American Idol Producers in Denial Over Sanjaya
American Idol Producers in Denial Over Sanjaya
Forget the efforts of Howard Stern, VoteForTheWorst, and the decentralized 'hey vote for the bad kid' grassroots campaign that has lifted Sanjaya from most likely to dissonate his way off American Idol, to the one most likely to win; to listen to American Idol's executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, it's not only possible - it's perfectly explainable.  With not only cynical public sentiment calling Sanjaya as the first tone deaf American Idol champion, but online polls such as AOL's Pick Your Favorite carrying Sanjaya as the likely winner, is Lythgoe preparing us for the worst, or does he have a point?

Lythgoe told America Online in an exclusive interview that it was clear why Sanjaya was winning:  "... Can't you understand why little girls vote for Sanjaya? I can. So I don't even know what the controversy is, to be frank. He's there, he's been in the bottom two for a quite a while. He pulled himself out of the bottom two last week, but there's no controversy for me. "  Lythgoe told AOL. (You can read the entire interview here.)  Lythgoe also says he hasn't heard many of the winners albums, because its not his kind of music.  Unfortunately, they didn't ask him if he'd be picking up Sanjaya's disc once he nails the contest closed.

I can understand how there is a need to downplay it as 'simply what America wants' from a business perspective.  If America suddenly realized that watching American Idol was going to be an exercise in frustration where the worst win because of ever more effective organized attempts to foil the vote, what would be the sense in tuning in to pick a favorite?  After a while, the contest degrades to laughable self satire of what its harshest critics claim it to be:  an insincere vocal competition with a focus on good TV.  Is that really so bad, though?  It is TV after all.  But without the sense of the disorganized masses mysteriously deciding fate, the show loses its charm.  Quickly.

None the less, Lythgoe seems to be issuing some sort of subversive Mea Culpa by rationalizing Sanjaya's success and equating it to the way teenage girl hormones behave.  I guess if we listen to Lythgoe, teenage girls are just a bunch of tone deaf suckers for pretty faces.  Where has the faith in youth gone?  If Sanjaya does win, will Lythgoe return to his proclamation and say "Don't blame our easily gamed voting system, blame the teenage girls of America"?

When it comes to the subject of VoteForTheWorst, he is dismissive in a way that can only be described as delusional:  "The thing is it's a bit like a fly buzzing around a cow; you want to waft it away with your tail. When you're getting 30 million votes, whatever that Web site can do is just not enough."

VoteForTheWorst reportedly hit four million visitors a week in its stride last year, and this year's boost from contestant Chris Sligh is accelerating its presence even more.  Then there is the unknown, you can't limit it entirely to the number of hits the site gets,  there is the viral effect of the sites philosophy.   Tack on Howard Stern's estimated three million listeners and by the end of this contest, if all goes well for the Sanjaya movement, and you count in multiple votes, you've got as much as half of the total votes supporting whatever weak fan base Sanjaya legitimately has.

The one question nobody from American Idol has yet to address is, what if they are wrong?  How can you fix the system once it has been proven that the show is at the mercy of 'buzzing flies'?  No doubt those conversations will stay where they are being had:  behind closed doors.

- Jon Lachonis, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image from FOX)

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