I was a little worried about this series when a friend of a client told us he was driving out to audition for this new Mark Burnett production. After all, my biggest problem with American Idol is that it seems to extend the idea that anyone can become famous (which is true) without actually doing anything to ensure long-term financial security.
So I was pretty delighted and surprised by a lot of things in the premiere episode of this series. The contestants all seem to have been dual-tracking or working as professional musicians for some time now. They have clearly worked hard and earned at least a little money from their craft. And the idea here is more of an audition process than a talent show.
The most striking thing that I noticed during the show was the fact that the INXS bandmates were evaluating the contestants on their technical merit as well as their interaction with the audience. A telling example was when one contestant wasn't exactly hitting the right notes, but a band member said, "sure, but look at the audience!" Cut to shots of women looking at the singer like my dog looks at takeout from Boston Market.
American Idol seems to assume that the crowd will love you, no matter what. If the judges tell you that you flubbed something, they get booed.
Despite the pie-in-the-sky, party-at-the-mansion rock star cliches, this show is very craft-oriented. I think we might actually learn a thing or two about showmanship and developing talent from this series, so I will continue to keep an eye on it, at least for now.