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Why I'm an "American Idol" junkie

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Reel Mama: Why I'm an "American Idol" junkie

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why I'm an "American Idol" junkie

The top 13 American Idol contenders for season 11

It’s hard to say why American Idol is so addictive, but in my case it’s because I find it inspiring.  There’s something exhilarating about seeing those kids fight through tears and nerves to achieve that one triumphant moment against all odds.  I’m not ashamed to say I’ve shed a tear a few times watching it play out in real time, live.  I love getting “goosies,” J-Lo’s somewhat endearing term for goosebumps, although lately she’s been threatening to punch and shake contestants whom she likes when she’s overwhelmed by their performance. Luckily I don’t think we have to worry that any violence will transpire on the show.  Unlike The Hunger Games, this reality show isn’t a fight to the death, though I’d love to see Steven and Randy try armed with nothing but Steven’s feather boas.
Nevertheless, we can think of The Hunger Games as an allegory for the pain, heartache, and public humiliation that these reality show contestants sometimes endure.  It’s crushing when a voice cracks onstage, or a really talented person has an off night and just doesn’t deliver the goods.  I’m sure it feels like a metaphorical death to each of these contestants when he or she goes home empty handed.
I also enjoy seeing the upsets, but sometimes threaten to stop watching when my favorite gets voted off, as in last year’s travesty with Pia Toscana. We always assume that the singer who is “perfect” is safe.  We get invested in these shows, and we come to care about the contestants and feel that we know them.  I was a bit hard on the viewers of reality TV in my review of The Hunger Games.  Maybe we are like the citizens of the Capitol with our obsessive desire never to miss a moment of our favorite reality show (DVRs were invented for people like us).  Are we surrendering to our voyeuristic tendencies and indulging in a guilty pleasure? Absolutely.  But we aren’t leering, apathetic, and grotesque.  We are interested, entertained, enlightened, and moved.
Suzanne Collins, who wrote The Hunger Games (both the books and in collaboration with others on the screenplay), was surely creating a satire of a media-addicted audience, but in presenting such sympathetic lead characters she seems to understand implicitly the great degree of heart that the contestants onscreen and the audience off screen often put into their “relationship,” one with visitation rights through a fourth wall, our TV screens.  We root for our favorites (our “friends”?), and especially love an underdog.
I also love the more surprising Idol moments, like last week when I thought contestant Heejun Han had forgotten his lyrics, only to be surprised to find him ripping off his tuxedo to reveal a very colorful T-shirt ensemble usually worn by the likes of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory.  He had fun sticking it to the judges with his version of Billy Joel’s My Life, but Steven Tyler was not amused.  It is unfortunate to see Heejun seemingly blowing off the contest at this stage of the game when other contestants would have taken it more seriously.
As for Idol, I would love to see J-Lo’s dream for a female face-off in the finale to come true.  These contestants are all so profoundly gifted, but if I had to guess the two women who would make it to the finale, I would probably bet on Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanagh.  Just as deserving as these two, Elise Testone is amazing, but her funky vibe may not be as obviously ready made for pop stardom to achieve the top slot, though I’d love to be proven wrong. She’s a cross between someone like Alison Krauss and Janice Joplin, and there is no question there’s a big market for this kind of music.  She’ll actually have more creative freedom if she doesn’t win.  Skylar Laine is feisty, country strong, and confident, and she may prove that she knows how to hold ‘em (hold onto the votes, that is).  
It seems that last year’s unfortunate trend of the girls being voted off in quick succession is already starting, though of course last year Lauren Alaina and Haley Reinhart did make it all the way to the finish, though neither got the Idol title.  (For the record, I do think Scotty was deserving, though I was rooting for my namesake Lauren.)  So far we have Shannon Magrane and Erika Van Pelt going home, along with one boy from the first live results show, the sweet-natured Jeremy Rosado.  I hope another girl doesn’t go home this week.
If I had to call it right now, I’d say Phillip Phillips will probably win. He has a relaxed boy-next-door persona.  With his looks he’s heartthrob material, and will probably have the tween girls’ thumbs texting their votes for him at lightening speed right to the finish.  I’m not sure that I can keep up, or that I want to try.
So now you know what I do in my “spare” time.  How I find 3-5 hours of my life to dedicate to American Idol every week, I’ll never know.
Hollie and Jessica, may the odds be ever in your favor.

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