How American is American Idol?

I guess I’m disappointed…again. Thursday night, the contestant I picked to win this time around was sent home.  Apparently, he got the fewest votes, so he was sent packin’.

Well, not exactly.  James Durbin was informed he was done competing for the 2011 title of American Idol.  He’ll still be around for the remaining two shows, for a shot in the audience or some end-of-the-season finale number involving the top 11 finalists.  Then, of course, there’s the Idol tour this summer.  But when that’s done, James will be free to launch a music career and he’s going to be a presence.  He’s likeable and has all the things that you need to win over America’s hearts–he’s straight, has a wife and a kid and has also been diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome.  It’s a trifecta of good luck. 

So what happened?  Let me say up front that I just said to my wife Victoria the other night that I was fine with whoever won out of this final four.  I had my favorite, but this year was a talented lot and I could see any of these final four winning it all.  But even though with the reboot of this year’s edition, I felt so much more connected to the show….I have to ask myself–who’s doing the voting?  Maybe a better question is “How exactly does the voting work?”

I voted four times for James Durbin.  But for every 4-time voter, there’s probably a passionate teen somewhere hitting their redail and voting over 100 times for Scotty “’cause he’s cute” or Lauren “’cause she’s like me”.  Ryan Seacrest likes to brag about how many votes come in each week (last week, 72-million)  but that’s votes, not people.  So is this a talent show or a popularity contest? Should their be a limit on how many times one phone line could vote?

If I were predicting how it will go, it’ll be Scotty or Lauren winning it all.  Why do I say that? Middle America does the deciding. Scotty & Lauren are both all-American, God-fearing kids with country music roots, what’s not to love?  We’ve already had a female country music sweetheart. As for Hailey, she  has shown she has spunk, but when you stand up to what the judges are saying, that’s gonna cost you points somewhere.

It’s exactly what the producers want.  They’ve got the most-watched show on TV.  The voters will vote even more feverishly next time because they don’t want their favorite to meet James Durbin’s fate.  James will go on to a great career, much like other “losers” such as Daughtrey or Jennifer Hudson. And after all these years, American Idol still has us talking about them.

I’ve gotta remind myself, it’s just a TV show. And it’s all about what America wants, isn’t it?

Tim Hunter

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