Somewhere between the single mom and the guy whose dad went to rehab, I hit my breaking point.
This was a new “American Idol” low.
For those of you who haven’t been watching the 11th season of “Idol,” the Fox reality TV series just wrapped up its audition phase. Wednesday marks the start of the annual Hollywood round, usually filled with lots of drama and tears.
Maybe you’ve heard “Idol” ratings have been down so far this season. The show “had a drop in viewership of more than 15 percent for its first two episodes back,” according to the Associated Press.
The Los Angeles Times recently summarized, “‘American Idol’ is still a hit TV show. It’s just not the phenomenal hit it once was.”
To some extent, the show’s declining popularity is inevitable. Reality TV fatigue certainly plays a role, as does the fact that “Idol” didn’t make any dramatic changes to its formula this year.
But if “Idol” wants to redeem itself, it needs to focus on star quality rather than sob quality.
Is it just me, or were this season’s contestant back-stories a bit too excessive?
Sure, the singer profiles were warranted in some cases -- like the contestant who survived time in a refugee camp.
But when nearly every divorced hopeful got dramatic music treatment, I had to step back and wonder if the sob stories on “Idol” are promoting an emotional numbness that transcends the limits of reality TV.
The formula isn’t confined to “Idol.” As a contestant takes the stage, the show’s host dramatically says something to the effect of, “In this moment, everything is on the line.”
Immediately, I’m cynical.
With 10 seasons of “Idol” under my belt, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the show has considerably broadened its criteria for receiving back-story treatment. Since when does common high school angst constitute a severe life obstacle?
Ultimately, the most camera-ready sob stories are often moot points. These contestants usually fill screen time during auditions, but don’t advance past Hollywood.
Even Danny Gokey, who told a story about his wife’s death in season eight, couldn’t win the contest on emotional pull alone. He placed third.
Nonetheless, it’s fair to wonder if the abundance of back-stories on “Idol” might one day make us roll our eyes at the moments that traditionally attract compassion in the real world.
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at email@example.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/americanidol to read her “American Idol” blog.