Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Until last night, I had never watched American Idol.

Well, I admit I have seen bits and pieces on occasion -- a singer here, a judge "critique" there -- but I had never watched an entire episode. I recognize that it is a very popular show and therefore many of you may think I am weird because of this, but I am ok with that. I have my reasons, which I am happy to share with you now. After you hear my reasons, feel free to judge me as weird anyway, if you like.

The first reason I had never watched American Idol is that I don't watch much television in general. I am not a snob. I like television on occasion, and even some of the dorkier shows will often amuse me if I am in the mood to watch television (anyone care to join me for an episode of "Iron Chef"? How about an "Everybody Loves Raymond" rerun?). But I think I have a touch of Attention Deficit Disorder ("ADD"). I will start to watch a show, and then the ads come on, which I can't stand, and so I start a load of laundry, or go to check my email, or start cleaning the bathroom, and then I just never make it back to the show.

Basically, I do not find most television shows interesting enough to remember to come back after 3 or so minutes of ads (and you know I must be bored with a show (or severely ADD, one of those...) if I'd rather clean the bathroom than come back to watch the rest of it!). So, rather than waste my time watching the first 8 minutes of a show, only to forget to watch the rest and then wonder how it all came out, I usually just don't bother. I'll spend that 8 minutes doing something else instead.

The second reason I had never watched American Idol is that, if I do find a show interesting or funny enough to come back after the ads ("The Simpsons," anyone?), and/or if it is a show that, although outrageously awful, sometimes "leaves you hanging" and waiting to see what happens the next week, soap-opera style ("Nip/Tuck," anyone?), I will then find myself addicted to it and wanting to watch it every single time it comes on. Since I am generally pretty busy and don't have a lot of time for television, I try to stick to sit-com's or one-time documentary or contest type shows (like the previously mentioned "Iron Chef") that don't leave you hanging and needing to watch it again the next week.

With American Idol, I was a little afraid that I would get sucked into the competition and start to care about the contestants, and then I would feel obligated to make time for it every week or every day or every however-often-it-airs.

Last night, I watched about 3/4 of an episode of American Idol.

My fears were unfounded. I did not get sucked in. I truly don't care who wins.

Some of the contestants seemed a bit immature or just silly, others a little too desperate or needy, but most of them just seemed like nice folks. Many of them sing quite well; others, not so much, but all of them sing better than I could ever hope to do. I wish them all well and hope they find success and happiness as singers. But the bottom line is, I just didn't find myself caring about any of them any more than the rest.

But I did notice something that bothered me rather a lot and made me not want to watch the show.

First, though, a question for you: How much money do you think they are making with that show?

It has to be a lot. They do not have to pay the "talent," just the 4 washed-up/has-been former stars who are judging the contest and maybe a few decent-but-not-stars musicians. The show is pretty darn popular, so I am sure their ad revenue is quite high.

I could google it and find out, but I don't really care that much.

My point, though, is that however much or little they are making, I am very sure that they could afford to buy or rent chairs for the contestants to sit in during their interminable waits in the "holding rooms."

It just struck me as very cruel that the producers choose not to provide even some standard plastic waiting room chairs for the contestants to sit in while the judges decide their fate. They simply corralled them into large, empty rooms. The contestants were left to lean against the walls or sit on the floor. At least it was carpeted; could have been worse, I guess. But truly, even prisoners awaiting trial get to sit on a wooden bench. Why do they want their contestants to be so uncomfortable?

The situation is probably more of a hardship for the women, in their heels and dresses, than for the men, in their pants and comfy shoes.

But even worse, bordering on "unusually cruel" punishment in my mind, the producers do not provide anything the contestants could read or otherwise use or do to divert their minds from the fact that they are being judged and may not last the night. What would it cost to provide, perhaps, a few old magazines or newspapers for them to read? Or a few decks of cards? Something, anything, to do....

And I would think it would lead to more interesting television, too. Instead of the repetitive and boring shots of a roomful of people pacing around and/or sitting on the floor looking stressed out, we could see how competitive these folks are, and learn a little more about their character.

Do they play poker for money? Or do they play solitaire and hog the deck? Do they fight over the magazines? Do the crossword puzzle in ink or pencil? Read over someone else's shoulder? Find anything to talk about? Do some people sit and stare or pace around and stress out, while others appear to nonchalantly read the newspaper? Does he choose "The Atlantic," or "US Weekly"? Does she read "The Wall Street Journal," or "USA Today?" Does she read the national news, or the comics, first? (I once read that folks who score highest on IQ tests routinely read the comics section first in the newspaper).

Heck, they could provide actual comfortable chairs or sofas, and then we could see if anyone is daring / stupid enough to take a nap and, if so, whether they drool or snore....

In any event, it seems to me that any or all of this would be much more fun than the current footage they are airing of a room full of people just sitting and staring and looking stressed out.

Well, to each his own, I guess. But I probably won't watch it again.

And now you can all tell me how terribly awfully wrong I am, and why this is the greatest show on television, in the comments.


Bella@That damn expat said...

I've never watched it myself. Any of those singing shows. They are not my cup of tea.

I'll take you up on the Raymond offer though.

Kim Ayres said...

can't say we ever watch any of the "reality" shows. Quite apart from the fact the primary entertainment is in the humiliation of people, as my wife is fond of saying, "Why spend your life watching other people trying to live theirs? Get out and live your own"

Dave said...

I have watched, but prefer not to. Funny that you post at this time, as I too, last night tuned in for whatever reason (nothing on and bored I guess) and got even more bored after about 4 1/2 minutes.
I watch probably 4 or 5 shows. I do not watch reruns.
I watch Dexter, Mad Men, Big Love, and Big Bang. (hmmmmmm no theme. Just serial killers, sex, booze and cigarettes, polygamy and funny brainiacs.
Great post!

Nan said...

I've never watched it, and have never understood why anyone would want to.

Lisa said...

I'm with you. I don't get into this show or any other show really. I do watch some of the auditions if I remember they're on. I usually catch one or two a season. I don't not watch tv for all of the same reasons as you though. I do like TV, but I just forget what and when a certain show is on and if I haven't seen something from the time it airs that first show... I'm lost and it feels too much like work trying to figure out what's going on.

Now, if they were to give the idol contestants some of the paraphenalia to keep them busy like you say... that could be quite interesting. I'd rather know more about the people than who sings best.

It's not all bad... idol I mean. I do enjoy some of the singers that have come from that show, but not usually the winner.

Laura said...

I have never gotten into American Idol either. I used to watch Everybody Loves Raymond all the time, but I think I've seen all the episodes so many times now that it doesn't interest me anymore.

Alice said...

LegalMist I must agree with you I do not watch those type of hubby does...I will take you up for The Simpsons....maybe you should invest in a TIVO...that has helped my ADD

Peggy said...

I have watched a little bit of idol this year....can't say that I will watch more or not. it's kind of like singing at a bar with a microphone...i can wait for the winner's first albun. I liked Carrie Underwood!

Dee said...

Ok I'm with you on Iron Chef and AI too. I first watched it years ago towards the end when Clay Aiken and Ruben were vying for the top spot.

I wanted Ruben because he did not fit the profile,... well of a star. Haven't watched it since. Good point about the seating though.

Glad to have discovered your blog.

~E said...

I don't care who wins. Besides, I'd rather watch Mike Rowe on Dirty Jobs than American Idol.

Oh, they're not on at the same time? Still...Id rather watch Mike Rowe.