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Marshall Fine Headshot

American Idol: Welcome to Branson

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It's that time of year when, with the Oscars out of the way and the Grammys and Emmys still just dots on the horizon, the entertainment press runs out of things to write about - and so it becomes fixated on American Idol.

If this isn't an annual warning about the imminent approach of the apocalypse, I don't know what is. Unless it's the continuing popularity of Ryan Seacrest.

This morning alone, Monday, March 9, I found a massive Associate Press story online about American Idol fever - and a full-blown album review on the front of the New York Times' Arts section of the latest release by Kelly Clarkson.

The AP story treated the Idol phenomenon the way it does all phenomena - as something to gush over, as though this ongoing exercise in mediocrity and the lowering of standards is a trend to be applauded, an event over which to marvel.

The NYT review of the Clarkson album was appropriately dismissive. But it spoke to the desperation of even the biggest of newspapers that it would even deign to devote space and ink to someone with as limited a gift as Kelly Clarkson. To call her a recording artist is to diminish the term "artist" - and perhaps "recording."

Even as I finished with those, I opened the door to find a delivery of a new batch of hype/gibberish from the Fox network about the newly sifted Idol finalists, with little cards featuring the faces and names of those frighteningly talented singers who will dominate the culture for the next three months (even as the economy slides deeper and deeper into a Bush-produced crater).

Poser-looking types like Adam Lambert (with his Fall Out Boy-inspired haircut and eyeliner). The clean-cut Anoop Desai (the temptation to make a Slumdog Millionaire joke here must be resisted). Lil Rounds. Megan Joy Corkrey. Scott MacIntyre (must fight urge to make Andrea Bocelli joke).

Ted Mack and Major Bowles must be spinning in their graves with envy,.

If you get those references (Ted who?), you're probably too old to care about American Idol. I know I am - but who can avoid it? Its commercials seem to dominate every other show on Fox, forcing their way into our homes. (Thank God for Tivo.)

This bogus colossus of hype, American Idol squats over our culture like an obese person after a big meal, squeezing out tomorrow's stars - of the Las Vegas showroom. Manufactured. Comfortable. Colorless.

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