Picks and Pans Review: American Idol
This singing competition, shaping up to be the summer's guiltiest pleasure, wants to pretend that its heart is in the right place. The winner, determined by a call-in vote and announced Sept. 4 in the august presence of a triumvirate of celebrity judges, is awarded a recording contract. Yippee.
But as with all reality shows, the pleasure for viewers is the cruel one of rubbernecking a disaster. You watch with a flesh-creeping mix of awe, shame and delight as judge Simon Cowell, a British record executive and one of the show's creators, insults contestants with such unremitting bluntness it might be kinder just to take the poor kids out back and shoot them. ("They are losers," he said of two finalists, "and they do not deserve to be in this competition.") Sitting next to Cowell, fellow judge Paula Abdul smiles tensely and in general gives the impression that she has landed in hell. From time to time a bitter also-ran named Tamika, one of thousands of wannabes who bombed in initial auditions, pops up as a commentator and pretty much trashes everyone.
The hosts, Brian Dunkleman and Ryan Seacrest, two hey-dude types who act as if running a talent contest took no more concentration than waxing a car, try to buck up the demoralized singers. But frankly, Tamika is on the money. Most contestants belt out pop ballads in standard TRL style: buttery, fluttery and without a breath of spontaneity. No wonder, considering the poisonous atmosphere. The show is Star Search conducted on a death star.
Bottom Line: An Idol mind is the devil's workshop