Thursday, May 18, 2006

American Idol Farce

As some of you have noticed, my blogging has been getting lighter. I've had a lot going on in real life, and I recently got a "promotion" of sorts at work. I now have a few more responsibilities, a not insignificant pay increase, and still more training ahead of me. I wasn't able to blog since Sunday night because I've had a couple of all-day training sessions, and those require that I get a more normal amount of sleep (i.e. more than my usual four hours a night with a 30-minute refresher nap on the Metro-North ride into the city).

After last week's travesty, I kept my vow not to watch American Idol ever again. Technorati seemed on fire with a million bloggers also saying they were never watch the show again, that Chris getting voted off was ridiculous, etc. One of my co-workers, a formerly huge fan of the show, said he too was giving up on it.

I will admit that I would have made an exception had the finale come down to Taylor and Elliot. Yeah. Taylor and Elliot. Could someone tell me what rational universe I think I'm living in?

Tonight at 10:03 Eastern, I started checking for American Idol results. SHEESH! Then I called one of my oldest and best friends to talk about the results, but the show had just begun in Steve's time zone. I find it more than strange that the show wasn't being broadcast live in the Mountain Time Zone, or at least Utah. Steve was just as disappointed as I was to see Katherine survive another week.

If it already hadn't, AI "jumped the shark" when Chris Daughtry got voted off. That was just...unforgivable. At that point, it was evident that the show has become a farce, pure and simple. Tonight was nothing more than reinforcement.

My co-worker wanted Taylor gone weeks ago, but ever since I started watching (Rod Stewart), I've really enjoyed Taylor for his versatility, style and sheer fun value. I think any two out of Taylor, Chris, Elliot and Paris deserved to make it to the end. Katharine? No way. For heaven's sake, she forgot the words two weeks in a row! But it's even worse. As I said last week, she screeches through every song to make her range appear greater than it really is. She has no excuse for that too-frequent guttural tonal quality, particularly since her mother is a vocal coach. If those notes were in her real range, she'd be hitting them with purity and clarity.

Linda Stasi of the New York Post had a simple plea on Monday: "PLEASE, NOT MCPHEE." And I think she's right. Elliot was guilty of this a time or two, but Katherine couldn't stop staring into the current camera. Paris, Chris and Taylor, by contrast, just got out there and sang.

Conservative columnist John Podhoretz had a superb editorial in New York Post last Friday. He discussed why Chris got voted off, which after skimming I initially deemed pointless and a waste of his talents. Then I read it again and realized how insightful Podhoretz is. It has everything to do with American voting patterns, and I'll wager that the man understands the political economy of voting better than most poli sci professors. However, Podhoretz was sadly incorrect to predict Elliot would win in the end.

His piece attracted a bit of criticism from readers. One blamed Chris' lack of support on home viewers' laziness, but that would have had to affect more of his supporters than the others. There's no evidence supporting that; Podhoretz's explanation of appeal is more credible. Another letter said, "It's all a bunch of nonsense and not worth writing about by a person of Podhoretz's level of intellect." That's what I thought at first, but Podhoretz gave us an important political lesson. Sometimes Americans can't understand how things work until they're put in more familiar terms.

One reader wrote that Podhoretz's "major flaw" was ignoring that one reader can vote multiple times. "In the political arena, it's one man, one vote." First, is she really naïve enough to believe that? Maybe, since she's from Houston, not Chicago. Second, the phone lines are busy enough that even if someone were capable of voting 100 times (a more realistic number), he'd have tied up the lines and deprived 99 others of voting for the same person. In other words, because there is a practical maximum number of votes, the end result would be the same. Multiple text messages could definitely "stuff the ballot box," but so few people would resort to that.

Another letter said that Chris "looked as if he was either staring off into space or reading cue cards," which "turned off his fan base - a sure way to lose any election." I disagree. From the start, I thought Chris has a real rock star presence on stage, especially in the way he grips his microphone and then goes down to work the audience. I think Chris has a long and great career in front of him, and I was so happy to hear that he'll be Fuel's new lead singer. I'm not really into grunge, but I will definitel buy that album. Chris deserves no less than the album going platinum on the first day.

The final letter that was printed accused the show of being "fixed": "I firmly believe the executives on the show were determined that three male finalists would be bad for mass-market ratings." Point well taken.


Blogger CaptiousNut said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the voting audited by an independent firm? Wouldn't that debunk the "we don't want three male finalists" conspiracy theories?

Perry, I love your blog, but you are a pure socialist when it comes to American Idol.

Thursday, May 18, 2006 9:56:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

I'm not sure who, if anyone, is auditing the results, but I find it meaningless. After all, Arthur Andersen was auditing Enron.

I don't follow that you think I'm a socialist when it comes to AI. I simply point to the voting results as another failure of democracy. After all, look at how many Americans were stupid or otherwise duped in 1992 and then 1996.

