MSNBC posted two commentaries today, one is from the sharp and cynical Andy Dehnart, who believes American Idol has nowhere to go but down
The signs are everywhere. Ratings for “American Idol 6” were down (20 percent for the finale alone); RCA Records recently dropped two “Idol” winners, Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks, and one runner-up, Katharine McPhee, from its roster; and the show has been cloned relentlessly and those clones fail, even one created by the same producers (“The Next Great American Band”).
FOX’s reality smash has certainly produced more than just ratings over its six-season history. Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are both true idols, continuing to gather awards, critical acclaim and record sales. But they seem to be the only two “American Idols” out of six…
…This downturn was inevitable, and producers have only themselves to blame. By offering ratings bait in the form of awful auditions for weeks and weeks each season, all but ignoring the singers who will eventually form the top 24 or 12, they set a tone that establishes the show as more of a joke than a true singing competition.
The other piece is from MSNBC contributor, Craig Berman. He thinks the naysayers who believe American Idol is about to crash and burn are just part of the inevitable backlash that comes when a program becomes a wildly popular cultural phenomenon.
While it’s clear that “American Idol” isn’t perfect and that last season won’t go down as the best reality programming in television history, let’s not get too crazy with the eulogies. This is still “American Idol, ” the program that’s become an integral part of the cultural landscape.
Of course, this being America, some are eager to tear down whoever is currently on top of the cultural mountain. “Idol” is in those crosshairs this year. Critics snipe at the lack of talent among the singers, the sameness of the show every year or the fact that Simon Cowell is just too mean. (OK, that may just be Rosie O’Donnell.)
But saying that “Idol” is on a quick slide down the slopes into oblivion is just wishful thinking from the haters. The fact is that the show has all the ingredients for one of the best seasons ever in 2008, and even if it does nothing at all, it’s still poised to be a staple of the FOX lineup and a boon to advertisers and product-placement companies everywhere.
“American Idol” is, in fact, the bright spot of what otherwise appears to be a dreary television lineup this spring.
So, are you on Team Dehnart or Team Berman? While I think Berman makes some salient points about how the producers emphasize style over substance, I don’t think American Idol’s current failings are going to result in its eminent demise. Berman, on the other hand, paints a rather naive picture of the typical Idol contestant, “…the talented nobody discovered in some obscure town…nurtured until he or she became a superstar, ” and Idol as “the show that makes dreams come true.” The Idol pool has become increasingly more professional since Season 4. However, I agree that’s it’s way too soon to predict that the show has run out of steam.
Honestly, I think that American Idol could become an institution, like Saturday Night Live. That show, like Idol, broke new ground and was a cultural touchstone in its day. When the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players departed for greener pastures, the show floundered for a few years. In 1981, it was on the brink of being cancelled. The producers re-tooled and it came back, as did the viewers that had left it for dead. Over the years the show has had good and bad years, but generation after generation of viewers still tune in to watch. And Saturday Night Live, after 33 years, can still spark talk around the water cooler.
I think American Idol will have a long and varied run on television. It could outlive a lot of us…
So peeps, whadaya think?