May 22, 2009




I don’t understand the anti-American Idol sentiment that seems to be based on a premise of cultural superiority – or maybe it’s snobbery, a kind of knee-jerk reaction against anything that generates a lot of public excitement, a need to feel “above it all.”

I’ve never watched even a minute of “American Idol,” but I watch very little television at all. I do watch most of “Dancing with the Stars,” so the general concept of such shows is not foreign to me. To me, “American Idol” is just the over-produced and over-promoted 21st century version of “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” which was a huge success on radio and television – in fact, for a while it was on radio and television simultaneously. 

What annoys me about “American Idol” is the endless hype – the way, for instance, the local Fox stations treat every snort and whimper that comes from an Idol contestant or judge as though it were not only news but the top story of the day. And it really irritates me when I turn to the channel with the TV Guide rolling program log, the top half of the screen is occupied by a cast of pinheads babbling on about the Idol contestants – OMG!

But the show itself seems to me to be an entertaining vehicle through which people who otherwise would get no public attention for their talents get a shot at starting a career. Godfrey’s show – a primitive thing by comparison – gave the public its first glimpses of many folks who later were successful and, in some cases, stars. The winner each week was determined by a gain meter that measured the applause of a live studio audience.




Many of the contestants on Godfrey’s show were not really amateurs but small-time professionals trying to move up. Among the contestants were Pat Boone, Patsy Cline, the McGuire Sisters, Tony Bennett, Lenny Bruce, Roy Clark, Rosemary Clooney, violinist Florian ZaBach, Wally Cox, Vic Damone, The Diamonds of “Little Darlin’ ” fame, Eddie Fisher, Connie Francis, Don Knotts, Steve Lawrence, Barbara McNair, Leslie Uggams, and Johnny Nash. 

Nobody’s perfect, by the way. Among those who didn’t survive the auditions for “Talent Scouts” were Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly.

Incidentally, Johnny Nash – it has always seemed to me – should have been a bigger star than he ever became. I think he’s still out there singing somewhere. He performs one of his biggest hits, “Hold Me Tight,” at this link:


One Response to “Idolness”

  1. Chris B Says:

    Mr. Paolino,

    I recently read your article re-printed in the Asbury Park Press regarding your review of “A Tale of Two Subs”. Let me say that I have no connection to the book or author, just an interest in military history. What I found comical was that in the review you scold the author for grammatical errors, yet within your own very review of the book, you have an error! In the 5th paragraph, the first sentence includes the phrase, “…went to the bottom on 1939…” Those of us who have written essays tolerated in college, assume you meant “in 1939”. People in glass houses……

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