FOX’s monster reality hit, “American Idol,” returned for its second season debut in a surprisingly entertaining style. The reality show wave has run rampant across television airwaves for the past few years. However, “American Idol” changed the basic formula of the talent show contest by having the judges tell it like it is. It took a relatively benign subject matter and infused it with appealing cruelty other shows in the genre lacked.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of FOX
You are absolutely dreadful. Never sing again.

The first few episodes are where “American Idol” really thrives because of the American populace’s complete lack of talent. The idiocy found in these so-called “competitors'” decisions to embarrass themselves on national television leads to great television.

Simon Cowell, the nasty British record executive, has zero tolerance for bad music. He callously berates a competitor following an awful rendition of a song, often causing the competitor to break down in tears. This year, Simon is no longer alone in not holding back any punches; Randy Jackson, an American record exec, has joined to voice his intolerance. Paula Abdul, a washed up former Laker girl and pop-idol, still is overly sweet and manages to annoy Simon and America with her comments.

The true highlight of the premiere was a contestant named Edgar, dressed and attempting to sing like Enrique Iglesias, who, after destroying the judge’s eardrums, kept lying to everyone and attempting to fight his way back into the contest.

New this year is the dumping of one of the two annoying hosts – only Ryan Seacrest remains. This truly is an example of addition by subtraction. In the premiere episodes, Seacrest focused on the backgrounds and feelings of the contestants. Without his former partner, it comes across as mildly amusing as opposed to downright dreadful.

The episodes focusing on the talent search in different cities showed how popular “American Idol” has become. It’s interesting to see how the preliminary rounds offer a different look at talent than what the rest of the show will provide. As with last season, the talent pool will get better each week while America votes on who will stay.

However, Simon’s insults and the humor found within the show decreases as the talent increases. The focal point changes towards the quality of singing and performance and the completely inept singers will no longer be there to be berated by the judges.

While the argument can be made about Simon’s brashness as cruelty, he always speaks the truth. Without Simon Cowell, all “American Idol” would be is a glossed up karaoke contest. With him, it becomes something far more entertaining.

This is FOX’s only foray into reality programming without going to the lowest common denominator (see “Joe Millionaire,” “Man vs. Beast,” and my personal favorite “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire”).

With the return of “American Idol,” America has already shown that it welcomes the show back with open arms with the monster ratings its debut has received. The true indication of the entertainment of the series as a whole, however, will remain to be seen until the final ten contestants are chosen. These ten will determine whether or not the show can be successful. As much as the judges do entertain, the majority of the people tuned in last summer to root for their favorite contestant.

But for now, enjoy the idiocy displayed with people who for some odd reason believe they are talented, and Simon’s desire to tell them that they most certainly are not.

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