So here we are at the end of another cycle of Fox’s juggernaut, American Idol. For seven seasons, the televised talent show has been the thorn in the side of every network and the scorn of “real”music fans. I’ll admit it, I watch the show. I enjoy hearing these contestants trying to make it big, and it is one of the few programs my family can watch together. Even “family”shows, these days deal with issues that are a little to mature for a six- and nine-year-old. This year, the show that gave us the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry (and cursed us with Taylor Hicks and Clay Aiken) has seen its ratings suffer a blow. Was it fallout from the recent writers’ strike that also ate away at the ratings for so many other primetime series? Or was it something else? Although American Idol will finish the year the number one-rated show, giving Fox another season win in the ratings war, I believe viewers got a stale taste in their mouths.
The show suffered from several setbacks early on, starting with the weeks of audition episodes that seemed to drag on like they would never end. We get it, hundreds of thousands of people auditioned and the poor, overpaid judges had to suffer through innumerable bad auditions. Boo hoo. Here’s something I don’t get. If only the most talented singers are supposed to get through the door to meet Randy, Paula and Simon, how come we end up seeing so many shitty vocalists? Sure, one or two might be good for a laugh, but it gets old really fast. A smart thing to do would be to pare down these audition episodes to a two-hour special and then get on with it. Another problem the show had was its bloated Wednesday night episodes that are supposed to serve notice to the person going home that week. Instead of announcing the loser in one half hour segment, we were subjected to live question-and-answer portions via the Internet. People don’t care whether Simon and Paula really hate each other, or if one of the contestants is single. We just want to hear them sing.
Additionally, we had to sit through some artist pimping their new record sing a song none of us have ever heard. Fox has already announced that next year they will return to the half-hour format they used before this year. Smart move. One other step the producers should take is to give up on those dreaded theme nights. If this is a contest to choose a singer who can sing contemporary music, why are the contestants required to fumble their way through disco era, doo-wop, or (worse) Andrew Lloyd Weber Songs? Either let them choose their songs entirely on their own, or narrow the songs they can select to the past 20 years.
Still, the biggest problem with the show this season is that there was no suspense. Anyone watching the show knew pretty early on who the two finalists would be this year: 17-year-old, cherub-faced David Archuleta, and former bartender and brooding singer, David Cook. Ever since Archuleta performed John Lennon’s “Imagine,”he’s been the hands-on favorite to win this year. It didn’t matter that he didn’t know a single Beatles song or that he sometimes appeared robotic on stage. With his boyish charm and “gosh oh golly”personality, Archuleta is safe and vanilla; the perfect American Idol contestant. Cook, on the other hand, sings with conviction, has actual life experience that he can apply to his performances, and has shown actual range week after week. It seems that no matter what the genre, Cook has been able to adapt the music to fit his style and transform the material into something radio friendly with a slight edge. Cook is by far the more talented of the two.
He doesn’t stand a chance.
Young David has the tween girl vote all to himself. The girls that line the front of the stage each week scream and cry as if he wereâ€¦ well, as if he were a Beatle. No matter how well Cook sings, with every young girl voting for him, Archuleta should win by a landslide. But like I said, he’s been the presumptive winner since early in the season. No suspense. Speaking strictly from the viewpoint of someone who watches a lot (too much) television, without the suspense, the show’s faults shine through.
I would be quite surprised if David Cook wins on Wednesday night; it certainly would shock most of America. But I hope he doesn’t. When everything is said and done, it would be better for David Cook’s career if he did not win. Without the yolk of being the winner of American Idol around his neck, Cook may be able to record an album that suits his talent as an alt-rock singer, rather than the dreadful pop material written by a board room full of songwriters.Would I buy his CD?Probably not, but I wouldn’t mind tuning in next year when he makes the requisite season eight appearance.