NASHVILLE STAR just finished it's fourth season in relative obscurity on the USA Network, while AMERICAN IDOL improved on their already stupidly-large following, receiving more votes for their finale than the government received in the '04 presidential election.
In a perfect world, NASHVILLE STAR would be the more popular program. Perhaps this is a bold statement; NASHVILLE STAR came after Idol and is a blatant rip-off, and while Idol is on FOX, STAR is on cable. However, NASHVILLE STAR is the better show.
The formats are similar enough, the key difference being that NASHVILLE STAR begins the season with 10 finalists, whereas Idol takes a number of weeks to pare down to that number. There are three judges on each show; AMERICAN IDOL always has the same ones (you know who they are) and NASHVILLE STAR's are ever-rotating. Sometimes, more often in the first two seasons, their judges will kick off a contestant on their own, before it's allowed to reach the fan vote. That's the kind of power judges should have!
Although not the biggest Country music fan in the world, I respect the expert musicianship displayed by many Country artists. This is why NASHVILLE STAR is a good show. Once a season, there is an episode in which all contestants must perform a song which THEY WROTE. The contestants must actually be talented, apart from just being able to sing. Idol is so popular because literally anybody can be on the show if they have a decent voice and Simon Cowell inexplicably likes them. That is why thousands of people try out every year for AMERICAN IDOL and why people who do tryout are completely delusional; your own singing voice always sounds good to you.
NASHVILLE STAR weeds out the one note performers, those who only bring a voice to the table. A number of the contestants are already seasoned performers on the Country music scene in Nashville who have just yet to catch on with a major label. Of course, there is a certain appeal to seeing the young, inexperienced performers on AMERICAN IDOL rise to stardom (e.g. Kelly Clarkson), but on NASHVILLE STAR the playing field is relatively level and, therefore, the competition can be fierce.
Although the new season (if there is one; it hasn't been announced) wouldn't begin until '07, I look forward to shunning the over-exposed AMERICAN IDOL and tuning into the little, under-appreciated gem that is NASHVILLE STAR.
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