Tuesday night, American Idol’s cover was blown. Given Paula Abdul’s witless stumble by assessing a song by Jason Castro which he hadn’t even sung yet (at least, beyond rehearsals), it was painfully evident that this show isn’t on the up and up. Instead, as has been hinted in the past, and made clear by Paula Tuesday, judges watch rehearsal performances of songs and make notes, as Paula did, then base their live-show comments largely (if not solely) on that, while the viewing public votes on what could have been an entirely different (better or worse) performance. And that’s just the tip of the dishonest iceberg, given suspicious voting results in the past, the lack of a Price Waterhouse style tabulator of the tally, and the way contestants are maneuvered by the show and its judges, from placement on the program to wildly off-base critiques.
Since Tuesday, the show has spun this disaster with a deluge of damage control. Abdul went on Idol host Ryan Seacrest’s radio show to offer her lame and ludicrous explanation that she was reading from her notes about the NEXT singer (David Cook), even though she never said either of David’s songs were lackluster, as she did of Jason’s second song. So how could that be? Abdul also went on Entertainment Tonight (Propaganda-R-Us) to excuse her mistake by claiming Tuesday’s show was terribly “confusing!” Actually, it was a simple setup: All singers sang one song first without judging, and before starting the second set of songs, judges were asked for a sweeping evaluation of the show’s first half. Ever-rambling and ever-dimwitted Paula then veered into “Oh no — she said that?” territory. Guess she was just “confused.” But Randy, Simon, Ryan, the contestants, the audience and home viewers weren’t confused. Only Paula. I’m not sure that counts as “confusing.”
Other entertainment “journalists” also backed her up, including on CNN, where their guy said “Let’s be fair to Paula.” Uh, why must we? And who’s being “unfair,” anyway? Besides, this is a legitimate news story, and it’s not about being fair or unfair to anyone. It’s about Paula exposing the show, big-time, and us trying to deal with that and understand it, while being fed lies and spin. Besides, a journalist’s job isn’t to be “fair” to those who have screwed up but to do a thorough, dutiful and diligent job for his or her listeners or readers.
Then Idol spun things on its results show, starting with Paula’s suddenly sweet, pure-as-snow attire and look, instead of her usual vulgar, provocative, fashion-victim look, a change which reminded me of the way Anna Nicole Smith would dress conservatively for her court appearances. Then Ryan lobbed Paula fawning, attention-drawing, softball questions from viewers so she could beam and preen and reiterate her mission statement (she’s there to prop up bad performers, since no one else will, the facts be damned). And, of course, Ryan snipped about “rumors” (without naming them) and saying how they were all “untrue.” So, anything negative we’ve heard or surmised about Paula and the show is a “rumor” and is “untrue”? Well,that’s a relief. Thanks for clearing that up, Ryan!
One of those rumors may concern Paula’s mental state and whether she’s medicated or “on” something. Actually, in terms of the context, I could care less about that rumor. It’s immaterial to me if Paula had a sip or a pill or anything before going on Tuesday’s show. That’s beside the point and diverts attention from what matters. No, the point here is that, by Paula’s gaffe of historic proportions, THIS SHOW WAS CLEARLY EXPOSED FOR FALSENESS, and NO ONE IS OWNING UP TO IT. They’re acting like it’s all a case of “rumors” or “being unfair” or “hey, it was confusing, so lighten up,” when in truth, it is what it is: a look behind the curtain which damns the show and its dishonest process.
Beyond judges watching rehearsals and having pre-written comments (and written by whom?), is the fix in? Oh yes, and it could be even worse. After all, mountains of money are at stake, and mountains of money have a way of affecting things a tad.
But wait — I’m sorry. This was just a matter of things being “confusing.” And to say otherwise is “unfair” and “a rumor.”
Riiiight. But I’m not buying it. And given the sorry performances of late, when even the two Davids have disappointed me, and given the contrastingly knockout performance by solidly profesional Natasha Bedingfield on Wednesday’s show (why can’t we hear more singing like that?), and given the coddling of Paula and the institutionalized lying of this program and so much else that emanates from Hollywood, I’ve decided this: that’s it. I will finish out this season, then I’m done with Idol. Millions of others already have defected, and Paula’s gaffe — and the dishonest way it was handled — have tipped me in their direction.
The judges are stale and useless (“that sounded like a ((insert: cruise ship, wedding party, karaoke bar, Holiday Inn or other venue here)) performance”), the musical themes and guest mentors are ancient (no wonder young singers don’t connect to songs: the composer is older than their grandfather), the show disrespects our intelligence and lies to us (see: Paulagate) and it’s time to move on — or at least dream fondly about such shows as Rock Star INXS, where fully half the contestants were better than any Idol wannabes now vying for the crown. (Having covered pop music professionally, I know the difference between posers and good singers, and Idol is largely amateur night.)
Sure, Idol has produced some great performers over the years, and for awhile it also produced great water cooler talk. It was new, fresh, fun and happening. Now it’s old, stale, painful and dishonest, and it’s hardly worth the time invested in it.
Excuse me, Paula, but I am so not confused. Rather, I’m all about clarity. And it’s clear to me I’ve got better things to do.