I was in the middle of responding to a comment from the last show post, and I thought my response (and the resulting discussion) would benefit from being in its own separate post on the site. In show 414, I made some comments about my irritation with the exaggeration of percentages, most notably by the judges on American Idol.

Longtime contributor to the show Wayne responded thusly:
“Well if you will hop back on the American Idol train… 🙂

I am taking a sabbatical – after I read the Ben Elton novel “Chart Throb”, I just can’t watch. I mean, how could 3 people see a whole football stadium full of people? At 2 minutes per audition minimum (before editing), that’s 360 people in a 12 hour day.

It’s a fraud – and you can take that to the bank, 1000% :-)”

No doubt, Wayne – and I’m happy to confirm it.

I can tell you with 100% (ahem) certainty that the three judges DON’T see everyone in that football stadium full of people. Tristan’s former preschool teacher auditioned a few years ago when they came through Denver, and he spilled the beans about the whole ordeal.

If I remember his description correctly, you go through four or five auditions with producers who each wave you through to the next level. And obviously, the producers want the show to be entertaining, so not only do they push through the best of the best, but they also greenlight those folks who make for good “train wreck T.V.”; those people who can’t sing, who have unusual affectations, or in the case of the most recent episode, those who carry with them a baggie full of the last seven years of fingernail clippings.

And that’s what makes the show a little mean sometimes. Some of these terrible singers have been told by the last few rounds of producers that they’re making it through to the next round, so it’s no wonder they look so crestfallen with they finally get the truth from Simon, Randy and Paula. The editing doesn’t help them, either. In some cases, it appears that the singer finishes their butchering of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, only to find the judges silently staring at them, and the singer sitting there awkwardly in silence waiting for a response. In reality, I’m sure they’ve shot footage of each side silently listening to the other, and with some basic editing, you can make it look like awkward silence.

And I think I’m done with watching the show, or at least joining Wayne in taking a sabbatical from it.

Primarily, and this was also said by the wonderful Len and Nora over at Jawbone in their most recent show, because of the selection process, it’s going to be rare to find exceptionally unique talent. Imagine an unknown Bob Dylan auditioning for the show. Or a Tom Waits. Think of any of your favorite performers, and imagine them singing for the judges. Not to say that there isn’t a place in the music industry for American Idol; I think there very much is. And I think they have discovered some true talent that I’ve enjoyed: Taylor Hicks, Chris Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, Kimberly Locke, Katharine McPhee, and more that I’m probably forgetting.

It’s going to be hard, mind you, to stop watching. With four hours a week, it’ll be hard not to stumble onto the show (when I’m not recording my own!)