In his weekly media interview, American Idol's Nigel Lythgoe addressed the show's latest bit of controversy: several Season Seven contestants have extensive but unpublicized professional backgrounds, Carly Smithson in particular. Lythgoe's response is that he feels it's a non-issue being blown out of proportion in the forums and media.
We agree, to an extent. Idol isn't for amateurs only, and never has been. Yes, it's a great story when an Elliott Yamin strolls in off the street and goes far, but those are the exception, not the rule. The vast majority of top contestants over the first six seasons were professional singers of one form or another. Some, like Chris Daughtry, were weekend musicians with day jobs. Others, like Bo Bice and Melinda Doolittle, were full-time pros; when Doolittle's alarm clark went off every morning and she drove into work, it was to a recording studio. Most signed on for Idol hoping for their first big break, but a few were recording-artist failures like Smithson looking for a second chance. Don't think that's fair? Throw away all of your Kelly Clarkson albums, then.
That said, we have two bones to pick with Lythgoe. One is the producers' habitual lack of forthcomingness about the contestants' professional backgrounds. Every audition season we learn more about their pets' eating habits than we do about their stage experience. This isn't A Few Good Men; we Idol fans can handle the truth. A little full disclosure would go a long way to healing many of the show's frequent self-inflicted wounds.
And speaking of those, we have a question. Why is it that every time the producers take to the media to douse a small flame, they turn it into the Great Chicago Fire? In addition to doing little to quell the latest overblown controversy, Lythgoe tossed in several wince-inducing comments, non moreso than this:
"It’s an online backlash. We talk about getting between 35 and 65 million calls. I really don’t think online, even when there’s a complete focus like Votefortheworst.com, has any effect on this show. There are too many people who vote."
Good heavens. Does Lythgoe believe that millions of Americans vote for two hours, then just crawl back into their cryogenic chambers and set the timer to next Tuesday at 8pm? Or has he just not replaced his desk calendar since 1993? In modern-day America, everyone is wired, so any "online backlash" inevitably represents one brewing in the real world as well. Celebrities, politicians, and businesspeople learned this lesson years ago. Only Idol seems not to have gotten the memo.
We still have high hopes for Season Seven, even if the semifinals got off to something of a slow start on Tuesday. The producers listened to their fans and made a number of overdue improvements in the talent search area. For Season Eight, we hope they improve equally as much in the public relations area.
- The WNTS.com Team