I can't claim I've ever been a loyal Idol watcher. In fact, aside from watching a few episodes here and there, the only full season I ever watched was Season 2, when Ruben Studdard won and the last shows of Season 5 when the winner was Taylor Hicks. (Now both to be found in the pages of Where Are They Now?)
However, when Ellen DeGeneres started, I tuned in. Definitely am a fan of hers - at times, she makes me howl - but I'm not such a devoted fan that I ever watch her show, or follow her in any other way. I was just curious about the dynamics of the new judges together, and about how a show starting on it's 9th season adapts. And then I got pulled in. Skipped some of the audition shows, but since the final 24 have been chosen, I've been a loyal DVR watcher.
Generally, I find Reality Television, not only abhorrent, but unwatchable. I know lots of people who love Top Chef and America's Top Model, and apparently much of America likes Biggest Looser. And, of course, I've seen episodes of all those - tuned in to watch a few, just because I do - but would never care, or dare to continue watching. Zero interest.
From the beginning, Reality Television was the cheap answer to expensive-to-produce TV fare, a need which spawned an entire genre of formulaic shows. Sure, all of the procedural shows - from Law & Order to House to CSI - are also designed so that we know exactly what will happen between each commercial break. Yet somehow the formulaic nature of those shows, are comforting, as opposed to inane. We know they're scripted shows, with actual actors that we've gotten to know over the years. I do realize everyone watching reality shows know they aren't actually real - and just don't care. They're attracted to the car-wreck of it all. But I just can't suspend my own reality enough to make watching despicable people in ridiculous situations even the least bit compelling or interesting to me.
But then there's Idol. Of course, it too is formulaic. And I'm sure that there are even more 'scripted outcomes' behinds the scenes than I'd care to know about. But here, I'm okay with my own naivety and suspended reality. With Idol, the formulaic aspect of the show is neither comforting nor inane. It's just the framework to let the real drama play out - whether or not these kids have any talent. We're not forced to watch petty bickering behind the scenes, made to believe they are real conversations when a camera crew is right there in their face. We just get to watch, week after week, to see if these people can actually sing, can perform, feel comfortable on the stage, progress over time and might actually look and sound like an 'American Idol.' You can't fake that, with or without cameras.
And most of the time, through their (enormous number) of votes, American seems to get it right. From what I've seen this season, they certainly have. Again, is there some fakery behind the scenes? Does the show really go by the votes? Don't know. But I don't really care. I think the enjoyment for everyone is judging for themselves and seeing whether or not they're in sync with the rest of America - and the judges. Simon is of course almost always right on. And clearly, Ellen's role is to play the opposite of that - the nice one. Randy, somewhere in the middle. And Kara, clearly the Next Simon. Not as harsh in her delivery, but as honest. If it's true he's off the show next season, she just may be able to pull it off without him.
Although the judges are part of the show, part of the fun, bringing their own drama, (not sure what's up with the flirty thing between Kara and Simon... sometimes a bit over the top), it still isn't about them. It's about the talent - or talentlessness - of the potential Idols. Which is why with or without Simon, I think the show can go on for many seasons to come. I can't say I'll be watching every season, but they have me hooked on this one. I'll be watching til the last Idol sings.