American Idol


Is it just me or has American Idol lost what little integrity it once had? I know reality shows and talent shows are now rigged not to find the best singer/chef/designer/slut but to create the best television, and I'm aware that AI has produced some glaring miscalls over the years. But I've gotten sucked in this year and have to say it seems to me to be coming close to jumping the shark. The sadism of Cowell's comments often bears no relationship to the performance he is judging. He has no wit. He has merely the power of cruelty. It makes for good TV, but of a pornographic variety. And then the last round included something so cynical it risks the integrity of the entire franchise. The judges selected two pairs of singers for the final cut for the final 24. In each pair, it was blindingly obvious that one was far better than the other; and yet the judges deliberately selected the weaker candidate. I know it's a subjective call; but the contrast was so yawning it was out of those bounds. It was clearly done purely to enrage the audience, and juice interest in the show before the final rounds. It was a device to hook you further in, to prevent any anodine uplift before the next batch of viewer-culling.

American Idol is no longer, it seems to me, primarily a talent contest. It's a reality show designed to manipulate emotions in near-pornographic and abusive fashion. The mix has always been there. And I'm probably a fool for even hoping for some integrity in the thing. But this season, the tipping point toward complete cynicism has arrived. And that's a shame. There is something pure about the search for stardom in America that doesn't have to be tarnished and exploited this cruelly and this crudely, solely for ratings.

(Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty.)