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Camp Should-A-Been

What if American Idol viewers had voted strictly on performance? Let's find out.

Campers!  Settle down, please.  Stack your duffel bags and trunks along the back wall of the dining hall.  Then, find your name tag at one of the seven long tables and have a seat.

Welcome, everyone, to Camp Should-A-Been.  We're so happy that all 194 of our invitees were able to attend.  We recognize that you're very busy people and that it was difficult for many of you to get away, what with Carrie at the Opry, Taylor and Fantasia on Broadway, the Season Seven finalists rehearsing for their summer tour, and quite a few semifinalists having to find someone to cover for them on the breakfast shift at Denny's.  But now that you're here, we promise to make it worth your while.

Let's get straight to business.  The premise behind Camp Should-A-Been is simple.  Every camper here was a contestant on American Idol between AI1 and AI7.  Remember the thrill and the anticipation before your first semifinal episode?  Remember how Ryan introduced you, you came onstage and sang your song, the judges delivered their critiques, and then you nervously awaited the voters' verdict the next day?  But unfortunately, the voters were fickle.  Some of you sang brilliantly but went home too soon; others sang terribly and still stuck around, week after painful, off-key week.

Which led we camp counselors to wonder.  Suppose the viewers, instead of voting on irrelevancies like popularity, appearance, pity, and spite, actually voted on, you know, performance?  A quaint notion to be sure, but bear with us.  Suppose American Idol actually worked the way it's supposed to: as a fair, impartial, sudden-death singing competition in which the contestant who delivered the week's worst performance was sent home, each and every time?

That, friends, is what Camp Should-A-Been is all about.

Camp Rules

This summer, we're going to recreate all seven seasons of Idol, one by one.  You contestants will sing for America again, but this time around, there'll be no voting to sweat out.  Instead, we'll use the Web approval ratings at WhatNotToSing.com to determine who stays and who goes immediately after each episode.

What's that, Tamyra?  Will there be any carryover from week to week?  Nope.  Our counselors have short memories.  The lowest-rated contestant each episode gets a free bus ride home to Mom and Dad, no matter how well they sang in previous rounds nor how well we "know" they'd sing in future ones.  If you believe that past performances should play a role in the decision, then why shouldn't other background factors count as well, like personality or theme-fit?  At the end of the day, they're all just bogus excuses for advancing a popular contestant ahead of someone who outsang them fair and square.

Wow, Jordin, you just turned pale as a ghost.  That must be Bon Jovi playing on your iPod.  Ah, but you're in luck, young lady: we're going to follow the same elimination structure as in the original episodes.  For example, the first three seasons will run their semifinals using the old groups-and-wildcard format, while from AI4 on we'll eliminate two guys and two girls each week.  Among other things, that means we won't be cutting anyone after AI6's Idol Gives Back episode; we'll send two people home the next week based on their combined numbers.  So if you're truly livin' on a prayer, you might still survive that famous nightmare.

OK, we see a lot of semifinalists' hands shooting up, and we know what you're going to ask.  If you were eliminated unjustly in an early round, how can we determine for sure how you'd have performed in the future?  The answer, of course, is that we can't; we're not soothsayers.  However, after analyzing seven seasons' worth of data, we've found that the typical contestant's performance rating trends slowly downward as the competition progresses.  So, we'll take your average rating at the point of your elimination and project it from there.  True, if you were knocked out very early, you don't have much of a chance of winning the crown.  Your week-to-week rating will have decayed too far by the Finale.  But, a few of you "robbed" semifinalists will nonetheless find yourselves surviving deep into the competition.  That could spell the difference between a successful career in the entertainment industry and a life in showbiz oblivion.  Right, Suzy?

We heard someone ask if the season results will be very different.  Like, duh!  To use your jargon, they're going to be ginormously different.  You'll be shocked to see how early some finalists are going to be shown the door, and even more shocked to see who'll be taking their spots in the Final Five and beyond.  Many of you winners, won't.  But if you think you can predict the actual champions here at Camp Should-A-Been, you might be in for the biggest shock of all.

We're sure you have plenty more questions, but all will be explained as we go along.  We'll get the competition started tomorrow night, beginning with the first semifinal episode of Season One.  For now, grab your gear and head over to your team's cabin.  No, Corey, you can't bunk with Paula.

(To be continued...)

- The WNTS.com Team

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