On Tuesday, the Curmudgeon offices were bustling but not tumultuous over the new season of American Idol beginning later that night. I had, in fact, never seen American Idol before, but I did not share this information, for fear of sounding superior and raining on their parade of anticipation and joy.
I do not understand the hubbub this show creates in its millions of loyal viewers. I do watch other similar shows—in as much as it can be said I watch television at all. I turn the TV on to a program I like, but then I don’t watch it. I am compulsive I’m afraid, compelled to write, so I do, glancing at the television here and there. One such show is America’s Got Talent, another is Dancing with the Stars (first season) and the like, but I always give up on the show before the season is over. That is because the wrong people for the wrong reasons get moved along to the next round.
This happens when the producers, in all their wisdom about attracting viewership and keeping them, eschew the very point of the show, which is to reward talent, not freakishness, not mediocrity, and not downright embarrassment, which in the world of reality television has become a marketable commodity. If they only promoted the people with real talent, the audience would leave in droves, or as Yogi Berra once said, “If fans don’t come out to the ballpark, you can’t stop them.”
So I watched American Idol—Ok, parts of it—and saw instantaneously that this show is the same as the others (and in fact I guess it can be said that Idol is the mother of the others.) So, I won’t, I don’t think, be a regular viewer of Idol either. But I finally saw that the reason I find these shows ultimately worse than distasteful is that they are not merely manipulative and contrary to their own premise (although, they DO move the really good ones along too. After all, there is a recording contract at the end of this and lots of money to be made) but they are really about crushing dreams.
I have been there. I was a very good and semi-successful actor. I have worked professionally in show business since I was 16 years old, pretty much exclusively. I went to a Theatre Conservatory-acting training program, and then to the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York. I lived in a roach-infested apartment, went to the cattle calls, traveled the country in search of the next paying job, and damn did I have fun. I have had my share bad auditions. Oh, Lord, have I ever. I have met people in real life whose sole (soul?) dream was to “make it” as an actor, but who had not even a modicum of talent or ability. They thought they were good. So wrapped up in this dream were they that reality was invisible to them. They couldn’t see that they stunk up the joint.
Idol and it’s offspring is the sad exhibition of holding a dreamer up in front of us so that we may throw sticks and stones and spit on them. The nerve that guy has, to have a dream like that. Who does he think he is? Is that why we hate them? That they have dreamed in futility? When they are finally dashed on the jagged rocks of reality, we cheer their demise, their arrogance, and their human desperation.
I have been there to see the torn and beaten corpses on the sharp stones.
It breaks my heart.
Don’t get me started on the bikini girl.