a dangerously uncontrollable person or thing
an expendable or exploitable person, group, or thing
what happens when a loose cannon prematurely discharges the cannon fodder and it backfires
I am truly outraged by the flippant way that Nigel Lythgoe and the American Idol crew shrugged off any suggestion that they owe Jason Castro an apology for PaulaGate 2008. Clearly they figure that Jason was safe, so no harm, no foul. Right?
I remember that completely unnecessary mea culpa Simon Cowell delivered to Katharine McPhee two seasons ago strictly because she was one of Nigel’s favorites. Hey, Simon, would you apologize to Kat McPhee if she looked like Quasimodo?
I’m not ready to make nice.
As a Castronaut, I am furious at Paula Abdul for her callous treatment of Jason since she sucker-punched him right before his second American Idol performance Tuesday night. Not once in any of the post-PaulaGate interviews did Abdul express even the slightest concern for Jason’s feelings – and she is reputedly the kind, nurturing judge. Phooey. One day after the most notorious public lapse in mental clarity since the 1992 Vice Presidential debate, Paula showed up to work dressed appropriately enough for a remake of “Valley of the Dolls.” Nigel did learn his lesson, though. Before he dispatches his bus o’ death to take out Jason this week, the driver will have to pass a breathalyzer test.
American Idol has never been a fair contest on a level playing field, but somehow the show’s shenanigans are ignored by most of the press because the milieu is reality TV. Like their mainstream media brethren, in general entertainment journalists exhibit a “group think” herd mentality characterized by an absence of critical thinking, resulting in articles that hew closely to the official AI line with little or no independent reporting. Once again bloggers in pajamas have to do all the heavy lifting. No wonder the arrogant AI crew think they are untouchable.
Imagine a baseball game officiated by umpires who get their paychecks from the team owner. At the end of the season, that team produces their Most Valuable Player. Now imagine that the umpire behind home plate – the most prominent umpire who calls the balls and strikes – is collecting an even larger paycheck from a company that will own the exclusive rights to the season’s MVP. If major league baseball operated like American Idol, the owners, the umpires, and even the MVPs would be investigated by a Senate committee.
Simon Cowell and Sony BMG own the recording rights to every contestant in the worldwide Idol franchise that they choose to sign to a deal. In his March 18, 2007 interview with Anderson Cooper, Cowell explained, “My only interest was 'Idol' was a vehicle to launch records. That was the only thing I was thinking about. But, what we actually did, interestingly by doing 'Idol,' was I signed the biggest artist on the planet, and it's called 'Idol,' because every single 'Idol' winner is now signed through Sony BMG. And, this applies to all the countries we sell 'Idol' to, which is over 30 countries. So, there's probably now 75 to 100 artists all signed through this one center thing." Ka-ching.
So, if American Idol is just another moneymaker for Cowell and Lythgoe, that makes the contestants nothing more than this year’s widgets, right? They are looking for a specific widget based on an early 1990s prototype of pop, R&B, crossover country, or watered down alt-rock acceptable to top 40 radio, which is their concept of a current sound. To retain AI’s credibility as a talent show and talent scout for Sony BMG, the winning widget needs to be marketable according to their shortsighted expectations.
Every season the top 24 also include contestants selected by the AI crew for their TV entertainment value, hereafter known as cannon fodder, but not necessarily expected to be real contenders. As the contest progresses, the cannon fodder become expendable when they exhaust their usefulness and downright dangerous when they outlast some of the anointed favorites, hereafter known as TCOs (the chosen ones).
The Neil Diamond theme night and results shows offered a textbook example of how American Idol favors its TCOs and exploits its cannon fodder. After Carly Smithson, one of the crew’s favorite favorites, was eliminated the week before, Nigel admitted, "I was very sad. I think Carly is extremely talented, a brilliant voice. I was sorry to lose Michael and I was certainly sorry to lose Carly." He added, “Yeah, I was surprised. In my opinion, I felt that Jason [Castro] was the weakest in the bunch. But he’s got a following, a good following.”
Actually, Nigel, Jason has a great following that is loyal and getting larger. He may be the most appealing contestant in the history of American Idol and he is arguably its most entertaining. He is a folk rock revivalist who brought the artistry of Jeff Buckley and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole to a whole new audience. Jason’s studio recordings remain near the top of the AI iTunes sales charts. He never flubs his lyrics nor suffers from pitch problems. He is unfailingly polite and flat out funny. Despite all these admirable attributes, Jason is the AI crew’s worst nightmare and we are nowhere near ready for him to leave, so get used to us.
Anyway, Ryan Seacrest opened Tuesday’s show with a shout out to Carly. “We’re still reeling after last week’s drama,” Ryan began. “Carly is watching from home tonight. Say ‘hi, Carly!’” That's how AI treats its TCOs.
He also wondered aloud if anyone would lose their cool during the ensuing episode. Paula, misreading her notes again, thought Ryan was referring to her instead of Brooke White and, well, we all know what happened – PaulaGate 2008. And that's the way AI treats its cannon fodder.
First up, Jason performed a fairly faithful rendition of one of Neil Diamond’s fluffier pop confections, “Forever in Blue Jeans,” with the happy-go-lucky folk style he usually displays on uptempo numbers. During the song, Randy and Paula were seen nodding along rhythmically but definitely not taking notes. Afterward the camera panned to the judges' table where the grimacing Randy and grinning Paula fixed their eyes towards the stage. Simon was looking downward with pursed lips and a pissed off expression as though the clock had just struck midnight and that darn Castro kid wasn’t home yet with Cowell’s million dollar Bugatti Veyron sports car.
Fast forward twentysomething minutes to PaulaGate 2008, in which Paula told Jason that he didn’t used to suck, but he sucked now and was destined to suck in the future because her notes said so, and by the way she really meant that David Cook sucked except her notes said Cookie is fantastic and totally not sucky. Speaking on behalf of Castronauts everywhere, Paula, you are officially uninvited to the all-night luau.
Immediately after, as reported by eyewitness Adam B. Vary, “At the ad break, the judges were all whisked out of the studio, Syesha Mercado, David Cook, David Archuleta and Brooke White left waving to the audience, and Jason Castro was left on a stool, stage center, contemplating what, exactly, had just happened.”
Right after that commercial, Jason had to perform again without anesthesia and “September Morn” became “September Mourn.” Unsurprisingly, he appeared preoccupied and his tender singer-songwriter heart just didn’t seem to be engaged. But I’m sure being condemned to an eternity of suckiness by someone who pretended to be a supporter shouldn’t bother him one little bit. Then those shameless “store bought” (Neil Diamond™) judges had the colossal gall to criticize Jason’s subpar performance. They probably didn’t want to do it, but it was in their notes – well, except for Randy. I think he enjoys being mean to Jason.
At the end of the show, the top 5 were reassembled at the foot of the stage as the credits were about to roll. Normally this is when Jason does some of his best work twirling or mimicking Seacrest. But Tuesday night he looked forlorn and too defeated to muster a smile. We wuz robbed.
In contrast to his verbosity during Carly Appreciation Week, thus far Nigel has not commented publicly on Brooke’s elimination, Paula’s verbal faux pas, or its deleterious effect on Jason. Lythgoe did tell Us Magazine, “There's no one more ditzy than Simon. Or more ass-y than Simon when he wants to be. Depends on the night.” Nobody more ass-y than Simon? I think we need a real judge’s ruling on this.
Thanks for caring about your contestants and your audience, Nigel. We feel so much better now. [/sarcasm]