January 28, 2004

So we did finally get around to watching "American Idol" last night? I see Prof. Yin did a simulblog of the event, or at least of his tape of it. (No TiVo?!)
how would you like to be Rodrigo, the guy who was told he did "all right" but who lost out when Simon didn't like his answer to the question, "What would you do with the $1 million if you won?" He babbled about giving some to charity, investing some, donating more to charity, and something else.
Yeah, poor Rodrigo, doomed to feeling bad about charity for the rest of his life! The people who go on the show famously resist interpreting their rejection as any kind of information about deficiencies of theirs. But the problem with the answer was that it was boring, conventional, and lamely babbled. We saw a woman succeed with an answer to the question: she wanted to buy a classic Thunderbird to go with her retro style. That was clear and specific. Given a chance to speak, she instantly set to work on constructing her public persona. The success of her answer wasn't that she was more honest than Rodrigo, but that she had aptitude for being a TV personality. The show isn't really about picking the best singer, or even the best overall singer-product, but to entertain us one way or another. The contestants have to engage us somehow: they cannot be boring!
How much imagination did it take for the producers to find a nerdy looking engineering major from Cal-Berkeley to humiliate?
If he's smart enough to go to Berkeley, he's smart enough to know how the show works and to know what he's risking by not asking a friend for a brutally honest assessment of his singing before he set out to get on TV. Maybe he had a great time. I'd like to think the wonderful William Hung was sitting home with his (nerdy-looking) friends last night, watching the show and laughing hysterically.

I note that the other conspicuously smart contestant--a Harvard student--was also one of the most ridiculously bad singers. I think one reason that happens on the show is that it seems less meanspirited to make sport of a person who we don't have any reason to feel sorry for. Conversely, we would not have seen Jasmine Arteaga, a young woman with dwarfism, if she hadn't done an excellent audition.

UPDATE: Another theory on why the Thunderbird answer worked, from the astute and funny Shack at Television Without Pity, is that Ford is a sponsor!
Draeh can sing fairly well, and she's willing to shill spontaneously for [product-placed car company] with her imaginary American Idol winnings, so she's invited on. Rodrigo is really hot and ... nearly gets through to Hollywood, but then he gives some stupid Miss America speech about using his money to heal the world and gets rejected for being too lame for words.

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