Sunday, January 11, 2009

The One Where I Fix American Idol

Once again, let me remind you that this blog is called Should've Asked Me because no one did.

And when it comes to "fixing" American Idol, they hardly need my help. The show arguably doesn't need fixing at all. Yes, last season was a bit of a drag, but people still tuned in. And adding a judge and more youthful mentors and the other changes to come are all good.

So this is all just me yakking about what I would do if I were given the power to revamp Idol. So here goes:

I am a huge fan of Top Chef and Project Runway. They are absorbing and hypnotic, even on the umpteenth viewing, which I'm surely up to. I watch them again and again, loving them none the less.

On the other hand, when watching an episode of Idol for the first and only time, I really only watch half of it at most. For example, I hated Jason Castro. I hated his stupid face, his stupid voice, his whole stupid stupidness. When it was his turn to sing, I'd hit that FF like a crazy monkey. And if little David whats-his-name was next, that FF would keep doing its stuff. And so on, and so on.

Because American Idol is like Project Runway... if Project Runway were just a whole hour of models walking in dresses. Would you care if it were just one long fashion show every week? Neither would I.

We get invested in the fashion show because we've seen the drama that goes into putting it together.

So even if I hate, say, Kenley -- and I so do -- I don't fast forward through her design. That would be missing the end of that episode's "story."

American Idol has no story. So you watch the singers you like, FF through the ones you hate. And math being what it is, each week there are fewer singers you like. More and more FF'ing.

Why make the preparation for the show invisible, when that's the best part? Surely the process of putting that show together is full of drama. Surely pulling kids out of malls and hotel conference rooms and plunking them into the Idol world is a huge, interesting story. Them clashing over who gets to sing which song -- as they apparently do -- is a great story. They live together, they rehearse together, they chug Red Bull, they go shopping, they hook up...

... and all of it is completely hidden from us. Why? Why does Idol pretend that these kids are all getting along famously? It's simply not possible. (And being allowed to be human wouldn't hurt their commercial appeal. Just the opposite.)

Hell, even those Ford commercials would be interesting, if only we could see what went into making them. Plus we'd learn something about how a commercial is made, just as Project Runway and Top Chef have taught us about things like rooshing and ceviche.

And even if you remove everything else from the equation, we're still being denied a great makeover show. A hick being turned into a glamourpuss is a TV show in itself. Idol has 24 of them, and all that making-0ver is going to waste.

Even sanitized as they are, the meeting-the-mentors segments are the highlights of each episode. And Hollywood week is -- IMHO -- far and away the best part of the season. Because there are actual stories being told. It's like a musical version of the Olympics... and we all know what a drag the Olympics would be if not for the human stories behind the competition.

And there's one more thing I would do if I ran Idol: give Simon Cowell whatever he wants, for as long as he wants. Pay him a gazillion dollars. Do the show in his backyard if he demands it. Anything. Without him there ain't no show.

Whatever Became of Me?

Hi, sorry, I've been away for quite a while. Er, you did notice, right? If not, never mind.

Anyway, I haven't really posted in a long while. Partly because I was very busy with the other things in my life. And partly because I was preparing for -- and then embarking on and then recovering from -- the biggest trip of my life.

I went on the MacMania 8 cruise of the Eastern Mediterranean. Obviously, the stops in Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt and Greece were incredible. (I think I could happily live the rest of my life in Oia on Santorini, pictured below.) But the computer and photography seminars onboard were fascinating, offering a rare chance to learn from and hang with pros like Sal Soghoian, David Pogue, Don McAllister and Lesa King. And the people I met were great. It was a fun, friendly group to travel with. I would recommend Insight Cruises' MacMania and other themed cruises wholeheartedly, and I can't wait to sail with them again.

(In fact, it's killing me that I can't do Macmania 9 in July. Leo Laporte and Andy Ihnatko are going, and I'm a huge fan. I hope they are also on Macmania 10!)

There was another reason I posted less and less, and it's a personal one, I guess. When I started this blog back in October, 2005, I was more or less the only person I knew who was doing this. Since then, some of the most unpleasant, unfunny people I know have started blogging, and the results have been so hacky and offputting that it felt icky to blog... like I was somehow swimming in a pool of water they'd fouled.

In fact, one blog is so irritating, so hacky, so constantly wrongheaded, that many times I would force myself to check in on it, just to make sure I wouldn't post on a topic covered there. And after a while, knowing I'd have to read that blog scared me off writing on this one.

But that's on me. I'll try to write more often, but I probably won't write regularly for a while. Just when I have something vitally important to write about, like American Idol. Or when something can't be done in a tweet.

And speaking of tweets, most of what I used to do here I'll now be doing on Twitter, where I'm markowitz. See you there, I hope.