American Idol, Dancing fatigue: When did TV's biggest shows get so predictable?
Both shows are somewhere in the middle of their competitions, with front-runners clearly established, yet stuck wading through a field of also-rans to reach the real showdowns. The result for viewers: episodes with a lot of filler and manufactured drama.
This problem was most evident on last night's Dancing installment, which finally dislodged the show's worst dancer, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, on the third round of eliminations.
Still, enough geeky boosters hacked into the phone lines to keep him in the running until a double elimination last night which thankfully did not include a dance-off where the lamest contestants were forced to gamely try their latest routines for a better judges' score.
(Playboy model Holly Madison found out the hard way, if you slip off a stool during a dance routine before a mostly female audience that hates you anyway, staying in the competition is tough.)
But Dancing's real problem is that actor Giles Marini (left), Bachelor castoff Melissa Rycroft, gymnast Shawn Johnson and rapper Lil' Kim are so much better than their competitors, there are really two contests going on here. And the show won't really take off until a few more marginal competitors -- Steve-O, David Alan Grier, do you hear me? -- take one for the team.
Idol's problems are similar. Much as Simon Cowell wants to build a branding campaign behind Megan Joy's tattoos and model-pretty looks, she proved with last night's awful Bob Marley cover that she has zero idea what songs make her sound best and a thimbleful of talent to execute them.
Once again, it feels as if competitors like Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, Kris Allen and Lil Rounds are in a parallel universe -- Lambert finally found a spine-tingling use for that Axl Rose wail in a seriously funky cover of Play That Funky Music, for instance. In this land, great singers actually find new ways to deliver old hits, hinting that they might have some artistic future beyond whatever contrived material the next Simon Cowell might shove in their faces.
Some other singers, most notably Allison Iraheta, seem as if they were plopped into Idol's white-hot spotlight too soon -- plucked from the tree just before they were truly ready to bloom before a national audience.
The rest of Idol's formula -- the increasingly dysfunctional judges, the manically supportive crowd, the inexplicably inconsistent evaluations (how did Cowell not tear Scott MacIntyre a new one for his lounge-ready version of Billy Joel's Just the Way You Are?) -- feels worn out as Paula Abdul's Prozac dispensers.
It all leaves this weary critic wondering: When did TV's highest-rated shows get so predictable?