Thursday, March 29, 2007

Does talent count?

This morning when I woke up, it was very interesting to me that American Idol made it into the Today Show headlines. I was unsure if this week's A.I. "hot topic" was an appropriate headline, much less an Okay topic to blog about. I figured it was when I saw Larry King talk about it, Joe Scarborough talk about it and Keith Olberman talking about it as I write this. Last time I checked, all three were established journalists.

It started this past Tuesday night when Sanjaya Malakar, a 17-year-old from Federal Way, Wash., sported a Mohawk. Although, now the new saying "faux-hawk" has been coined for him in the media. From the beginning of the competition, his talent has been in question with the judges (and in this case, Gwen Stefani). Watch if you dare...

Now, after watching the performance, you have to sit and wonder. How is he still in the American Idol competition? When the Top 12 were picked, Sanjaya nailed the last spot. After he went over to join the other top finalists, Ryan Seacrest asked Simon Cowell what he thought. His response, "The volume was turned down?!?! I don't know." That has not been Cowell's only public statement about Malakar. Publicly, he has made statements saying he will quit if Malakar goes on to win the competition. Tuesday was no exception. Cowell had nothing nice to say about the new "faux-hawk."

"I presume there was no mirror in your dressing room tonight," Cowell said.

All kidding aside though, is American Idol still really looking for talent or higher ratings? I find it hard to believe this "talent competition" is not in some way fixed. Malakar was in the bottom two contestants for weeks, and suddenly after Tuesday's performance with the crazy hair and crazy media attention (when he forgot the words, I might add) he is not even in the bottom three. How is that possible?

As a religious American Idol voter and dedicated fan, I expected a little more and am beginning to wonder if Fox is fixing the vote for ratings. I realize there are always going to be multiple favorites, but I, like Simon Cowell couldn't believe when he made it into the Top 12. That even surprised me. Whether it really is America voting to keep him in the competition or not, I know I, as well as many others, will be tuning in every week now just to see what he will do next.


At Thursday, March 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think part of the reason Sanjaya is still in the competition is due to the site Vote for the worst, which encourages people to make a mockery of the idol voting process by, well, voting for the worst contestant. And they've backed Sanjaya this time.

Indeed, they bring up some of the points you do about American Idol in justifying their rationale for voting for the worst. From the site's "About Us" page: "Why do we do it? During the initial auditions, the producers of Idol only let certain people through. Many good people are turned away and many bad singers are kept around to see Simon, Paula, and Randy so that America will be entertained.... American Idol is not about singing at all, it's about making good reality TV and enjoying the cheesy, guilty pleasure of watching bad singing."

At Friday, March 30, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He is definitely being 'kept' on the show for the fun of it, and so people can just laugh at him, at the show, with him, with the show. I think it would naive to say that shows like American Idol are not rigged in some way - and this is another prime example of luring the audience with entertainment. This blog is making me want to watch more intently, but I'm scared because I'm afraid I might be sick watching Sanjaya's performances.

At Friday, March 30, 2007, Blogger Amanda M. said...

I love that we're talking about Sanjaya! One of shows I usually watch (embarassingly at its initial airing on Fri. nights at 10pm)is VH1's Best Week Ever. They had a segment on Sanjaya last week, and one of the comedian contributors said that Sanjaya is appealing to the preteen girl who is mysteriously attracted to an androgynous, pretty-haired, pretty-smiled, multi-ethnic boy. The comedian said Sanjaya is not threatening to their newly acquired attraction to boys and on the other hand, he's almost like a girlfriend they can go to the mall with and call on the phone. I thought this was very interesting.

I saw one Dancing with the Stars while I was on spring break, and I think they have a good idea - the judges' scores and viewers' votes are weighed equally. If AI moved to this model, Sanjayas would never be able to go through.

I sure hope we are not graded on the intelligence and gravity of our comments. I am really crossing my fingers!

At Friday, March 30, 2007, Blogger MK said...

What is interesting about this whole affair is what the mainstream media is doing. American Idol is newsworthy - it attracts millions of viewers every time it is on and is still considered a television phenomenon. But it is still a light, entertainment story. David Letterman and The Soup have skewered Sanjaya lately and that's where he belongs. Now Idol coverage is bleeding into "hard" newscasts. When you see Idol news being carried by local FOX stations and on national news, its like these outlets are co-opting an entertainment story and blurring the lines of infotainment. While it may be "newsworthy" for Extra and Access Hollywood to discuss who is surviving on Idol, it doesn't seem like fodder for CNN. Are these outlets just reflecting what people are talking about? Or is it just a story that's too easy to cover and a likely ratings winner?

At Friday, March 30, 2007, Blogger HAW said...

Oh Sanjaya.... I don't even watch American Idol that intently but this kid has got to go. I know, I know- we should be writing about some intelligent media issue but I'm perturbed by certain things about reality television. (Yes, I'll admit I do like it a lot, but it drives me nuts sometimes.)

When people act like idiots and suck at their suppossed talent, they end up staying on these elimination-type shows way longer than they should. I think it's because viewers like when contestants aren't that good because, like we talk about in journalism, they can relate to them. I don't know if the producers fix the votes on these shows (they probably often do) but either way, they love when these goofballs stick around because it makes good television, which drives ratings and, in turn, the big advertising bucks.

I tend to think American Idol isn't necessarily "fixed" but that contestants, like Sunjaya, stick around because everyone loves the dorky kid next door.....well, except for me.

At Saturday, March 31, 2007, Blogger ji said...

I think Sanjaya remains in the competition because he brings the show high ratings. If you look after the show ends, a little asterick says, producers also vote for contestants. Basically, leaving Sanjaya on the show, in my opinion, was a business decision. I honestly feel that the American public is duped into believing they vote for finalists in Idol when in reality producers vote. In other words, viewers are given the illusion that they hold the power to chose finalists.
As for Sanjaya's mohawk...I dont believe that Simon was oblivious to this. I am confident that this was planned by show producers to wow the viewers. In a sense, it was great "shock value." I guarantee that Sanjaya will make it to the top 5 because he brings viewers back every week. He may have no talent, but he is making the network money. And that is what TV is all about--money!

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