I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more ‘Idol’

It’s 8:30 on Tuesday night. I should be writing this column. Instead, I’m watching “American Idol.”

I can’t quite explain my fascination with the show. It’s just a bunch of people singing dreary pop songs for the chance to be able to do it for a living. Yet, I can’t seem to get away from it.

I became a pretty big fan of the show in season two, which featured the epic Clay/Reuben showdown in the final episode. I was a pretty regular viewer of season three until the other viewers decided to vote off all the talented singers (i.e. Latoya London). Then all that was left was some chunky white girl and that bald dude Fantasia.

After that debauchery, I swore I would never watch the show again. I actually held out until about two weeks ago. Now I’m hooked again.

So what makes this show different from any other talent competition or reality show? Why do people love it so much? Substance probably has a lot to do with it.

Other reality shows serve no other purpose than to entertain the audience and give contestants a bit of faux-fame to brag about to their grandchildren. “American Idol” is just a stepping stone — albeit a very large stone — for its contestants. It gives them an opportunity to showcase their talent for a national audience. And it hasn’t hurt that some of them have had quite a bit of talent to showcase.

It would be easy to write off “American Idol” as cheap entertainment if Kelly Clarkson had made one mediocre CD and then slipped off into “Where are they now?” land—but she didn’t. She is a bona-fide star. Who doesn’t like the song, “Since U Been Gone”? As comedian Dane Cook so eloquently said in his MySpace.com profile, “That song makes me want to trash my ex’s apartment and then walk away wearing a trendy hat.”

Subsequent Idol winners also have been able to make a nice little dent in the charts. Even non-winners like Clay Aiken and Kimberly Locke have been fairly successful with their debut albums.

The other thing that sets “American Idol” apart from the rest of the reality heap is its character. Shows like “The Bachelor,” “Joe Millionaire” and “The Apprentice” are nothing more than cheap entertainment. They celebrate controversy and backstabbing. It’s all about exploiting situations to get higher ratings.

“American Idol” is the complete opposite. A number of contestants have been disqualified for not being honest about their past. Contestants are judged not only on their talent, but also on their character. It is a welcome change of pace from the pile of crap that usually falls under the heading of “reality television.”

So here it is, 9 p.m. on Tuesday. “American Idol” is over. What did I learn from my viewing experience? I learned that Anthony Fedorov is no Clay Aiken. I learned all I have to do to be considered “rock” is to grow out my hair and wear tight leather clothing that accentuates my free-flowing chest hair. Most importantly I learned I’m a big dork for watching “American Idol.”

Carroll out.

Matthew Carroll is a sophomore magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].