American Idolatry

I admit it. I’ve been watching American Idol this season.  I tried to fight it off. Really, I did. No self-respecting 38-year-old man should be watching American Idol, I told myself. For six seasons, I held out.

But the show was too relentless, too determined. It pounded away at my consciousness, demanding to be let in. Finally, I gave in.

American Idol embraced me — and my contempt.  I rooted for a white, dreadlocked reggae fan from Texas when he forgot the lyrics to “Mr. Tambourine Man.” I  counted the number of times Randy Jackson said “Check it out, dog.” I looked for signs of alcoholism in Paula Abdul.

Of course I cheered when Simon Cowell heaped scorn on the hapless contestants, before a live audience of 27 million. It’s the thinking man’s cumshot. 

And the product placement! Oh, the product placement! The Ford commercial sung by the Top 5! The Coca-Cola cups in front of the judges!  The wardrobe placements, the background placements, the call to action placements — I salute you all! 

Some lowly intern at Nielsen Media Research got the job of counting the number of product placements on American Idol. The number of placements in Season 7 is surging, Nielsen says. There have been 3,291 placements so far this year. And we’re only halfway through the year.

In Season 12, the contestants will be singing commercial jingles right into their cell phones, while the backing band does a pan-flute solo with Coca-Cola bottles! We’ll have a contestant named Apple or Cingular! Oh, the possibilities.

Yes, I’m pathetic. But it turns out, I’m just as pathetic as the rest of the American Idol viewing audience. My age group, the 35 to 49 year-olds, accounted for nearly 30 percent of the American Idol audience, according to Nielsen Media Research. See for yourself here

The next biggest age group? The 50 to 64-year-olds.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this. The clues were there all along. The reason why the songs this season were by Dolly Parton, the Beatles, Neil Diamond, Roberta Flack, and Bob Dylan is because half the audience is over the age of 35. 

Ah, the Baby Boom generation. What institution haven’t you ruined yet?