Unethical “American Idol” Tricks


Wow. Has it really been that long since my last “American Idol” post? The last one appears to have been in 2012. I began losing interest in the updated version of “Major Bowe’s Amateur Hour” when it became clear to me that the show’s system routinely missed the best talent, notably Adam Lambert, who so obviously had “star” written all over him during the 2009 season that his loss to the vanilla Kris Allen (Who?) was an embarrassment. I stopped paying attention a few years later—yes, I guess 2012 fits.

But I can’t let this pass.

At the end of last month on “American Idol” Season 19, MC Ryan Seacrest announced that ten “familiar faces” from last season, when the show was made remote and virtually dead by the production limitations prompted by Wuhan virus fears , would be permitted to compete for a spot in this year’s top 10. “Those finalists never got the true experience of the big stage, the lights, the cameras, the hair, the makeup, the wardrobe, that fun stuff, Kris Pooley and the band backing them up,” Ryan said, not really justifying anything. Yup, they got a tough break. But it was that season’s groups’ tough break, and the current season’s competitors shouldn’t be penalized for it. Adding those performers now obviously ould skew the voting: some of them already had a solid fan base. This was especially true of last popular season’s runner-up, Arthur Gunn.

Sure enough, Gunn predictably won the “comeback round,” and thus was added to the Season 19 Top Ten. That meant that one of this season’s singers who would have made the finalist group without the Invasion of the Losers from Season 18 was robbed of his or her shot. At very least, Gunn should have been the 11th finalist if he was going to be allowed to compete at all. Then he was voted into the Final Seven, compounding the damage.

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “God Bless America”

To take this quiz, you have to go to Netflix and watch “God Bless America,” a 2011 black comedy, written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite,  that is a strange hybrid of “Network,” “Falling Down” and “Harold and Maude.” Unless, of course, yo9u have already seen it. (For a hint regarding its content and thrust, check the tags, as well as the clip above.)

And your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question is...

Is this an ethical movie?

You might also want to read this related post, from The Ethics Scoreboard in 2004.


Or not…

American Idol Ethics, Group Day, 2012

Johnny Keyser

American Idol’s Group Day is the one stretch of the show that is more reality show than competition, and it usually delivers the best ethics dramas of the season. Last year, for example, the Group Day chaos—all the Idol wannabes have to form combos and rehearse an a capella number in harmony, often fighting, crying or collapsing in the process—produced a moment of courage and character when Scotty McCreery, the eventual winning Idol, stepped up and took full responsibility for the rotten conduct of his group, which had tossed out another young man at the last minute to take McCreery in.

This year there were ethics heroes and dunces, but mostly dunces. A real gem was the awful stage mother of competitor Brielle Von Hugel, who was filmed in rehearsals complaining how weak a singer her daughter’s fellow group member Kyle Crews was. After Crews crashed and burned in the performance, and was the only member of the group cut, Mrs. Von Hugel was shown insincerely telling him what a “good voice” he had. Kudos to Idol’s director for immediately re-running her backstage slamming of the kid’s voice in the previous episode. Continue reading

From Hero to Idol: Congratulations, Scotty McCreery!

Way back in March, long before the 2011 edition of American Idol had winnowed its hopeful singers down to the final thirteen, 17-year-old Scotty McCreery earned an Ethics Hero here by bravely taking responsibility for the mistreatment of another contestant in the group segment of the audition process at a time when the judges seemed to be in the mood to make someone pay for it. The incident has been forgotten, but it showed Scott to be a young man of unusual integrity and courage. Little did Ethics Alarms realize  that he was also the singer to beat, and nobody beat him. Last night, he was crowned the American Idol.

Fame and fortune changes people, as we all know, and too often for the worse. Still, McCreery’s prospects of holding on to his core values look strong, because his character looks strong, and everyone, whether or not they follow American Idol and whether or not they groove to Scotty’s milieu, Country-Western music, should applaud the entry of a talented and ethical young man into the popular culture.

Congratulations, Scotty. In March we knew you were good; we didn’t know you were this good.

