Off-Site Learnings: Idol, Summer TV
June 5th, 2010
As you may know, I’ve been writing some columns for Australia’s Jive TV as of late, which you’re now able to find in the convenient sidebar of the blog’s many pages should you be interested in reading the latest column. However, since I haven’t been linking to them directly, here’s my most recent columns.
As promised, I wrote up some of my thoughts ahout Simon Cowell’s departure from American Idol and its likely effect on the series, in particular whether the series can remain the phenomenon it is in light of both Simon’s absence and this season’s tepid offerings:
Across the Pond: Does Idol Need to Change Its Tune? [Jive TV]
I don’t want to suggest that Simon’s final moments weren’t honest, as he was quite emotional and heartfelt as he said goodbye to the show which he helped turn into a phenomenon, but I feel like Simon is (surprisingly, considering his supposed narcissism) underselling his importance to this series. As a Canadian who cannot actually vote for American Idol, I lack the sense of ownership which he emphasizes here: his argument, implicit in his statements, is that people will keep watching because they want to be able to say that the winner is “their” American Idol, and it’s hard to do that if you’re not tuning in.
This week, meanwhile, I took a look at the ways in which we perceive summer television, a bit of an elegant restatement of my “I have no bloody clue what happened on Royal Pains last summer” argument from my review of that show, but also some thoughts on whether good summer programming (like Burn Notice) is unfairly lumped in with summer burn-offs or reality shows (which didn’t make it into the column due to space concerns) that often define the season as inferior to the fall or midseason periods of the schedule:
Across the Pond: Lazing into TV’s Summer Season [Jive TV]
What I will say is that summer television is often different than fall television in terms of how we perceive it. When shows come back in the fall, we’re going to be waiting anxiously to see how cliffhangers are resolved, or how new storylines will unfold, but with shows like Burn Notice and Royal Pains I don’t quite see them in the same light. While Burn Notice [has serialized elements]…it took me a good five minutes of thinking about it before I remembered what happened at the end of the show’s third season (which just finished in March). Royal Pains…relies less on serialized storytelling and ended its first season last summer, so I could spend a good two hours and likely be unable to come up with where the show ended off.
Watch the sidebar for future columns, and I’ll likely post again in a couple of weeks with the next few articles (as I’m going to be away next weekend when the next one is posted).
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.]
Let’s Drop the 1: American Idol Season 9’s Case of the Top 2
March 16th, 2010
I, like many others, don’t tend to pay too much attention to American Idol until we get to the Top 12. However, I did watch enough of the preliminary rounds to get a sense of this year’s stable of talent, which means that I was prepared for the predictable and unsatisfying evening of music that unfolded tonight.
However, I wonder what someone who had watched none of those rounds would think of these performances: since the performers weren’t quite the tone deaf cacophony that they could have been, would they have deemed this a fairly competent group of finalists despite the fact that there is absolutely no depth within their ranks? In the end, I don’t think that the disappointment in this year’s Top 12 is based only on the talent that got away (Lilly Scott, Alex Lambert), and I think that even someone who came in blind would wonder if this was really the best that America had to offer.
In other words, even a layperson would be able to realize that there were only two competitors who really stepped up to the plate tonight, and every long-term viewer of this show knows that there’s a fairly good chance that neither of them will become the American Idol.
Idol and Ellen Go Hollywood: Season 9
February 9th, 2010
Like many, I don’t tend to join American Idol until after the audition rounds. Sometimes this means joining at the start of the Hollywood rounds, so that we can see the talent go through the “gruelling” process that narrows down the competition to the Top 24. However, other times I wait until the Semi-Finals, because there are some times (like last season, when Kris Allen had absolutely no coverage prior to the semi-finals and won the entire competition) when these rounds don’t actually matter in the end (not that I’m suggesting the show as a whole matters in any grand scheme of things, but rather in terms of the narratives the show wants to be able to create).
This year, of course, there is reason to tune in for Hollywood, as we see what sort of role that Ellen DeGeneres, she of the sharp wit and daytime talk show, will play as the new judge. What I realized in watching tonight’s episode, though, was that the Hollywood Round is awkwardly positioned as a launching pad and a crash zone, a place where narratives from the auditions come to die and where new narratives leading into the semi-finals are formed. And, in this internet age, I almost feel as if the rounds are becoming more and more irrelevant, in that any new narratives can be followed online while avoiding the resolution to the manipulative clip package narratives the show created in the audition rounds.
Some more thoughts on this balance, and what I thought about Ellen’s judging gig, after the jump.
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.
May 20th, 2008
Well, FOX would like us to believe that the battle between David Cook and David Archuleta is like a boxing match, which is really not the most apt metaphor for a variety of reasons. First off, in this day and age, most boxing matches are rarely as close as this battle, and no one really pays attention to boxing anymore either. Second off, I’m fairly certain that if Archuleta was that overwhelmed by praise by this point in the competition, he’d be in the ring for about twenty seconds before the bright lights had him “Omigosh”-ing Pavlov style.
Rather, I like to think of it as a duel – not only do I think it’s slightly catchier, but it is also a better representation of how these two competitors stack up. I haven’t cared enough about their battle to turn in for the last few rounds, what with their unshaking inevitability, but when it comes down to seeing how these two very different, but fairly equally popular, candidates shake up I am most intrigued.
And there’s plenty of spectacle: Tale of the Tape theming, Clive Davis, excessive amounts of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the wonderous opportunity to hear MORE THAN ONE of the hideous Idol songwriting contest entries. So instead of our contenders being able to define themselves as artists, they have to follow the guidance of an old man and sing an awful emotional/spiritual song.
So, needless to say, Archuleta benefits most from this arrangement.