March 23, 2007


People who say, “I don’t watch a lot of TV, but did you see last night’s episode of . . .” are invariably in a state of denial. The truth is they watch as much TV as they possibly can. They love TV, but they hate admitting it.

I admit it: I really like “American Idol.” Sure, it’s full of treacly tunes and the whole thing is one giant money-making engine that started with “Pop Idol” in the UK and now is in just about every country with electricity on earth. You can hate it, but you have to admit that the talent is at times awesome. Everyone who has performed on a stage in front of a crowd – and just about every one of you have – knows just how hard it is to deliver a tune to the very best of your ability. And these people do it in front of a gazillion viewers. They have my and my six-year-old daughter’s unconditional admiration. (By the way, my money is on Gina to win it all.)

The judging system is what got me thinking. The panel of three judges provides additional drama with their camped-up bickering and disputes. They (and I’m sure an army of other judges we never see) decide who gets to “go to Hollywood” for the final rounds. Shortly thereafter, the judges give way to audience voting, and it’s the audience that decides who stays, goes, and wins (although we never do see an audited third-party report of all those calls, do we?).

The three judges, though, offer their commentary and expert opinion after each performance, presumably to give the voting audience some guidance. This could work very well in certain piping, drumming or pipe band competitions. Choose the same panel of accredited judges, allow them to tell the audience what they thought of each performance. But then let the audience vote for the winners at the end of the event. It works well for a bazillion people watching “American Idol,” and there’s no reason it couldn’t work well for what we do.




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