Group_americanidol6_240I wouldn’t dare predict this weekend’s NFL playoff games (Go Pats and Saints!), but here’s one bet I’d feel comfortable with: Through the first four hours of American Idol audition footage, I’ll guarantee you that we haven’t seen this season’s winner. In fact, I feel prepared to say that nobody from the Minneapolis or Seattle auditions stands more than the slightest chance of making it to the Top 24, much less the Final 12. So why, then, did FOX and the American Idol producers dedicate two hours apiece to two cities that offered less accumulated talent than your typical high school production of Fiddler on the Roof?

Two cynical answers:

1) As one co-worker observed, everybody affiliated with the show knew darned well that you were going to watch anyway. All of you. All 37.4 million on Tuesday (Jan. 16) and nearly as many the following night. Why would the producers want to waste the good stuff on fans would be satisfied with less? Sure, the winner with season will come from reliable audition haunts in Pasadena or New York, or from Southern hotbeds like Birmingham or Memphis, but FOX managed to get the season’s highest ratings by making viewers eat tripe! That’s impressive.

2) Oh yeah. I forgot. Viewers like tripe. Sure, it’s good to watch the repolished, restyled, retrained Stepford Finalists, once they’ve been drained of 90 percent of their personalities and packaged to fit in a CD jewel case. But you’d rather watch a 16-year-old kid dance, juggle and sing with equal ineptitude and then earn lifelong fame by bawling for the Idol cameras like the most deluded, petulant, TV-suckled dweeb in history. You’d rather watch countless people claiming their vocal styles are most comparable to Mariah, who inevitably end up being slightly less. You’d rather watch one rejected contestant after another rail using the same profanity-laced tirades — Simon’s never sung before, Paula hasn’t had a hit album in years and Randy says "dawg" a lot.

But anyway, this isn’t a recap. My regular recaps will begin once we reach individual performances and the Top 24.

Mostly, I just wanted to give readers a forum to share their favorites from the early audition rounds, for better or worse. Then I realized that I haven’t truly connected to a single contestant yet. I didn’t hate the former crack baby who sang "I Am Telling You," but I just saw a former American Idol singer do that song. She’s going to win an Oscar for it. The crack baby wasn’t as good. There was also a sense that the judges were having such a bad time they were overpraising mediocrities like the 6’4" giraffe, Giants cornerback Phillippi Sparks’ daughter and several people with military affiliations from the Minneapolis auditions. None of those people will be around once viewers get to vote.

But enough of me for now. Who have you liked? Who have you hated? And how have you felt about the start of this season overall?

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg