Is it possible that we’ve just reached the tenth season of “American Idol”? I can’t believe I’ve been watching this show for ten years now. Which if you stop to think about it for a bit, actually adds up to a whole lot of time.
Let’s see. Each season has about 42 episodes of an hour each. (And before anyone jumps down my throat, yes, I have factored in the fact that the bumper audition episodes at the beginning of the season kind of get evened out for the shorter elimination episodes.)
So that makes it a grand total of 420 hours of my life that I’ve spent sitting in front of the television, gripped by the human drama of big dreams, middling to awesome talent, shredded nerves and plenty of acid putdowns by Simon Cowell.
And 420 hours works out to nearly 18 days of non-stop television.
For which I have been paid…nothing. And that’s just one show. If I added up all the hours I’ve spent over a lifetime of watching TV, I could have learnt to speak fluent Eskimo, Swahili and Tagalog by now.
Meanwhile, Simon Cowell has made hundreds of millions of dollars, and I’m still living in a tiny flat with two girls and an increasingly neurotic dog.
And yet, somehow, none of this matters much as I settle down each Wednesday and Thursday night and that familiar theme song and flashy graphics slide across my screen and Ryan Seacrest says, “This is Aaaaa-MER-ican Idol!”
The auditions this year have been entertaining in a kind of bad comedy way. Simon isn’t around anymore, so the whole thing seems a bit tamer. I miss his foul temper, eye-rolling and exasperation.
But the upside is the fun of watching new judge Steve Tyler and wondering just how much plastic surgery he’s had.
“You think?” Saffy asked the other night as the man flirted madly with a girl half his age.
“Oh, totally!”Amanda said firmly. “Just look how tight the area around his eyes is.”
Saffy sighed. “He is such a dirty old lecher! I can’t believe this man produced that gorgeous Liv Tyler. And yet, I'm madly attracted to him. How is that possible?”
But the biggest surprise has been the other new judge, Jennifer Lopez. Until “American Idol” came along, I’d never really given the woman a second’s thought, but now, with each episode, I find myself unaccountably adoring her.
“You’ve never given J. Lo a second’s thought?” my best friend Karl said. He looked astonished. “Are you crazy? She has always rocked!”
“Well, what I mean is that I’ve never thought of her in a human kind of way. She’s always been this, you know, super glam unapproachable super star who appears on MTV and Gucci ads. But in the show, her fun side comes through.”
“She’s so sweet. I want to marry her!” Karl growled. “She’s the only reason I’m watching.”
And that was the word I was looking for: Sweet. The woman sits there, hair immaculately done, perfectly made up and wearing more money than some people make in a year, and somehow she comes across as…sweet.
And she does it so much better than Paula Abdul ever did. As Saffy puts it, Paula always had this scared look on her face which Amanda said was probably caused by an over-tight face lift before adding that it was clear that Jennifer Lopez was all natural.
“She’s authentic!” Amanda pronounced, sounding remarkably like Oprah.
“I’m sure it’s all an act,” Saffy said. “No one can look like that pretty and still be so nice!”
Amanda coughed discretely, but Saffy with her notoriously short attention span had already moved on.
“Can we also talk about how cute Ryan Seacrest is? I seriously don’t think he’s aged at all. I wish we could establish once and for all which team he bats on!”
“And how, having that information, is your life going to change?” Amanda demanded.
Saffy’s famous bosom inflated. “Well, at least if I know for sure he’s straight, then when I fantasize about him on cold lonely nights, I don’t get distracted by a sudden image of another man coming into the picture!”
Amanda pursed her lips. “Isn’t it odd how women don’t get all excited by the idea of two men together the way men get all hot under the collar about two women?”
Of course, that question now haunts us whenever Ryan Seacrest pops up on the screen to tell us about the AT+T and Cingular call charges when he wants America to vote.
The other night, as another tuneless contestant got onstage to sing, Saffy sighed, “We really need to get a life.”