Addicted to Fluff

Racket and company's American Idol symposium

Hi, my name's Racket, and I'm an American Idol addict. (Hi, Racket!) I would like to tell you that I have been clean and sober for a while, but as I type this it has only been about 11 hours since I watched an episode, and to be frank, I am furious that I will have to miss tonight's results show because of a stupid little baseball game that, uh, my son is kinda playing in.

Not that I am not always delighted to watch my son play baseball. But it just makes me furious that those sadistic creeps who wrote up this Little League schedule failed to consult Fox's prime-time lineup first. Didn't they know that a 7:30 p.m. start time would wipe out my chance to find out who got the chop this week? Don't they know or care how much that means to me? Don't they know that Bo needs me to watch so I can help him win?

Pardon me, I get a little worked up about this stuff. Idol-itis does that to people.

And let me tell you this, friend: Once, I scoffed at this crap. During the first two or three months of Season I, I avoided A.I. completely. (By the way, referring to the show as "A.I. " or "Idol" is a pretty clear sign that you've got a problem.) I flipped past it a couple of times, sure, but the show just set off my then-keen hipster resistance system. Just a bunch of suburban dweebs crooning crappy pop, I sniffed to my wife, as I headed up the dial to watch quality fare like a Court TV Cops marathon from a great crime city like Memphis or one of the real-deal episodes of Cheaters with the gone-but-never-to-be-forgotten Tommy Grand.

But soon enough, it sucked me in. It happened gradually. I watched the show moderately at first, but little did I know my resistance had crumbled. I cheered Texas homegirl Kelly to the finish line, but it was no biggie. I was glad she won, but hey, I wasn't gonna let this crap run my life.

That would come on Season II. This time I tuned in early enough to guffaw at all the delusional cases and no-hopers in the regional rounds -- people like the deranged and persistent Edgar Nova. I was savvy enough to pick Kimberly Caldwell as a possible winner just from the preshow ad campaign, but even though she's from Katy, I soon turned on her and her beauty-queen crocodile tears and horrifying stage mom. I was completely livid when Josh Gracin got to stay and Trenyce had to go. ("Don't worry, Trenyce," I said to the TV. "You're too good for this show anyway." Like a lot of addicts, I was ambivalent about my vice.) And what a great night it was when the Alabama Teddy Bear Ruben bested the elfin schlockmeister Clay!

Season III rolled around, and by this time I was hopeless. I went so far as to hang out in line at Minute Maid Park with all the wannabes at the Houston regional ("Cattle Call"). When the season aired (finally!), I was far gone. I started reading the recaps on I posted my opinions and predictions and spewed my bile and/or gushed my fanboy love on every Web site I could come across. I hooted at the antics of William Hung. I called friends the day before and after the results show. I screamed at the TV when Jon Peter kept hanging around, and I actually wept at Fantasia's stunning take on "Summertime," and I was thrilled when she beat out that plump girl from Georgia.

I should have seen the signs by then. To borrow a Simonism, "if I'm being honest," I would have had to answer "yes" to far too many "are you an addict?" questions like these:

Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if American Idol is not on TV? Absolutely. I've even tried to get into both Nashville Star and even (shudder) Gimme the Mike. But nothing compares 2 U, Idol!

Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your American Idol viewing? Many's the time I have sworn off Idol completely, friend, especially after one of my favorite contestants has gotten voted off. I always come back. Always.

Are you having more financial, work, school and/or family problems as a result of your American Idol viewing? Yes. This column is probably Exhibit A for the prosecution on that count.

But I'm not the only one to succumb to this insidious disease. I sent out an American Idol questionnaire to about 50 music contacts in my address book -- all of whom I consider to be pretty hip people. I got about five responses -- a few people said they didn't watch the show at all, and only two (whose responses are below) had stones enough to out themselves as big-time fans. From the rest, a deafening silence. I'll take that nonanswer as confirmation that those people are addicts in denial.

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