In fact, to expand upon Podhoretz's analysis, Paris' departure was like Ross Perot's 1992 candidacy. Though they're different in that one left the competition and the other entered, both involved a split in the vote. Podhoretz made sense to say that with Paris gone, her supporters probably went more for Katherine and Elliot than for Chris.

Friday, May 19, 2006 3:03:00 AM  
Blogger CaptiousNut said...

Oh my God, you are so off the deep end on this it is scary.

I call you a socialist and you respond by using a socialist ruse du jour.

They use the outlier Enron (one of 17,000 public companies) to blanketly inveigh against capitalism and Wall Street. You use the same analogy to try to discredit auditing.

How about this, 99.9% of public companies are audited and ARE NOT frauds.

Yeah the show was fixed to avoid "three male finalists", but then was it fixed when Chris got voted off too? You can tell by Seacrest's immediate and repetitive comments ("by your votes America", that Idol was shocked.

Personally, I liked Chris the best. But just because the result isn't to my liking it doesn't mean that the process is unfair or fraudulent. When you start nit-picking McPhee's high notes and cynically questioning both the integrity and implementation of the voting, you sound like a typical socialist unhappy with the price of oil or the market wages of teachers and journalists.

The winner is not for an elite (you or me) to decide.

American Idol is making hundreds of millions this year, do you really think they'd risk the integrity of the show to fine tune the outcome? As far as I can tell, they don't need to.

The only thing I don't like about the voting contest is that you vote "for" people rather than against them. Obviously they get more votes under the current system, but often times I think it is easier to see who should be voted off than who should continue.

Of course I see the flaws in democracy and often rank stupidity of the masses. That's the entire basis of my blog.

Friday, May 19, 2006 8:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



Friday, May 19, 2006 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

CN, you need to take a breath and realize the false assumptions from which you've proceeded. If you're going to insult me by claiming something I'm obviously not, let alone saying I've gone off the deep end, then your comments will no longer be welcome. I don't come over to your blog and start acting like a horse's ass, do I? So really, dawg, chill.

I cannot help but wonder how convoluted your definition of "socialist" is. You accuse me of being one, then compare me to those who want regulation of prices and wages? You of all people should know that's a pile of shit, so knock it off. Or do you resort to cries of "Socialist!" the way others throw around "Nazi"?

You claim to know about the dangers of pure democracy, yet you cannot see that that's my major complaint. Am I a "socialist" because of that? No more than the Founding Fathers were "socialist" for distrusting what they called "mobocracy." Idol voters apparently chose Katherine over Chris, but a plurality of the American people chose Bill Clinton. Twice. These people are presumably the same electorate who continually elect 534 members of Congress who effectively lay waste to our country. (I say 534, but if anyone else is like Ron Paul, let me know and I'll adjust accordingly.)

I never said an elite should select the winners, so you can stop putting words into my mouth, thank you very much. However, the last two weeks showed that someone can turn in a lesser performance and be selected over a better competitor. Even Katherine, and you could see this from her body language and facial expressions, expected to get booted. The process definitely needs some tweaking.

What you call "nit-picking" is factual, substantial criticism from someone who knows what good vocals are. It's not even a matter of Katherine's high notes. There are plenty notes that should be within her range that she nonetheless screeches. There's no polish or real power, not if she has to do that. She sang "Someone to Watch Over Me" well, I suppose, but that's the only decent performance I ever heard from her.

Now, I never even said there's cheating. I simply said that that accuser's point was well taken. You point out that 99.9% of companies are not frauds, but most companies aren't of such prominence. Ever hear of "21" and its scandal? Remember the allegations some years ago, which were quietly swept under the rug, of Jeopardy!'s anti-male favoritism? I used to enjoy the show until Trebek got so obvious.

I've been checking Technorati since last week, and some people, though it's a "friend of a friend" thing, say that they called in to vote for Chris, only to be thanked for voting for someone else. I wouldn't be surprised at a glitch like this, or that a standard audit wouldn't catch it.

Would AI's producers risk distorting the outcome? At first I thought that the show would lose a lot of viewers, but the American people do have a short collective memory. This will be largely forgotten by next season. I don't see that there was much to lose, if there really was something fishy.

Now what if the auditors did catch a huge blunder in the voting system, or fraud? That would finish the show. Have you already forgotten my blog entry where someone pointed out that even Ernst & Young is so desperate for business that it will reverse its findings and suddenly assert its client's lies?

Maybe it's my fault for treating the show like a singing competition, which a reasonable person would think it purports to be. Boner is right. The show is all about overall appeal, and Kat sells better than Chris. Kellie worked for a while, but I guess she didn't want to show much skin.

Boner is completely wrong about Chris' style, though. His "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" was great. His "A Little Less Conversation" was also great, true to Elvis' style. He's not just another rocker.

Friday, May 19, 2006 5:05:00 PM  

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