March 4, 2011

What an Improv Show!

The first results show of American Idol has now come and gone, and boy, if I were one of the people going home, I'd be pissed beyond belief. 

I totally believe that the voting is on the up-and-up. Fox has too big a cash cow here to risk a Quiz Show sized scandal by playing with those numbers. Isn't that right, "Junebug" (above, right)? 

However, when you play as loosey-goosey with the way you're going to handle the results, seemingly changing them up to the last moment, it's hard to take the whole process seriously. We were told that the top 5 guys and top 5 girls would be automatically through to the next round, leaving seven guys and seven girls out in the cold. Again, fine.

But then, we were told there would be "wildcards" added by the judges. Mr. Seacrest kept babbling all throughout the two-hour show -- one that had about 15 minutes (at most) of actual content -- that "we" didn't know how many wildcards there would be or how they would be selected. 

About halfway through the program, Ryan again stated his confusion and asked Randy Jackson to explain. Randy then repeated verbatim  exactly what Ryan had said, including the part about "We don't know how many or what the process will be" and we were left in the dark again.

I don't know what's going on... do you?
Whether or not it's true, the impression this gave me was that a) the judges and Ryan truly did not know in advance what the results of the public voting were -- and that's good. But also b) that the show had a few contestants they were going to put through come hell or high water, and they'd spin the wild-card process in whatever way they could to ensure the field they wanted -- and that's bad. 

At any point, if the powers-that-be don't like the outcome, they can just change the rules. "We'll have six of the 14 losers sing for wildcard spots." "How many?" "One. No two. No, wait... who got cut? Three!" It's totally disingenuous and totally unfair to the audience and competitors alike. Set up the rules -- in advance -- and let the chips fall where they may. 

It’s like that reality show Forever Eden. Anyone remember that one? It was on during the same time as things like Paradise Hotel and Temptation Island

All the contestants on the show would vote for someone to get an apple which meant that person could then pick someone to nominate for eviction -- UNLESS that person was the same contestant who had been selected in a separate secret vote held for no apparent reason earlier in the week, in which case the person with the apple would be evicted --  until he or she came back the next week and summarily replaced the person given the next week's apple UNLESS the new apple-holder had selected the old apple holder's former roommate as his/her new roommate, in which case the roommate would be sent home instead.

Maybe I’m not remembering it right, but I’m not too far off the mark. Every eviction could be manipulated at the whim of the producers, and while I'm sure they were thinking all these twists made for great television, the show that they said "could last for years" didn't even last the season, leaving the air after seven episodes.

Be transparent and I'm willing to buy in. Play games like having Ryan asking if the judges had their decision yet and them saying "No, we need more time!" and then having Ryan act all flustered and "What should we do?" and then going "Why don't we just show this debut J-Lo music video that we happen to have lying around in order to give the judges time?" Come on, man! Even the little blurb on my on-screen guide said you were showing that video tonight. Don't act like this is improv!

And yet I continue to watch. So help me... I'm part of the problem. Shame on me.

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