Last weekend, when his girlfriend didn't win the Miss USA pageant, magician Criss Angel yelled obscenities, threatened a columnist who only has one eye, and gave the finger to NBC cameras. It makes sense that Angel would be emotional--he knew how much the title meant to her, and her heart was broken. (Of course his actions are all the more understandable when you consider that he's 40 and she's 22--he's old enough to be her Little League dad.)
Angel's tantrum made the papers, and gave the Miss USA pageant a major publicity boost. Why? Because deep down, we're all sore losers, and we love it when someone acts on the real bitterness and frustration they feel in times of defeat. People have been trained to exercise restraint and grace at the moment their lives have been ripped apart by a life-crushing loss. That's a lot of fakery, especially for people who are victory-hungry enough to be entered in a pageant or in a contest. So while at first glance Criss Angel is a world-class douche whose magic trick should be to make himself disappear, his tantrum was refreshingly honest (even if, as some speculate, he was only upset because for the time being he's relegated to porking a state-level pageant winner and not Miss USA. Spouses of pageant winners have stated on the record that the Miss USA sash can breathe new life into a relationship the way butt implants can).
Maybe--just maybe--Angel's brand of honesty is what American Idol needs to gain back the seven percent audience share it's lost this year. Sure, people enjoy the curmudgeonly pronouncements of Simon Cowell, but more than that, they love watching a bastard get his comeuppance, so why not turn the tables on him? At this point the remaining contestants would probably give the lives of loved ones to win, so instead of encouraging them to be gracious and grateful, producers should encourage them to act on their true feelings when they're voted off. How good would a live show be if we knew that instead of crying Nutrasweet tears, someone might fly over the table and break Simon's jaw, or come after him with a mike stand? Instead of a grateful goodbye, let the voted-off be led away by bouncers as they rail about what bitches, hoes and homos their competitors are and then turn to the camera and let everyone know that Ryan Seacrest's dressing room smells like lilacs and KY and when you see him in real life, he looks like a girl. Sure, some people will whine that contests are supposed to teach kids about sportsmanship, but there's another argument: that "sportsmanship" is teaching kids to stuff their feelings, and setting them up for massive cardiacs at age 47.
So if you want those ratings to come up, encourage those performers to let their feelings come closer to the surface. You'll get a lot more clips on youtube, get that audience back, and who knows, maybe you'll even rub off on those dull-as-dust Tony Awards. Lord knows they could use some of Criss Angel's magic.