It's all my daughter's fault. Nobody in my household had been bitten
by the "Idol" bug until this year. Reality -- or rather unreality --
shows generally leave much to be desired, and we had unfairly placed
"American Idol" in that inglorious category.
One evening I walked
past the TV on my way to the laundry room. My college-aged daughter
was watching what I always had presumed to be the Randy, Paula and
Simon show (just what does Paula sip in that red Coke cup of hers
anyway?). I stood there for a few moments, laundry basket under my
arm, and before I knew it, I had been hooked. Hey, these are real
people. And some of them are downright cute.
Who could not love 16-year-old Kevin Covais, aka "Chicken
Little"? I voted for him, but alas, it wasn't enough to keep
Americas' newest teen sex symbol from being given the boot. Sorry,
Kevin. And there's Ace Young. Oh, those eyes! I imagine "cousin"
Johnny Cash (my grandmother was a Cash, and everyone in these parts
with any connection to that name claims kin) is still smiling up in
heaven over Chris Daughtry's edgy, raspy rendition of "I Walk the
Line." Mandisa has become America's large-girl sex symbol, even
performing (did you catch those electric hips?) barefoot one night.
And where else could we hear someone as freshly naïve and as
"country as turnip greens" -- Kellie Pickler -- ask on live TV,
"What's ‘ballsy'?" Simon, you devil, you. Don't you dare corrupt
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Yep, "American Idol" has it all. While some folks may watch to see
what kind of "sibling rivalry" will erupt between Paula Abdul and
Simon Cowell or take great delight in booing and hissing Simon's
reality-check criticisms, it's the performers who make it worth
watching. In every one of us is a bit of them, daydreaming about a
shot at fame, or at least hoping to improve our shower crooning.
Of course, it doesn't hurt ratings to occasionally have the likes
of Stevie Wonder or Barry Manilow make a live television appearance.
Stevie, by the way, was shown up by the amateurs. You've got to
acknowledge the overwhelming magnetism of these fresh
stars-in-the-making when Barry flies in to the show set from Vegas
at his own expense just to make sure the band is ready for the night
when his proteges will do their thing, following his personal
coaching session. And the Manilow touch was magic. Virtually every
contestant stepped up and gave a show-stopping performance of '50s
tunes, arranged by the star whose album of songs from that romantic
era debuted at the top of the pop charts.
Maybe there is something special and fresh about this season's
crop of "Idol" wannabes. Or maybe the show is truly plucking a chord
within our hearts. Whatever it is, I plan to stick around and be an
armchair midwife for the birth of America's newest singing star.
This G-rated show has captivated me. Fox, despite some of its other
weaknesses, has hit a home run with "American Idol."
Debbie Thurman is a freelance writer and author from central