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Television: The Sanjaya Phenom – Myth or Publicity?:

Oh, poor Sanjaya Malakar. All he ever did was try out for American Idol, and look at what his life has morphed into. He’s a bona fide phenomenon known only for being a bit of a joke. He can’t really sing that well (though I take issue with the dismissive “tone deaf” description he’s been getting lately), and who knows if he has the potential to be a real star rather than something that makes people giggle. What he does have, though, is magnetic appeal. Somehow, some way, he has it.

Something odd has transpired as a result of Sanjaya’s popularity. None of it is really his fault, unless you count showing up in a faux-hawk and crazy-dancing all over the stage. No, the strange thing that’s happened, and it is the first to really cause a major ripple in the voting practices of the show, is that the website votefortheworst.com has Sanjaya right at the top of the list.

In a votefortheworst perfect world, haters would all band together to mess with the results of American Idol, thus proving it as a fraud and a fake. Or else it’s just a case of boys (and girls) being boys (and girls). They are out to create mischief, it would appear. Howard Stern has also been in on the game and is encouraging his listeners to also vote for Sanjaya. There have been rumors of secret voting tactics that have 14,000 votes attributed to one person.

There have also been rumors of Sanjaya’s response to all of this. At first he seemed giddy about it – high on fame. But now he’s reportedly said he won’t take the prize if, by some miracle, he beats the others to win the show. Now, Sanjaya, if America votes you in as the winner, take it, brother!

The question is, does the website have enough traffic and does Howard Stern have enough listeners to really throw off the show? It’s really hard to imagine that they do, especially since millions of viewers watch the show. If they wanted Sanjaya gone, he’d be gone. The reality is that Sanjaya has what it takes to charm the pants off pre-teen girls. He is sexy in that very non-threatening way, and he has those eyes, that smile, that hair!

The main reason I personally would like to see Sanjaya stay? He’s a lot more interesting than many of the other contestants. Let’s face it, it isn’t exactly the most exciting American Idol ever.

Could it be this whole thing is just a stunt to drive up publicity for a show that seems to be off-balance by two really awesome singers versus a klatch of mediocre ones? Could it be that they’re secretly afraid that if it comes down to two African American finalists America will turn away? Could it be that no one saw Sanjaya coming and it was really just one of those weird pop culture eruptions that takes everyone by surprise?

If you’re reading this the week Sanjaya finally got the boot, well, I apologize for writing all of this prematurely. It’s entirely possible that by the time this goes to print America will have voted (or else Simon ordered the voting null and void to put an end to the dog and pony show), and the news of the day will be that the puppy-eyed cutie was given the boot. There are two of them I could see being dumped before he goes, but who knows. Perhaps this week will be the upset everyone has been waiting for (isn’t there always one per season?).

American Idol will next be seen in all of its glory Tuesday night on Fox.

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