These wouldn't seem to be the best of times for the boys at VoteForTheWorst.com. Neither of their initial picks for Season Seven, Amy Davis and Danny Noriega, made it out of the Semifinal rounds. After Davis's elimination on the Girls' side, VFTW switched to Amanda Overmyer, who promptly cooperated by delivering the Great Kansas Train Wreck. But having survived that mishap (she was never in any danger of elimination that night with or without their support, trust us), Overmyer then did the worst thing possible for the Worsters: she checked in with two good performances while the likes of Kristy Lee Cook and Ramiele Malubay struggled mightily. Whoops. When Overmyer finally slipped again, in Final 11 Week, the purported vast army of VFTW power-dialers and power-texters couldn't help the rocker nurse get past the badly wounded Cook and onto the tour. And now, after having been thwarted three times in the span of a month, desperation may be setting in: there was actually serious talk on their site of backing...David Archuleta? (K. Cook was ultimately their choice.)
If you think we're gloating, you'd be mistaken...well, mostly. We actually have a mixed opinion of VFTW. No, we're not on board with the whole worst-voting concept, preferring instead to deal with TV shows we dislike using an old-fashioned technique called Changing The Channel. Much of the "dirt" they dig up on the contestants is so mean-spirited and lame that it reflects far worse on them than their intended targets. And yes, we find the many trolls dispatched from their website to stir up trouble across the Idolsphere ("I'll bet VFTW is going to get Amanda far!") to be some combination of childish and pathetic.
Perhaps our biggest complaint with VFTW has to do with their ineffectiveness at influencing the weekly voting outcome. American Idol never releases actual tallies, so no one can say with any assurance how much sway any particular voting bloc has. However, as we've written before, there are very few people out there who read more words written by more Idol fans across more websites each week than we do. From where we sit, VFTW appears to have no significant influence - no, not even with Sanjaya Malakar. Even if they did, any marginally competent accounting firm would be able to discern it statistically without difficulty (callers to a toll-free number have little to no anonymity, as any privacy advocate will tell you), and the producers famously "reserve the right" to adjust the outcome in such cases. From a voting standpoint, therefore, VFTW is little more than an online Sisyphus.
But hey, all Evil Empires have their downsides. VFTW brings a few positives to the table as well. Their website is modestly entertaining (if R-rated); some of their episode summaries are as funny as you'll find anywhere. They don't take themselves nearly as seriously as they'd have you believe. Plus, they're brilliant at striking fear and doubt in the hearts of those American Idol fans whose gullibility far exceeds their capacity for critical thinking. (And, let's face it, VFTW will never close its doors because that supply becomes exhausted.)
Their best trait, however, is their status as the biggest and most painful thorn in the producers' side. Though many Idolphiles will never admit it, many of the positive changes instituted in Season Seven are at least an indirect result of VFTW's rabblerousing. Moreover, it's exceedingly difficult to fault them for what they do. As the Worsters point out in their manifesto, the Idol machine pockets millions of dollars every season by humiliating bad singers during the auditions. Many of these have rather obvious personal and emotional issues that can't possibly be helped by turning them into national laughingstocks, and for no compensation. Surely this is many orders of magnitude more disgraceful than VFTW's mild embarrassment of a few very good singers who make it to the Top 24 and who stand to profit handsomely from it.
Keep in mind too that these same producers turn away hundred of outstanding vocalists every year in the earliest stages of the competition while advancing good-looking and "interesting" ones with bargeloads less talent. Two local singers, whom we know to be nothing short of amazing, were dismissed at the first table this year with a curt, "There is nothing interesting about you." If Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe seriously try to suggest to America that, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, Malakar was one of the 24 best performers they found out of the 110,000 who auditioned for AI6, then how improper can it really be for anyone to take them up on their patent nonsense and vote like mad for him?
Indeed, we hope that the exposure by VFTW and others of the undisclosed professional backgrounds of some of the AI7 contestants, and the severe fan backlashes that resulted, will convince the producers that its in their best interests to be much more forthcoming and evenhanded in AI8 and beyond.
So no, these aren't the best of times for VFTW, but they're not the worst of times either. Their ability to influence the voting outcome has been exposed yet again for what it is and what it always has been: miniscule at best. There's no reason not to enjoy their frequent comeuppances, but if you're a true music fan who demands excellent talent and a fair and transparent competition on American Idol, as we are, you won't wish the worst on the Worsters. We've all seen what sort of "competition" the producers will give us if no one holds their feet to the fire.
- The WNTS.com Team