I’m going to throw this out there and just accept the ridicule I know I deserve from my manliest of friends: I enjoy American Idol. There. I said it. And I promise I will hold true to my commitment to not censor any comments. But let’s dive into why.
There was a time not long ago when meanness was the king of the hill on television. This is no scientific study, but it seems like we’re drifting away from that. I remember one of the first “good hearted” shows was the Extreme Makeover Home Edition where ABC would come in, send a well deserving family on vacation, and completely gut or even replace their home in a week. Look at how many shows are like this now. Restaurant Impossible, and just about every other show on HGTV. Vanilla Ice is in on it and has traded in his “5.0” for a horse-drawn carriage to help the Amish build beautiful things. Even the show Undercover Boss is all about the good that bosses can do for struggling employees, although the show becomes more obviously staged and scripted with every episode.
We also had the hayday of Donald Trump and the classic “You’re fired!” along with the historically and brutally mean Simon Cowell. But we grew weary of all that. Sure, there were those contestants who just seemed to be begging for it and we all took a little pleasure in seeing them cut down. But that faded. After a while, we saw that there were some good hearted people stepping up who really thought they were good and they were getting those good hearts ripped right out.
So look at the judges this year. Honestly, they come across as genuinely nice people. Heck, Harry Connick, Jr. is almost as famous for the amount of clean water he personally carried into post-Katrina New Orleans as he is for his singing. And even the most delusional souls are let down easy for the most part. The jab and twist of Simon Cowell is gone and the show hasn’t skipped a beat.
So this is encouraging. Perhaps with all the reality TV out there we may be starting to realize that these are actual human beings regardless of how scripted their unscripted lives might be. And perhaps our thirst for the brutal cut down is fading. I hope so.
We were built to be heroes. It’s about time we started acting like heroes.