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The $%^&* producers of American Idol have finally gone too far....

We're appalled.  We're outraged.  Heck, we're appaled and outraged.  We're livid with anger, consumed by fury, and did we mention outraged?

As longstanding American Idol fans, we thought by now we'd be used to all the aggravating tricks in the producers' books.  But AI9 is the straw that broke the point of no return.  (Okay, we're mixing our metaphors again, but you know: appalled, outraged, etc.)  After the hot, steaming, transparently-rigged mess that was Season Eight, we tuned in this year expecting the worst.  Well, we're through the audition rounds and the semifinals, and guess what?

The auditions were quite reasonable, with a much higher talent-to-bozo ratio than usually makes it to our TV screens.  There was a Best Of The Rest episode that allowed almost every eventual semifinalist to receive some early face time.  The first day of Hollywood showcased a lot of interesting talent.  Group Night and Three Rooms Night brought us the usual overdose of melodrama, but they also included far more on-stage singing than last season's debacles.  We might quarrel here and there with the judges' choices for the Top 36 24, but overall it seems like they assembled a promising, eclectic, talented crew, with no Normund Gentiles or Tatiana Del Toros taking up space.

In short, 19E appear to have performed a total about-face from last season, cleaned up their acts, and left us nothing to complain about here in our pre-season editorial.

We'll never forgive those vermin for this.

In all seriousness, we're not ready to join the Fuller-Cowell Admiration Society just yet.  There was still too much time spent on going-nowhere prima donnas during Group Night ... and way too many shots of worried singers huddled on the floor of hotel conference rooms for hours with nothing to do but, uh, huddle and worry (like, geez 19E, don't you make enough money off this show to afford to rent three flat-screen TVs and some chairs?) ... and Decision Day went on for an hour and a half, which is about 88 minutes too long for our tastes ... and as usual, the sheer volume of Miracle-Preemies and Grew-Up-In-Poverty-But-Still-Have-A-Heart-Of-Golds and Struggling-Unwed-Parents-Trying-To-Make-A-Better-Life-For-Their-Adorable-Young-'Uns and They-Said-I'd-Never-Sing-Agains, etc., really stretch the limits of credulity.

But hey, we're American Idol fans.  We're used to that.  All we've ever asked for is that the producers find 24 national-quality singers, turn them loose in a fair and impartially-judged singing contest, and may the one who impresses America the most, win (with the runners-up enjoying as much or more success in the entertainment industry as commensurate with their talent.)

So far at least, the producers appear to have held up their end of the bargain.  Mind you, all this might change this week when the main competition gets underway.  For one thing, some of the semifinalists will undoubtedly wilt under the pressure and cough up hairballs (and yeah, like all Idol fans, we'll be grousing that the judges sure did a lousy job in Hollywood, etc.)  For another, the folks in the main office might decide that so-and-so is a Can't-Miss Superstar who simply must get to the Finale, at which point the string-pulling and scale-thumbing might begin in earnest.

And for a third, even if 19E wants to pretend that last year's horror show never happened, like that infamous season of Dallas which turned out to be only Pam's dream...well, let's just say that here at WNTS Headquarters, we may or may not forgive them eventually.  But we guarantee that we'll never forget it.

For the time being, like all our readers, we're going to continue keeping our fingers crossed and hope that Season Nine lives up to its early promise.  We'll still be outraged, of course, but only just to keep in practice.

- The WNTS.com Team

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