Idol is back!!!

I can't imagine watching the audition rounds without a restless thumb on the ffwd but it had its moments last nite and the one before. Tears were shed chez nous over Angela Martin, the mama of the little girl with Rett Syndrome, and I was laughing too hard to catch all the awful/awesome puns in the song about stalking Paul Abdul. (You know you want it.) They're trying extra hard this year, it seems, to remind us of the successes of Idol alumni (Kelly, Carrie, Elliott), pushing the value of the brand even as some recent winners have not found much success as pop stars. And the judges are avoiding the nastiness they have shown in turning down the awful singers in years past. It is no longer plausible that anyone would be genuinely surprised by the idiots and famewhores and faux-naifs whose friends or family tell them they can sing. It may be called reality TV, but we don't want our TV degradation to be too real.

Randy still bellows, "Welcome to Hollywood!" even though they are not, in fact, in Hollywood, and he still calls bad singing "a little pitchy"--no matter how pitchy, Randy says "a little." Paula still admires pretty boys like she'd take them home to her boudoir if only, and boosts up girls who sing just ok by complementing their looks. Simon still surprises us with cogent, dead-on evaluations and lack of a fashion sense. The point of the early weeks is to combine some good singing--paired with inspirational, NBC Olympics-style backstory packages, the best of which this week was the one of the fresh-faced farmer pushing hay bales around with his tractor--with the requisite novelty and kicks and Simon zingers. The best of his lines in the opening week came on the second installment, when he told one pretty blond teenager with a big voice that she's not as good as she thinks she is. Delicious.

I'm not the only academic blogging the AI beat. Henry Jenkins compares Idol to its predecessors, TV variety shows. (Sanjaya Malakar and his attractive sister Shyamali apparently have just such a show in the works for MTV!) In an appreciation of the show's return, Bob Rehak manages to work in references to Althusser, Kracauer, Haeckel, along with Jordin Sparks and Ryan Seacrest, so click on over.

And you probably knew this already, but my wife (she of the aforementioned thumb) is Dr. Television. Every time a blog begins it's like a crisp new morning on the earth.

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