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The Worship of False Idols - April 27

I freely admitted in this very column that I no longer watch American Idol, and have not since the first series so many years ago. Even so, I'm compelled to put fingers to keys after what's been going on this year.

From what I've heard, this last season is the one where the wheels have finally fallen off of the cart. With possibly the weakest group of finalists ever to set foot on stage, as well as an underground subversive group that was hell bent on making Sanjaya Malakar the winner despite the fact that the guy can't carry a tune in a bucket. But even that could be understood. I laughed out loud at the idea of a voting bloc trying to upend the whole process.

The one thing that has sent the franchise into a downward spiral for me is the recent Idol Gives Back charity special. Make no mistake, the problem isn't with the raising of money for a good cause; I'm all for that. The problem was in the execution. The rules for this "very special episode" changed, but the rug was pulled out from under everyone at the end. The voting period was extended from two hours like normal to four hours, in order to encourage more people to vote. Each vote cast meant that the production company would make a small donation to various charities. (I'm guessing that the show gets a decent chunk of money for each vote cast; but I've been wrong before). The charitable donation was capped at $5 million, meaning that 50 million votes would count toward the donation goal. American Idol routinely gets those kinds of voting totals, so it is no surprise to find out that 60 million votes were cast, surpassing the donation cap by 10 million.

But that's not the big problem I have. I've often noodled around with the idea of a Non-Elimination Week for American Idol, and for every reason to do it, I can come up with an equally bad reason to not do it. The main problem is that a Non-Elimination Week is that it eliminates the relevance of the voting. If you tell people straight away that for this week, no one is going home, then you won't get any votes. That poses a tiny bit of a problem. If you drop the other shoe at the end, like happened this week, then the viewers who did cast a vote feel cheated; their vote doesn't matter. (Though the producers escaped this problem a bit by saying that the votes would carry over for the next week. But I still don't like it.)

(Ed: There was a non-elimination week in season 2 when Corey Clark was disinvited from the competition)

Just like everything else in Hollywood, American Idol is ruled by money. As long as the show is profitable, it will stay on the air, cranking out scads of pop performers who will fade into obscurity; and every once in a while they'll find someone with actual talent. Even so, I still won't be watching.

Travis Eberle sings a wicked rendition of Pinball Wizard. Drop him a line at traviseberle@gmail.com to take a listen.

 

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