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  • THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2007

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Nowadays, it seems like everybody’s doing it. But you don’t have to. At least not really. No, you do not have to watch the televised pop-culture explosion that is American Idol, and you’d actually be in the majority of America’s TV-watching public if you didn’t. But not by much.

USA Today reports: "According to preliminary ratings, Tuesday's two-hour audition show drew 37.3 million viewers, making it Fox's highest-rated night of entertainment programming ever." In other words, over 40% of this country’s TV-carrying households tuned in.

So, wow. That’s a whole lot of Americans - all of them crowded around their TV set, yelling at Simon to take it easy on the tuneless kids, pleading with Randy to start being nice again, and wondering what the hell Jewel is doing up there with the other judges.

We know that most people don’t watch American Idol to think. Rather, we all watch the show because it requires us not to think. We can turn off our brains, bask in Paula’s age-defying loveliness, forget about the stress of our daily occupations, and develop crushes on country-raised farmgirls who can’t pronounce "salmon" correctly. We recognize this, and we like this. But, here are some things to think about:

1. Does winning the show really matter anymore? Taylor Hicks was last year’s champion, but his album sales pale in comparison to those of Chris Daughtry’s platinum record. 2006’s Daughtry debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts, selling more than 1 million copies after just five weeks in the U.S. alone.

2. Does making it into the Top Three even matter anymore? Jennifer Hudson finished seventh during Season Three, but she still won a Golden Globe this week for her portrayal of Effie White in Dreamgirls. And guess who tried out for the same part and got shot down? Fantasia Barrino, the Idol champion that year.

3. There is no #3, but we thought it was better than leaving things at #2.

When are we going to get another Kelly Clarkson, who was nominated for a Grammy in 2004 and won two of them in 2006? Where’s the next Carrie Underwood, whose debut album Some Hearts has been certified quintuple platinum and is the fastest selling female country album of all time? And, umm, when's the next episode coming on?

Not that we watch American Idol or anything…


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