Ethics Night on “American Idol,” As An Ethics Hero Is Born

Ethics Hero, Scotty McCreery

“American Idol’s” group portion of its winnowing process always is the most fascinating chapter of its yearly saga, as the singing competition briefly shifts into full reality show mode. I’ve never been convinced that it was a fair method to judge aspiring singers who were competing as solo acts, as it frequently results in superior vocalists being dumped because they couldn’t sing harmony, learn choreography and lyrics under pressure, or play well with others. I know you have to get that mass of ambition and ego reduced to 24 people somehow, but group day is the equivalent of throwing darts at a dartboard.

It makes for great ethics scenarios, though. The format guarantees it, as the contestants have to form groups of four or five in a cruel process reminiscent of choosing sides for pick-up baseball games, guaranteeing that some people will end up feeling like the fat kid who always gets chosen last, if at all.

Last night there were several featured ethics dramas, with the judges, as they have been all season, being less than consistent in their responses to them. Continue reading

“American Idol” Jumps the Ethics Shark

Just four audition episodes into the new “American Idol,” it is obvious that the show is done. It might hang on for a few, even several more seasons; after all, “Happy Days” continued for almost a decade after Fonzie jumped the shark. But it’s still over, and it wasn’t because the show lost its center and star, the acid-tongued, irresistible Simon Cowell…well, not exactly. It didn’t have to be the case, but when Simon left, the show lost the one thing it has to have–integrity. Continue reading

Unethical Website: Hillbuzz

Hillbuzz is the right wing website leading the charge to get Bristol Palin, who can’t dance a lick, voted as the best celebrity dancer on TV’s  “Dancing With The Stars” because, illogically enough, the site’s operators like her mother. Makes sense to me! Actually, it only makes sense in that I am familiar with how self-absorbed political fanatics on the Right and Left think, which is often inherently unethical. In this case, Hillbuzz thinks it’s reasonable to louse up the fun of a dancing competition and turn it into an expression of Tea Party power. Continue reading

Five Ethics Questions and Answers: Bristol Palin’s Undeserved Survival On “Dancing With the Stars”

This week, once again, the clunky Bristol Palin, Sarah’s daughter, survived elimination from “Dancing With the Stars,” and now is in the Final Three. A far better amateur dancer, pop singer Brandy, who had one of the week’s best scores, was sent home instead. The entertainment media is howling with indignation. What does it all mean?

Question 1. Is Bristol Palin Sanjaya? Continue reading

The Trouble With Auto-Tune

The British show that launched “American Idol,” X-Factor, admitted that it had used Auto-Tune, an audio processor that corrects a singer’s pitch and tone. An 18-year-old contestant named Gamu Nhengu sang just a little too well in the show’s seventh season premiere, and fans and critics started hinting at conspiracy on the web, especially via the show’s Facebook page. Finally, a spokesman for “X-Factor” confessed that Auto-Tune was used to fix disruptions caused by the many microphones used on stage during the telecast, but that the judge’s decisions were definitely based on the actual, non-Auto-Tuned performances of contestants. The show’s producers, he assured the public, only used the processor to “deliver the most entertaining experience possible for viewers.”

I’m sure that is true. This is exactly the reason TV executives rigged the quiz shows in the 1950’s. It is the reason why TV reality shows are scripted, and why NBA stars get away with game fouls that referees call against lesser players. Any competition’s entertainment value is enhanced by better competitors and more suspenseful action. The problem is that once spectators know or suspect that they are being manipulated, they stop watching at all. The fact that Simon Cowell’s UK hit would use the device immediately roused “American Idol” conspiracy theorists, and  Cowell to immediately announced an Auto-Tune ban. Continue reading

The 2009 Ethics Alarms Awards, Part 2: The Best

The Best in Ethics of 2009. May the 2010 list be longer!

Most Important Ethical Act of the Year: President Barack Obama’s executive order banning torture. The Declaration of Independence already did it once, but the President was right: we needed some reminding.

Ethical Leadership: Howard County, MD, which launched a “Choose Civility” campaign based on the book Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct, by Johns Hopkins University Professor Dr. P.M. Forni. The effort attracted national attention, and has sparked similar movements around the country. Continue reading