Tuesday, March 14, 2006
I don’t know exactly when I got into American Idol, but it happened. What triggered my interest? I can’t say that I know. All I know is that I’ve put aside the ugly hatred and taken a bold step forward.
When American Idol first came on the air, I would go out of my way not to watch it. I would get out of the apartment and have a beer at a sports bar, on the off chance that another type of bar might have it on their TV because the bartender had to work that night and he or she couldn’t miss an episode. One day at lunch, someone pointed out Ruben Studdard to me at Virgil’s BBQ on 45th St., and I shifted my chair so that I’d face away from him. Regardless of my disdain for the show, the guy eats like a wood chipper.
Who am I to judge these people? I mean on their musical talent. I know nothing about music. The closest that I’ve come to singing a solo on stage was when I played the Rabbi in my high school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. And after the first time that I belted out “Tradition” at the top of my lungs, I was summarily dismissed downstage left, to stand and sing with the girl who had to play a man because she was too tall to play a woman and the kid with the lisp who tried out with the song, “Thunrise, Thunthet.”
Then came the night I sat at home alone with nothing to watch, so I left Fox on the TV after a 7:30 Seinfeld episode. I tried my best to resist. I openly mocked every part of the show. But the people on it are like earwigs. They’ve crawled into my ear canal and tunneled directly into my brain. And little by little, they started creeping into my life.
Someone asked me about the vichyssoise. I told them it’s a little pitchy, but it’s aight. What about last week’s episode of Gilmore Girls? That was hott, dog pound! We got a hot one tonight! How about that report that someone submitted to me on the European Union’s impact on global trade patterns and how it will shape the future of the 21st century? You my dog. You know you my dog, right? I’d become a grown, white adult evaluating my experiences with the cultural slang of a suburban pre-pubescent (no one that lives in the ghetto really talks like that).
People asked me if I watch the show and I’d laugh them off. “Watch that garbage? Please,” I’d say with an air of mocking condescension. But the more that I laugh along with other folks about how lame the performances are, the more I have to cover up what I’m doing Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights for the hour that I take my phone off the hook. And based on my increasingly odd behavior, they were beginning to figure out something was fishy.
When I ate at my office cafeteria last week, I found someone who worked there as soon as I was finished.
“Can I see the manager, please?” I asked.
“I’m the manager. Is there a problem?”
“Your coffee is utterly forgettable,” I said, “And the turkey burger is appalling. Honestly, it tastes horrid. It tastes like—it tastes like, like something they’d cook at EPCOT Center. They want you to think there’s foreign flavor, but it tastes like a hockey puck. You’ve just booked your airline ticket home with this burger.”
She looked at me like I’d just killed Bambi. I realized what I’d said. I was mortified.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled and ran out.
Last week, I openly speculated at a dinner party as to whether it was out of the question that Paula Abdul was killed in a freak accident years ago and replaced with a sugary, animatronic clone for the purposes of this television program. Sure, she’s booblicious, I said, but there’s enough space between her ears to play tennis. I watch her speak, and I stare into the abyss, and the abyss stares back.
The final straw came two days ago, when I saw that preternaturally happy little monkey Ryan Seacrest while watching a talk show with my girlfriend, and it all came gushing out. I found myself talking and I couldn’t stop. “What’s with him,” I yelled, “Why is he there. He doesn’t do anything! He just hops up on stage and asks the contestants how they thought they did. You know they just want to slap the highlights out of his idiot hair and scream, ‘DIDN’T YOU HEAR WHAT THEY JUST SAID ABOUT MY SHITTY PERFORMANCE?’ Instead they stumble through a half-hearted, ‘I thought I did well tonight’ routine while about to burst into tears reliving the entire horrible incident and he smiles while they drag themselves off stage to be with the other losers whose performances just got eviscerated.”
All my girlfriend could do was stare. And I blurted out, “Or so I’ve heard” and then went to bed.
I can’t do it anymore. I can’t continue to lead this double life. I need to set myself free. They’ve sucked me in. I never miss the show. I think that Kellie Pickler is adorable – I’ve been ready to “pick Pickler” since my eyes first locked with her onscreen eyes. I think that Kevin Covais’s voice sucks and that the little kiss-ass panders to the grandma vote. And I think that I’d saw off my right arm to have sex with Catherine McPhee. I Tivo the episodes and break down their performances like John Madden breaks down a busted 76-sweep right or a Turducken. I obsess over who’s going to get voted off on Thursday night. And I know the combination to Carrie Underwood’s high school gym locker. O.K., maybe not the last one, but that’s information that I’d value highly. And I think that says more than actually knowing the numbers.
There, I said it. I love American Idol.
But I’m still a man, dammit.
I’m still a man.