love working with kids, and seeing these (mostly) quite young folks work so hard for their dreams can be inspiring. The music can be great, too, once you forget about Sanjaya. I end up watching the auditions to find out about the life stories. But as I said, I really don't enjoy the parts where the Big Three make fun of some poor, delusional, half-baby who doesn't have a clue of his or her utter lack of talent, so I was in and out of the room, reading sometimes, coming to the computer sometimes, etc.
Here are some things I took away, though:
1. The producers and big business who are fighting the writers during the writers strike are idiots. We so need interesting, well-scripted shows on TV. And writers deserve to be paid in the same way that the other artists who work on these productions are paid. Period.
2. If you want to see the whole "self-esteem" movement gone dramatically wrong, just watch the audition segments. Some of these kids are truly out there in terms of gauging their own talents. And the self-confidence of others is staggering, even when it shouldn't be. One young woman came out brimming with herself. She was eighteen. She delivered some nice singing, a la Carrie Underwood, whom she made no secret about being compared to. At the end of her audition, Simon looked up at her and said, "You're okay. But you're not as good as you think you are." And I say, "Thank you, Simon Cowell." Why? Because...
3. What kind of nut case parents are out there who feel that they need to coddle their adult children and guide their every direction and dream? Examples: the dad who gave his son a key around a chain, and carries a heart on a chain around his own neck, which he'll give to the boy to give to a girl when he marries that girl. This child is NINETEEN, and dad doesn't want him to even have a kiss until the wedding night. And sonny boy doesn't question this at all. Saving yourself for marriage - great - but a kiss is just a kiss. I'm sorry, but saying that sexual chemistry doesn't come into marriage at all is just wrong, and you can't have a thing, if you don't have that "swing."
Then there are the parents who gave their lovely, if completely non-singing, son both thumbs up in terms of his singing. And this young man is in his early twenties!
Then there are the mothers who let their children rant and rave and hit their butts to show Simon where he can kiss them on national television and the wimp head parent just stands in the background, smiling, while her daughter is rude and abusive.
And don't get me started on stage mothers or fathers who push an unwilling child into the spotlight to win lots of money for the family.
Okay, rant over.
The good parts? The kids who are truly talented, who understand the audition process, and who have worked hard to get to this point. These kids have given things up in their lives and they understand that this is a privilege, not a right. Watching the kids who will be in that final ten growing over the season will be like watching a small slice of the American dream unfold.
But, all in all, I'd rather read.
Remember, tomorrow by midnight is the last chance to join The Writing Game. Brillig, Sognatrice of Bleeding Espresso and Alex Elliot of Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting have all joined the rest of the crew since yesterday. Won't you join us, if you haven't already?