My distaste of American Idol stems from a cold Saturday morning outside of Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Yes, it occasionally gets cold in San Diego.
Thousands upon thousands of people were lined up around the stadium for the initial auditions. Some people were legit. Some were probably OK, karaoke superstars.
Then there was the third, head-shaking group. The nutjobs who just wanted their 15 minutes of fame and were willing to wait in line for hours to get it.
I was shooting this assignment for my college paper, The Daily Aztec, to go along with a story that our entertainment editor was writing. Archive searches show that nothing really got into the paper about the auditions, though there was a preview, but I was there anyway. It was good fodder for a column later that year.
Now, before I went to go take pictures at this thing, I had briefly seen a couple episodes of American Idol, but I hadn’t actually seen a whole thing.
I knew there were some idiots who were tone deaf, tone blind and tone mute, like William Hung, who just wanted a chance to be on TV, even if it was to be roundly ridiculed and mocked.
I got a first-hand look at these people that morning.
The entertainment editor tried to get some of these people to sing. The guy in the picture did… and badly. This guy said he was saving his voice for the judges. These guys were kind of funny. But really, only a select few could actually sing.
But it perplexed me. Why go through all this just for a hope at getting on TV for a few seconds or a few minutes only to be laughed at? Richard Rushfield from The Daily Beast even says that much of the Idol auditions they show on TV are just for show (gee, big surprise!).
On television, viewers see the massive lines of tens of thousands of auditioners wrapped around the Rose Bowl or the Dallas Cowboys stadium, who appear to be heading in to see Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, and Randy Jackson.
These were shot last summer, in some cases a full two months before Idol’s star judges flew to those cities. There are, in fact, two huge lines in which the contestants must wait at these initial cullings. First, they line up to register for their first actual audition that will happen one or two days hence: These lines generally start well before dawn, with aspirants camped out across parking lots.
On the audition day itself, the singers return to stand in line again and await admission to the stadium. This is the line—abuzz with excitement—that we see on TV. It, too, starts well before dawn, with singers showing up the night before to camp out. (To demonstrate how illogical many Idol wannabes are, there is no reason whatsoever to show up early: The order in which they will audition is determined by the number on the ticket they received when they registered.)
Whatever happened to wanting your 15 minutes of fame for something good, not just to act like a total dumbass?
That and Idol even goes into the backstories of some of the people who can’t sing, making it seem even more pathetic. It’s like, “We know you failed at Rock Band, but we’re going to send a camera crew to interview your parents, your childhood friend and your co-workers to highlight just how much of a dolt you really are in a 3-minute segment on primetime TV, just before you deafen millions of viewers.” Is minor fame really worth that much? It’s disappointing, or maybe I’m just weird. If I’m on TV, I want it to be for some kind of noble reason.
I hate it when reality TV goes into the stories of these people. I. Don’t. Care. I remember when reality
TV was new. I was staying with my grandparents in Astoria, Ore. when the first season of Survivor was on. I watched that show religiously and loved it. After that… I kinda had a feeling reality TV would suck. And I was right. It all seems so contrived. MTV’s The Real World puts a bunch of outspoken jerks in a house, creating drama. Deal or No Deal started off clean-cut, then Howie Mandel has to introduce a biography of every guest. I don’t care. Just pick a damn briefcase and get on with it. That person’s backstory has little to no bearing on the result, which is probably controlled by the network, too.
Now, the problem with reality TV is it seems so scripted, but with amateurs as the actors.
However, a couple weeks ago, there was one good thing about Idol. General Larry Platt, the guy who pretty much everyone knows sang “Pants on the Ground.” He’s in his 60’s (the limit for Idol tryouts is 28… didn’t know that!) and basically just said screw it, I’m going up there. He had a message. He wasn’t just trying to be a dumbass. For that, General Platt, I salute you.