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Television: Oh Say Can You Sing? Or, American Idol – Is Singing Well Enough?:

By the time you read this, the next one booted off American Idol will, no doubt, be the only one left who can’t really sing: Bucky Covington. If it’s anyone BUT Covington, it’s official: Americans have no taste. But we kind of already knew that, didn’t we?

Since American Idol has become a thick thread woven into the pop culture fabric here in the US (though the virus began in England, wouldn’t you know), the phenomenon has become so popular Steven Spielberg has now decided to announce his own version of the show, which will find the next great film director and air on Fox some time late this year or early 2007.

Sixteen contestants will be given weekly tasks to create short films of varying genres. They will be judged by a panel of “professionals” (read: really means has-beens and verbally abusive nobodies). The viewing public will then vote the following night on who stays and who goes. Out of this, perhaps, a film director will be born. Americans will go see the movie because they will, certainly, love the person they choose.

In its own way, American Idol gives the appearance of taking out the middle man. Spielberg’s show ought to do the same thing. There is a reason why most of the films coming out of big studio Hollywood go down like sour milk; they appear to be “developed” by the same five white guys in suits who are probably either too young for the job or not smart enough in the first place to know talent and promise when they see it.

Spielberg admitted to being a fan of the show, which started out as a curiosity but became more and more “legitimate” as Kelly Clarkson, the show’s very first winner, rose to stardom. Clarkson is now considered an actual pop star selling oodles and oodles of her CD’s.

Letting America decide is a bit like letting Americans decide what they want to eat for lunch; you can be assured that they’ll take fried and sweet over wholesome and healthy. The point isn’t whether or not it’s good for you but that it’s your choice. And you’re going to spend your last dollar on it.

But is American Idol a true stepping stone to fame or was Kelly Clarkson a fluke? Clarkson had everything going for her – a great voice and a charismatic personality that went beyond “cute.” But she was likely turned away by record execs and casting directors before American Idol for being too zaftig. Then the teeming masses came along and said, you know what, record execs? We don’t care what’s going on with all that junk in the trunk, we like how the girl sings! And lo! Clarkson then became less zaftig and more J-Lo. Everybody wins.

You gotta hand it to American Idol for proving that Americans DO know what they want. But what of all of the others who came after Clarkson? Clay Aiken (the runner-up) has made a name for himself, but what of Ruben Studdard? Fantasia? And now, the latest winner, the blond and bland Carrie Underwood? Can they go the distance like Clarkson? Fantasia has a child to raise and hasn’t been touring or appearing non-stop like the uber-ambitious Clarkson. It must come back to that old saying, talent and luck will only get you so far. The rest of it has to be filled with a desire to rise to the top at any cost.

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