Thursday, March 16, 2006

Load of hooey, print edition

Here's a flaming turd from Matt Zoller Seitz of the Newark Star-Ledger.

His target is ostensibly "American Inventor," an Idol-esque show designed to give One! Million! Dollars! to the winner of an amateur inventor contest. He doesn't like it, and moreso because Simon Cowell is the behind-the-scenes brainchild.

Well, fine. He's entitled to spell out every flaw he sees. But this line caught my eye: "I despise both these shows for their essentially undemocratic spirit, which puts an ugly bait-and-switch at the heart of their formats."

This is laughable. Undemocratic? America votes on the winner of Idol. America even votes on Idol itself, via their remotes and TiVos. And on top of that, once the CDs hit the racks, they vote with their wallets. The whole process is so democratic that it even has voter fraud, with groups dedicated to machinations worthy of Tammany Hall or Richard Daley's Chicago.

But read on and it becomes clear what Seitz's problem really is.
"Idol's recipe for popular success is more or less photocopied here: Praise the ideal of America-as-land-of-opportunity, draw anonymous dreamers into the audition room and let them do their thing, then send most of them away wishing they'd never been born."

"Both "Idol" and "Inventors" make a big deal out of giving average folks a chance to bypass the cruelly indifferent big media gatekeepers, then they substitute a different bunch of big-media-employed gatekeepers who insult you on TV instead of through a form letter."

Translation - Simon is a big meanie!

Well, my response is, who exactly is Matt Zoller Seitz? Answer - a big-media television critic who is paid to give intelligent opinions on the watchability of an entire slate of TV shows. Simon, Randy, and Paula are a panel of judges paid to do exactly what Seitz does, with one key difference - they are all recording industry veterans. Simon, in fact, is a high school dropout who started in the mail room at EMI and worked his way up to producing. What has Seitz done except professionally complain about other people's hard work? This? Well - maybe; click the title and "Matt Seitz" comes up as the writer of the piece. That leads you here. Same guy? If so, a 'thanks' in the credits of Chasing Amy makes for slender cover. This is a thimble calling an industrial cauldron 'black.'

Besides which, Seitz routinely rips stuff he doesn't like, more often than Randy or Paula tend to. As for Simon - given the great variety of shower-stall voices he hears weekly, it's not surprising that he is willing to say so. If I were an Idolist, I'd rather hear Simon tell me that I'm flat and ghastly than hear Randy blow sunshine up my porthole. (In fact, I had a dream where Simon did precisely that. I asked, "What should I do?" He shot back, "Produce." And I immediately turned to Ryan Seacrest and said, "OK, you're fired." I wish I were that quick-witted when I'm awake.)

Besides, Idol has not only launched Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Clay Aiken. William Hung made a CD and went on tour! Even non-fans of the show have seen "She Bangs." It was the musical equivalent of Howard Dean's "I Have a Scream" speech - yet Dean's presidential candidacy fell in smoking ruins. Hung? Eh, he's doing all right.

Seitz doesn't like Idol, it's his business. But give us a real reason - or admit that it's a matter of taste. "Undemocratic"? What hypocrisy.

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