Idol Chatter

I’m going to make this post short and sweet, unlike the torturous “American Idol” performances I’ve forced myself to sit through the past few weeks: This season of “Idol” has been terrible. Usually, nestled in amongst the talent and the palatable mediocrity, is one contestant that is just so awful that audiences reward the warbler with votes for the first few rounds. Let’s call it the Sanjaya Syndrome. This year, however, that paradigm has been turned on its ear as there is one standout, the Linda Parry/Janis Jopelin channeling Crystal Bowersox, (with dark horse Aaron Kelly showing some decent chops) and some incredibly boring at best, and ear-splitting at worst, talent taking the stage.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a soft spot for Lee Dewyze and his soulful, gravelly voice, but on stage he looks like he’s made of glass; really stiff glass that will crack if you look at it the wrong way. And Casey “I might be stuck in the 70s” James and Siobhan Magnus are enjoyable performers, even if Magnus’ last performance ended with shriek.
But watching the rest of the field seems like some horrible form of penance to pay for these past years of watching, and enjoying, reality television. Tim Urban, you’re cute, you share the same last name as a great country artist, you belong at a beach party with friends instead of in front of millions at the Kodak Theater, and probably should have gone before Paige. And the rest of you should look into this thing called “pitch.”
But it’s not just the viewers I mourn for, the judges too seem to be suffering. It’s easy to tell when Randy Jackson is about to drop the news that “Dawg, it just wasn’t any good,” or “Dawg, I just didn’t get it,” or “Dawg, that was really pitchy.” And for poor Randy that seems to be almost every performance.
So, who’s to blame for the questionable talent this season?

I think it’s a combination of the judges who sent home some pretty decent talent during Hollywood week and kept middling performers like Todrickm and America not voting for talented, but different contestants: the shy and mulletted Alex Lambert and the quirky Lilly Scott.
But perhaps an even more interesting take is simply that reality TV is running out of talent. Maybe you’ve noticed that more and more contestants/teams on reality shows have been previous participants on the same or other productions or that they have previously auditioned for said show, recycling reality stars, as it were. This perseverance should be applauded, but have the contestants gotten better or has the talent pool been depleted. New York Magazine writer Adam Sternberg believes the latter:
“The concept of ‘peak oil’ posits that once the rate of petroleum extraction exceeds the rate of discovery, global oil production will decline, precipitating disaster,” explains Sternberg. “I hereby propose the parallel concept of ‘peak talent.’ Given the reasonable premise that there’s a finite number of people who can sing, dance, cook, design clothes, or do whatever it is they do on America’s Got Talent (yodeling?)–we must recognize that we’ve been extracting, or ‘discovering,’ these people at an unsustainable rate. And we may be running out.”
And while ‘Idol’ is still a ratings juggernaut, it may only be because there are viewers out there like me hoping that things will get better. Perhaps Simon Cowell was right to make this his last season on “Idol.” But, then again, he’s moving on to the U.S. version of “The X Factor.”
What do you think? Has “American Idol” lost its luster for good or is it merely a bad year? Will it continue to be a ratings winner after such a down year coupled with Simon leaving?

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