Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Results Are In! And...

You're not funny.

Today's big story, Jordin's win being a foregone conclusion, was Idol's drop in ratings. Media analysts are blaming "lackluster contestants, the general malaise among viewers this spring and the simple laws of TV gravity," but I have an alternate theory, and just the thought of typing it makes me smile:

The youth of America are tired of jokes about gays and the disabled.

Wow. That felt even better than I thought it would. Truly, this is my now.

A solid chunk of last night's show was a hapless attempt at comedy, an area in which AI's producers have a consistently tin ear. If they'd removed the jokes at the expense of the ugly, the poorly-educated, or the effeminate, they could have given us a tight, entertaining show. As it was, Jordin's victory was announced 2 minutes after the show's scheduled 2-hour running time. Take that, TiVo users!

From the beginning, AI has been the very show for which TiVo was invented. Have you ever tried to watch an entire episode without the fast-forward option? Can't be done, and never could. The host/judge forced banter has been cringe-inducing from jump, and Paula's adventures in med-adjustment have only been truly entertaining once or twice. The Ford commercials? The interviews? The interminable inquisitions into Ryan Seacrest's sexual orientation? American Idol succeeds in spite of its bells and whistles, not because of them.

And if this season was the one that interrupted the show's ratings momentum, it was also the one that amped up its ugliest qualities. The Simon/Ryan "you're gay/no, you're gay" silliness. The producers' treatment of Sanjaya as though he were a freak who'd snuck in, rather than an actual contestant who they'd chosen. Randy.

"The Golden Idol Awards" of last night's finale brought us back to the weakest part of the franchise: those excruciating first weeks, during which a seemingly-endless parade of the delusional is only occasionally interrupted by a talented or charismatic singer. If those episodes are mean-spirited, then last night was positively sadistic. Remember these two guys who got filleted by the judges and producers during the auditions, then were revealed to have been retarded? Including the one who Simon said looked like a "bush baby?" Well, last night, they were invited onto the stage of the Kodak Theater to face a live audience of millions a second shit sandwich. It went a little like this:

"Hey- you guys. Thanks for coming. And hey, remember how we called you a bush baby a few months ago?'s a picture of a bush baby. You really, really do look like one. Look, everyone! Here's a bush baby, and here's this retarded guy! Doesn't this retarded guy look like a bush baby? Anyway, we've adopted one in your name. Thanks for being such good sports."

Waving away the question of whether African bush babies need adopting, these guys aren't good sports so much as they are retarded people who didn't provoke you. Ryan, the reason they didn't respond to your mockery by punching you in the cock isn't that they're good sports, it's that they didn't think of it until they were in their car. Young viewers apparently reject this dopey cruelty, and I'll be damned if that don't my heart sing.

Listen, Ryan Seacrest is a good broadcaster. Live TV is indescribably hectic- producers screaming into your ear, changes being scribbled onto cue cards, station breaks to hit at just the right second. That you don't notice any of this is a testament to his talent. The trouble is that he's also the kind of guy who thinks "yeah, right" is a witty comeback.

As for the producers, remember: while the British gave us Monty Python and Ricky Gervais, they're also responsible for Benny Hill and "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em."

The meat of "American Idol" is the discovery of new talent, the introduction of fresh faces. And it's important to point out that in almost every case, these are faces (and bodies) the Hollywood casting machine wouldn't allow us to see. Too fat, too grey, too bald, too ethnic. This is what people watch for. And these faces come to the producers free, by the hundreds of thousands. Such a simple formula, it's kind of hard to fuck up. Why are the producers trying so hard to fuck it up?

To quote obese "good sport" and Golden Idol winner Margaret Fowler:
"American Idol is a whip.
They surely can make one's bliss.
For all it's worth, it has its place
for LaTisha [sic], Melinda, Jordin,
and me too!
We'll take the hearts of those who want to exist.

Difficult to dispute. But, as much as the producers of American Idol tried to make us laugh at big, dumb, yellow old Margaret, at least she knew her role. She did her job and got the hell off the stage. Perhaps they could learn a lesson.

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