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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Has AMERICAN IDOL finally jumped the shark?

A little while ago I got to watch last night's American Idol (ain't DVR the greatest gadget ever?). This hasn't been the best season of Idol. Truth be known, apart from three singers in this year's bunch, it's been pretty boring. I've wondered - and quite a few times I should note - whether it's possible that American Idol has, at last, jumped the shark.

Last night's show might have been it. In case you haven't heard about it already, this is Ashley:

Starting with Sanjaya Malakar, the camera kept focusing on this girl who was sitting toward the front of the audienc, and she was crying like crazy. It happened so much that I seriously wondered, and even said this to my wife, if she was a "plant": someone put there by the producers for the show value. I mean, we're talking about this girl getting roughly the same amount of camera time that Sanjaya had whie he was onstage singing. And how did the producers know exactly where to find this girl, out of all those people?

Well, it turns out that as for whether she was a plant or not, the answer is: "kinda, yeah". Here's the story from the Los Angeles Times:

First things first: Who was the crying girl? After the show, I chatted with Idol's newest superstar, the crying girl, Ashley Ferl, aged 13, from Riverside. For some long minutes after the show, Ashley remained in a state of inconsolable sobbing, unable to choke out a single word. However, through an interpreter (her mother) we were eventually able to learn some facts about the young superstar.

The family, I was told, obtained tickets on a website to attend a taping of "Smarter Than a 5th Grader" a day passage that included not just the taping of the show itself, but also the dress rehearsal of either "Grader" or "Idol." The fates were kind, and the mother and daughter found their way to the "Idol" rehearsal, where Ashley’s waterworks began. Her prowess was quickly brought to the attention of "Idol" producers who summoned the clan to a ringside seat of honor at the final taping.

Her powers of speech slowly returning, Ashley revealed that while she was on stage she had been thinking that "this was the coolest thing ever." Asked whom she was supporting in the competition she named "Sanjaya, Melinda, Gina and Jordin" as her picks, refusing to narrow her vote down to a single choice. All my journalistic powers of persuasion, cajoling, bullying and insistence that on her vote might turn the entire competition, that "Listen to reason, young Ferl, there can't be four American Idols," would not convince her to name a single favorite. To my every argument, she would only repeat her mantra, "All Four: Sanjaya, Melinda, Gina and Jordin." And so the race begins in earnest, with tears at every step of the way.

So Ashley was not someone that the Fox suits intended to be a plant (look it's happened before, it was reasonable to be suspicious) but she was very much overwhelmed by the experience of being there during a live American Idol show and the Fox execs played it to the hilt. Probably without her knowing it. Which if Ashley is fine with it, it's fine with me. But it does seem like a rather tacky move on the part of Fox to exploit a thirteen-year old girl's emotions like that.

Was this attention to Ashley done in an attempt to influence the voting? I have to wonder about that too. However it is, I don't know if this show really has that kind of allure for me anymore. Last year's competition that produced Taylor Hicks and Chris Daughtry (among others) seems more and more like the high-water mark of American Idol, that will never be equalled. This latest thing just impresses in my mind all the more that this show can't ever be that good again.

Was last night when American Idol finally jumped the shark? Time will tell...


Jenna St.Hilaire said...

Good grief... what kind of parents let their daughter do that to herself in front of TV cameras?

Tacky's the word for the Fox producers, that's for sure. That or 'perverse.'