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Brace Yourselves for "Idol" Auditions

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  December 20, 2006 07:16 AM

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Yep, the return of "American Idol" is at hand. Fox's monster hit, which makes all the networks shake in their big bad booties, returns to prime time on January 16 at 8 p.m.

I get caught up in the show every year, yes I do. BUT: not until after the auditions. The "American Idol" auditions really, really, really turn me off. While the later, competitive phase of the series plays like a fun sporting event, the auditions represent the worst of reality TV to me.

My contempt is not for those audition segments with the predictably earnest wannabes, or those with stunters seeking William-Hung-like fame. It's for the segments featuring deluded people suffering from some degree of mental illness. Is it really fun to watch the judges ridicule fringe characters who may not be sane enough to be signing away rights to their images? Is it enjoyable to feel like a sadist, watching disturbed kids undergo their "Carrie"-like nightmares?

Last year, I wrote a story attacking the cruelty of the audition phase, which I was inspired to do after the show pounced on a poor girl named Mary Roach -- quickly dubbed "Scary Mary" -- who sang "I Feel the Earth Move." And I still feel the same about the Scary Mary phenomenon, even while I'm in the minority. So please forgive me in advance if I pour some of my venom onto this blog in the next month or two.

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