With tonight's announcement of the 24 semifinalists for AI7, the preliminaries are finally over. The competition begins in earnest next Tuesday night.
We're still in a bit of shock over Tuesday's Hollywood show. Idol promised us that this year it would be "all about the music," and we'll admit that when we heard that, we snickered. Snorted, really. But darned if they weren't serious. No pointless group numbers. No irritating village-idiot sideshows. No 3AM cattiness at the hotel or steamy hot tub scenes (well, we did kind of miss those.) The final day's performances were delivered under competition conditions, including the need for rehearsal with a live band and backup singers. That process seemed to expose a few promising vocalists as being unready for prime time, and not a moment too soon.
Best of all, and to our absolute astonishment, the judges dismissed many contestants with compelling backstories or eye-candy potential, but only marginal talents. They even turned away a few whose talents seemed better than marginal, ones whom we wouldn't have raised an eyebrow in past years if they showed up on our TV screens the following Tuesday.
We're not naive enough to suggest that the producers have abandoned their old ways entirely. There was still plenty of Reality TV manipulation going on in Hollywood. Some contestants received much more favorable coverage than others, and the judges conveniently overlooked a bum note or two from the putative front-runners. As many Idol bloggers have noted, quite a few hopefuls didn't just walk in off the farm as the producers would have America believe – they have undisclosed professional resumes that go on for miles (though to be fair, that's been true of the past couple of winners, too.) If you believe that everything you saw the past two days was completely on the level, please contact the WhatNotToSing.com staff ASAP. We have some excellent investment opportunities in major highway infrastructure to discuss with you.
But all in all, the producers seem to have gotten the message from their fans. They stressed musical talent and kept the manipulation to tolerable levels. They've taken reasonable steps to weed out singers who'd be in over their heads. If they're still pimping certain contestants, well, at least they seem to be pimping genuinely good ones. We join those bloggers who are optimistic that Randy's annual proclamation of "This Is the Best Group Of Semifinalists Ever!"™ might actually turn out to be true for once....
...But it can all come a-cropper so quickly. The producers and the judges are human. It's inconceivable that they didn't allow at least one mistake to slip through the cracks. Eggs will be laid next Tuesday and Wednesday, and if past history is any indication, the voters will send most of the offending hens to the chopping block. But not all of them. And that's where the problems begin.
Which brings us to our modest proposal for 2008. Can we Idol fans, as the old political saying goes, agree to lock arms and go forth together? For one season, can we forget about forming fanbases, hopping on bandwagons, or voting for personality instead of talent? If and when a favorite contestant delivers the sort of train wreck that should surely see him or her sent packing, can we agree to watch House instead of spending two frantic hours power-dialing with Mighty Mouse Syndrome ("Here I come to save the day!") Can we resist the temptation to vote for Bert only because "...he SO deserves not to go home before Ernie!!!", when neither Bert nor Ernie have any business seeing the inside of the Kodak Theater, and when such actions only run the risk that Kermit goes home unjustly?
In short, instead of succumbing to the misguided forces which urge us to vote for the worst, could we see what happens if we all decide to vote for the best this year? The producers have done their part. The rest is up to us.
- The WNTS.com Team