There are many things I don’t like about American Idol – the tedious over-singing; the cavalier ignorance the finalists display about the history of pop music, never more obvious than during this week’s coaching sessions with Smokey Robinson – but I love the new final-save widget Idol has added. Anything that brings to the fore the essential quality that Idol always tried to hide beneath its glitz and big smiles – the week-by-week, systematic stripping down of every finalist’s last vestige of individuality and dignity – is revealed during the elimination-night “save” moment.
Just look at the frozen grin Michael Sarver maintained while the judges conferred last night, and how it congealed into a fascinating mixture of embarrassment, shame, frustration, and probably not a little anger. How refreshing it always is to see a human face express human emotion on Idol, instead of the hours of pre-fabricated happy-happy-joy-joy, with a big dollop of patented put-downs by Simon Cowell.
In just a few weeks, these closing seconds have taken on a theatrical drama. Last night, Ryan trotted over to the judges’ table to urge Simon (and make no mistake: Simon, no matter how many more judges you add to the table, is the guy with the power) to come to a decision. Because, you know, Fox affiliates all over the nation were saying, “Gee, isn’t it time for our ratings to plummet as soon as Idol leaves the air?”
The phoniness of the last-minute decision-making doesn’t lessen its excitement, however. It’s all building for the judges, one week soon, to save one of their favorites (my bet is on Megan Joy Corkrey, for whom Cowell can barely keep his tongue in his mouth when judging her “performance”). But for now, as someone who watch Idol for accidentally-human moments. These elimination-night conclusions are the best.