Thursday, May 26, 2005

American Idol

I'm not much of a culture snob, but I just don't get American Idol. I'd never seen the show before this season, when I tuned in for about 15 minutes during one episode. It didn't do much for me.

But millions of Americans can't be wrong, so in honor of last night's Idol finale, here's a link to Matt Labash's brilliant piece, False Idols, from a couple years back:
THERE WAS A TIME, not long ago, when primetime television was populated by famous people. Someone appearing on TV meant that they'd likely worked their way up through the ranks: doing school plays, regional theater, and embarrassing commercials, until finally, they honed their skills, perfected their craft, and slept with the lecherous casting director who'd cause them to become obscenely wealthy and loved by millions.

These days, however, television isn't so much about being famous, as it is about auditioning to become famous. With televised tryouts being the entire point of such shows, aspirants of fame, even in failure, still become quasi-famous by default. There are nights when one can tune into network programming and see nothing but wall-to-wall talent shows. In just the past season, there's been the Debbie Allen-hosted "Fame," a creaky brand extension of the early '80s incarnation in which Cocoa, Bruno, and the rest of the leg-warmer wearing cast would break into song at the slightest provocation. Then there is "American Juniors," in which the cloying, over-rouged Jon Benets of today strive to become the cloying, overexposed Celine Dions of tomorrow.

But with a glut of such shows evidenced by the likes of "30 Seconds to Fame"--in which a contestant has all of a half-minute to say, turn his nostrils inside-out to the delight of an ADD-afflicted crowd--it is time to get back to First Principles--to the show that spurred it all--"American Idol." . . .

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