Tag Archives: Ryan Seacrest

American Idol Season 9 Finale: In Defence of Kris Allen

Season 9 Finale: In Defence of Kris Allen

May 26th, 2010

I’ve got a lot to say about this season of American Idol and the future of the franchise without Simon Cowell, but I’m going to be saving those for a Jive TV column in the coming days. However, since that piece will be more wide-reaching than tonight’s results, I want to comment briefly on two things.

The first is that, in case you didn’t notice it, Idol got a rare insurrection from quality music when Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago” was used to soundtrack the package of Lee and Crystal’s auditions in Chicago and their Idol journey. I would highly suggest you look up Sufjan if you have not been privy to his music in the past, as “Illinois” (the album on which the song is featured) was truly a revelation for me.

The second is that I think people are falling prey to an easy but ultimately false analogy when it comes to tonight’s results. Kris Allen was, in fact, the eighth American Idol, and there are plenty of arguments to be made that Adam Lambert deserved to win that season, but I think we need to make a distinction between “relatively” undeserving winners and undeserving winners.

[That’s more or less a spoiler, but I figure that if you read this blog and have been watching enough to understand that it’s a spoiler, you probably found out already, so come back after the break and I can defend Kris Allen some more.]

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Uh, Breaking Up is Pretty Easy… – Ignoring the start of American Idol

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Tonight is a big night for television, but I can honestly say that I care only indirectly about the start of FOX’s American Idol, starting its eighth season at 8/7c (airing at the same time on CTV in Canada).

I care because it’s a big test for the current Tuesday lineups – will The Mentalist remain the biggest new shows against television’s biggest show, can Scrubs fail to keep its sampling audience from last week with increased competition, and will Privileged get absolutely destroyed facing off against the Idol juggernaut,  (my vote is for yes on all three, in case you were curious)?

But in terms of Idol itself, I learned last year a fairly important lesson. Yes, American Idol remains a cultural phenomenon growing increasingly rare in television, and as a sort of background distraction remains an entertaining exercise in reality competition programming. But I no longer feel like I absolutely need to know what is happening. That desire to be constantly aware, my critical side outweighing the quality of the show in order to judge the talents of those twenty-plus semi-finalists, has dissipated in favour of sheer ambivalence. It is not that I am rallying against Idol as a sign of television’s pending doom (unless the ratings take a sizeable hit, at which point it will surely be the sign of some sort of apocalypse), but rather that disconnecting myself is almost too easy.

The show has done its best this year to try to recapture our attention: they’ve added a fourth judge (Kara DioGuardi, a songwriter, pictured above with the usual crew), and are promising a refocused attention on the middle rounds. They have a new production team, with Nigel Lythgoe off dancing his way around the globe, and they are promising the usual: best season ever, amazing talent, rainbows and puppy dogs, anything you could ever imagine.

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“Truth” and Emmy: The 2008 60th Primetime Emmy Awards in Review

As Tommy Smothers received his Commemorative Emmy Award for his work on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, he ended his (rousing) speech with a small note: in all languages, Truth means the same thing – what others make you believe. And while there are broad implications of this statement in regards to the world’s political climate, there’s a more direct application: the idea that that the decisions of the Academy are supposed to be seen as the “Truth” about last year’s best television.

Of course, what Smothers was getting at is that this is impossible, primarily because the definition of truth is so malleable and, in our case, adaptable. There might be one or two TV viewers out there who agree with every single decision made tonight, or those who believe in award shows as simple celebrations of excellence as opposed to any sort of competition. And even some people who consider themselves to be elite television viewers could open their favourite internet news site and find word that critical favourites 30 Rock and Mad Men took home the evening’s big prizes – surely, then, the Emmys are truly representative of the best in television.

But, if this is truth, I don’t want to know what fiction is – yes, there were quite a few deserving winners, but the criteria by which most categories were decided is severely divergent from anything even remotely approaching truth. For some awards, age defines truth: if they’re older than the other competitors, then they must truthfully be the superior performer. For others, truth is defined by past precedent: if we voted for you before, than there is no way that your greatness is any less truthful this time around. Conversely, on the same note, was the legacy win: if we nominated you for previous roles but you didn’t win, surely there was truth to our judgment and maybe you were truthfully great here as well.

