One of my guilty pleasures is watching “American Idol” (and before that the first season of Philippine Idol). I know. Its shallow, cruel and victimizes the clueless and deluded contestants who make utter fools of themselves and are degraded by the judges in front of millions. That’s exactly why I can’t turn away. This is reality T.V. at its most vicious.
To be sure, after the elimination rounds, the talent level and quality of performance increases dramatically. It then morphs into a real talent contest, which can produce genuine diamonds-in-the-rough. Witness Jennifer Hudson of “Dreamgirls” fame, an Idol alum who did not even win the top spot.
But before that it can be a freak show, particularly the first few episodes which feature “William Hung” type contestants. These people supposedly joined the auditions knowing what to expect and are aware that they may possibly fall flat on their faces on prime-time T.V. But the human capacity for self-delusion apparently knows no limits. A good number of these “singers” have absolutely no talent and were obviously put before the judges for their aberrant qualities, to be put down and embarrassed by the acid-tongued Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson and occasionally, Paula Abdul (who was reportedly drunk during some of the tapings).
I must confess I felt some uneasiness, particularly when you see the naked, desperate look in the eyes of the contestants as they beg for inclusion into the next round. A few seemed truly demented. It was painful to watch as their last shreds of sanity and dignity were ripped apart by Simon et. al.
Its grotesque. Its burlesque. It’s the highest-rating show on U.S. television. And I fear its addictive.