Idol Chatter

Ellen-DeGeneres-001.jpgYou can’t argue that Ellen DeGeneres is everything my fellow blogger Joanne Brokaw says she is: funny, encouraging, warm–and I’ll add forthright, wholesome and brimming with common sense. All of which makes her selection to replace Paula Abdul as a judge on “American Idol” unforgiveable.
For all its success and the success of contestants like Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson, “American Idol” is still in the deepest recesses of its soul reality television, a place where Dove-bar pure DeGeneres has no business sullying herself–or dignifying the proceedings.
I say this as someone for whom the show is both slavishly compelling and perfectly balanced. The pleasure of watching a bunch of dweeb wannabes transform into singers with legit careers depends greatly on seeing them rise from the Darwinian muck of the local auditions. Meanwhile, the judges, professional even in their last hour of sheer awfulness, glitter momentarily in audition hell as superior characters.
But as the weeks go by and the refiner’s fire of audience choice renders a top ten, a top five, a top two, the quartet at their table transform too–no longer judges but critics, and more, harpies who have followed the contestants from up from the ooze. Simon with his fishy eyes and oddly military hairdo; Randy, growling and shifting uneasily even as he grudgingly gives his approval; Kara, insecurely playing grown-up; and Paula, beaming puppy love via her interplanetary stare–they anchor the proceedings in the reality sleaze from whence they came.
DeGeneres is neither a music-world professional–for all their twitchiness, the current judges know their turf–nor a reality-based personality, so to speak. You can see that the producers wanted to replace Paula as the friendly judge. But Ellen, unlike any other figure on reality TV, is someone you’d actually want as a friend. And that’s going too far.

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