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Dilution - November 10

So we all want to be a star. We all want to be on television. We all want our 15 minutes of fame. Even if we take 15 seconds of that to appear on Playmania and record ourselves on YouTube and remain there for all eternity, at least we are famous for that brief shining moment. Just take our staff and contributors alone – many of them (Jason Block, Aaron Huertas, Travis Schario, Jason Hernandez, et al.) not only savor those moments, but see them recycled as we keep using those times as reference points. Hence, the ability to be on television is a powerful device that should never be downplayed.

We all know that fact. So do television networks, who, in order to get you to watch their programming, have created the hooks of you fulfilling your dream to be on television and be a star. American Idol, of course, was the show that finally extended the envelope, the mantra being ‘come to one of 6 auditions and if you’re good enough, you’ll come to Los Angeles to audition and maybe appear on television’. But hold on…there’s more. ‘You don’t even have to be good. Just be memorable, and we’ll guarantee that you will get your 15 minutes’. Hence, we not only see the best singers on the air (and the worst singers on the air), we also get the people who are there for their 15 minutes, such as a Chris "Remember Taboo? That was good" Wylde or William Hung, who took those 15 minutes and created a very comfortable lifestyle for themselves.

And now, with the industry finally realizing that the best way to get to those precious 16-25 year old demographic is via the internet, it’s gotten even easier to be a star. Just pick up a MySpace account and you can apply to be a comic, thanks to TBS. You could have tried to be on NBC's online show Star Tomorrow, thanks to their website. It's only going to be a matter of time until you can reserve your online spot to audition for American Idol or America's Got Talent.

But is this really a good thing? Sure, it extends the American dream, but by allowing anyone to be a star, it also dilutes the product. Although there have been many people who have been on American Idol throughout the years, there has been no one that’s transcended super-stardom like Kelly Clarkson did in season 1, or has had the vocal chops like Clay Aiken or Ruben Studdard in American Idol 2. I’m not saying that Fantasia and company aren’t talented – they most certainly are – but the last 3 winners have been great, but not superstars.

Now you could argue with me that Carrie Underwood, who has bagged many a country award, is a country superstar, and you would be correct, but that’s not the point of American Idol. The point is to find a superstar who can excel in any genre thrown at them, and there hasn’t been anyone in the past 3 seasons who has been able to do it.

Part of the problem is Idol itself, as there have been countless stories of the producers eliminating polished talent in favor of raw (and perhaps more marketable) voices. Idol has tried to fix this by extending out the age requirements, but the more recent winners have been the people in the upper age bracket. The audience has acknowledged that substance trumps style, and the sooner that Idol realizes this, the sooner that we will be presented a more well-rounded product.

But Idol, like any talent show, is only as good as the talent that auditions for them. And this is where the age of the internet may come back and haunt Idol. A friend of mine was going to go to the auditions – and then saw the line, quit after waiting for 6 hours, and then applied for another talent show via the web. His answer was that he saw who the producers were looking for – or maybe what they were not looking for – and he was convinced that a polished voice would not get a chance to audition for the judges. Unfortunately, he’s probably right.

If the people that Idol needs don’t show up to the auditions, then Idol is stuck with what they get. Because why travel for 500 miles and wait for 12+ hours on a line for 15 minutes of fame when you can do the same thing from your own home using a video camera and YouTube? It would be a pity, if instead of Idol finding the next superstar, they were relegated to finding the next new hot dish for the next 15 minutes, but if Idol doesn’t upgrade their standards and reach out to that audience, then the only thing they will be known for in the next few seasons is one artist that lasts for a CD or two and lots of forgettable talent that will be displayed more for people to take pot shots at than enjoy what they bring to the table. And YouTube will be there to cover every second of it.

I have already gotten email on this. Thank you very much for the feedback. I should add in this disclaimer – these are traditional strategies used to USUALLY beat the games. Of course, should the producers be mean and nasty (like put both a 1 and a 2 in the price of a high priced car in Ten Chances, etc.) then some of the strategies go out the window, but I am writing this assuming that the producers are going to play nice and set up the games the way that they traditionally have been setting.

Any Number – The 0 rule is usually in effect on this game, which means that the car’s last digit is usually 0. Avoid the 9 and 5, however – usually, they are in the price of the second item (695, 895, etc.). When in doubt, go low – chances are that there are high numbers in the first digit of the optional prize and the Piggy Bank, so if you can pick the second number of the car first, stay low for the 3rd and 4th numbers.

Balance Game - With 3 amounts that you have the option of using, you can usually rule out the lowest combination. This leaves the highest number as one of the mandatory digits to use, which increases your chance to win from 33% to 50%.

Barker's Bargain Bar - This is going to seem silly, but it's true. Pick the lower priced item. In over a whopping 75% of the time, the lower priced item is the bigger bargain. The number skyrockets to over 85% when you are looking at two trips.

Gordon Pepper didn't scream "WHAT?!" at last week's CMA Awards. E-mail him at to tell him what a good sport he is.


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