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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Idolization!

Spoilers for American Idol's season finale here!

I've just finished watching the finale of American Idol for this year, and as in the past two years (I didn't watch the show in Year One), it was a fun ride. I occasionally disagreed with who got sent home, but I think that this year's final two (Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood) was one of two possible final two's that I would have expected (the other being Bo and Constantine Maroulis).

I was rooting for Bo Bice this year, having liked him as soon as I saw him way back in the Hollywood section of the show's run. I like the Southern Rock thing, and I thought that Carrie, while blessed with a tremendous voice, didn't always appear totally confident on stage. But Carrie won, and congratulations to her. I suspect that this year's dynamic might be a lot like that of two years ago, when Clay Aiken's losing to Ruben Studdard had no effect at all on his eventual career. I doubt very much if we've heard the last of Bo Bice. It's too bad that he came in second, but then, Americans seem to be generally suspicious of guys with long hair and beards. I honestly don't know why that should be, but there it is.

(BTW, we've now had eight Idol contestants reach the Final Two, and only one of those -- Justin Guarini -- has hailed from outside the South. What's up with that? Is there no one from the North, the West, or the Mountains who can break the South's stranglehold on Idol?)

And here's part of a post I wrote over two years ago, outlining just why I like American Idol so much. See you next year, Simon, Paula and Randy! (And Ryan too, I guess.)

I've also figured out why I like American Idol as much as I do. It's not because of the music, a lot of which is "take it or leave it". It's not because of Simon being mean, although I must honestly admit that this is why I started watching the current season -- I wanted to see if Simon is as mean as he'd been said to be. I've been wondering why I've kept watching this particular reality show, whereas just about all of the others send me racing for the DVD player. Then I happened to catch a few minutes of the syndicated version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and I remembered why I liked that show so much when it was on prime-time while I absolutely hated Survivor, which was then new, and why I still hate Survivor.

It's because, alone of just about all the other "Reality" shows, Millionaire and American Idol aren't about narcissism. They don't celebrate devious people scheming against others. They don't invite me into voyeurism on people who have nothing going for them other than their carefully-cultivated looks. Survivor, with its "alliances" and its schemes and plots and backstabbing reminds me of office politics, and if I hated office politics when I was actually working in an office, why on Earth would I want to see it played out on TV? Why on Earth would I enjoy watching the "Big Prize" won by a person whom I would probably detest if I had to endure that person in any kind of real life capacity? I think back to that Richard guy who won the first Survivor, and I remember watching his smiling trickery and thinking of all the people I've worked with, in various settings, who were precisely like him. That's the kind of person that "Reality" TV seems to elevate, and I prefer to not spend my leisure time watching TV shows that remind me of what a bunch of shits humans can be. (This is also why I don't watch C-SPAN.)

But in the case of Millionaire, I wasn't watching schemers and plotters and would-be Machiavelli's. I was watching some guy or some woman who might work in some decent, if not particularly posh, job trying to win a lot of money merely by knowing some stuff. That I could like. And in the case of American Idol, I may not entirely like the music on display (although I did enjoy last night's episode, which focused on Billy Joel songs) and I may not care for the contestants' senses of style, but I have to love the cameraderie that exists among them. When one of them is eliminated from the competition, the runner-up invariably bursts into tears as they realize they've dodged the bullet that the person whose hand they're holding has just taken in the chest, and then everyone else gathers around the soon-to-be-gone person to wish them well. And it's not about plotting or forging alliances; Clay and Ruben don't get together to try to get Trenyce voted off, or some similar nonsense -- it's just a group of people, dwindling by one each week, each of whom is working hard to take advantage of a particular talent they've got and hopefully grab an opportunity that they otherwise might not have had. Yes, Simon can be very caustic, but the main draw for me is watching these people put their talent on the line, saying "This is what I got, America. I hope you like it." I appreciate that a lot more than watching a motley group of people who haven't showered in three weeks banding together to take down the other folks.

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