For that reason, Stephen Colbert’s presence at these awards is all the more apt: his word, truthiness, defines the nature by which awards shows are decided. And there is no greater example of the dangers of truth that, while his writers were rewarded for coining the turn of phrase, he himself was not honoured for saying it out loud for that first time. And while there are greater injustices of truth around the world, let us for one night recognize the subjectivity of truth and the mixed up world of the Primetime Emmy Awards with some Headlines, of sorts.

[For more scattered, but also more fully-encompassing, reactions to tonight’s show, check out Cultural Learnings’ LiveBlog.]

“What’s Mad Men?”

While we critical types are applauding Mad Men’s victory in the Best Drama Series category (And Matthew Weiner’s win for writing the show’s pilot), I am sure there are millions of people saying something quite different: “What the hell is this?” You see, the amount of people who watch Mad Men is about, oh, 1/17 of the average audience for CSI. And while there has been some lowly-rated shows that have won in the past (Arrested Development, as an example), never before has there been a show on Basic Cable that has emerged from the pack to take the award for Best Drama Series.

And the impact it will have is yet unknown: the show, following Don Draper and the life of advertising executives and their lives outside of the office, debuted to little fanfare on AMC before downright exploding onto the critical scene. I’ve yet to see a critic who is ambivalent about Mad Men, even – it’s the kind of show that hooks people in. With a fancy-looking DVD set on the shelves, the second season airing right now on AMC (Plus with episodes available On Demand), this is a show that should be set up to receive a real boost.

But it’s also not a mainstream show, the kind of show that the people who make CSI a hit are going to gravitate towards. It’s a period drama that, while painting some fascinating characters, does so at a pace that, while I like to give them the benefit of the doubt, might scare away a fair chunk of potential viewers. Still, though, let’s ignore for a second the financial or ratings realities of television: here is a show which, in a single season, built stunning characters, an amazingly realized world, and a sense of self-identity that has led into a tremendous sophomore year so far. Simply put, this was the best show on TV last year – few would argue that point of those who’ve seen it, so let’s hope that number increases ever so slightly in the weeks to come.

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Emmys Add Reality TV Host Category; Seacrest Ecstatic

When it comes to Reality Competition programs and the Emmy Awards, it has been a clean sweep: The Amazing Race just refuses to lose the award. Whether it is its sweeping vistas, its willingness to let people fall apart without contrivances or twists, or the killer fatigue that the race’s events and pace take on the racers, the show just seems to click with Emmy voters on a variety of levels. However, now we get to answer a bigger question: does it also have the best host?

Zap2it: Reality Hosts Get Emmy Category

Much loved by fans of the series, TAR’s host Phil Keoghan is certainly not a household name and outside of providing voiceover narration and end of leg banter he really doesn’t do so much in terms of traditional hosting. While I am a fan of his work (No host’s eyebrows work as well as his in conveying surprise or emotion), he in no way drives the show forward. This is a category built for the people who are in command of a series, whose work makes or breaks the structure of an episode. On this parameter, it is a host like Ryan Seacrest that has the most to gain.

Regardless of one’s opinion of Idol, you have to admit that Seacrest is good at his job: while he was an absolute bomb of an Emmy host largely thanks to downright awful material (He’s not a comedian), the much more spontaneous format of American Idol suits him. Whether it’s arguing with Simon or speaking to the contestants, there is an ease about him that helps Idol flow – I’m not sure if he deserves all of the hype, per se, but below that hype I know there’s a good host there.

Seacrest’s competition for the award is limited, although fairly diverse considering. I don’t know if Keoghan’s understated performances will be capable of getting him into the fold, but the show’s success could carry him there amongst more showy MCs of sorts such as Ty Pennington for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or Tom Bergeron, who is really quite good when it comes to the improvisational nature of his job on Dancing with the Stars. Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum each have a particularly limited yet vital role to their shows, but I don’t know if they can lay claim to it the same way that someone like Jeff Probst does, who has done great work leading tribal councils and torturing people during challenges for 16 seasons now. I’d say he’s Seacrest’s biggest competition, no question.

However, this all begs a rather important question that Seacrest needs to think about: will his own potential success not absolutely without question guarantee that his show will never win the Emmy?

I think it does.

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