American Idol Returns Tonight... Yawn

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Come back Kelly Clarkson, all is forgiven...

If you've been lucky enough to spend the past several months in a media-deprivation tank - or maybe you just don't read the Houston Chronicle - then you no doubt know Fox's shrill-singing flagship series American Idol returns tonight at 7 p.m. (As opposed to its torture-sanctioning flagship series 24, which returned Sunday.) Rocks Off realizes many readers will greet this occasion by turning off their cell phones and instructing family members to interrupt their viewing under penalty of death, but the best he can do is muster a somewhat less-than-resounding 'meh.'

As one of the biggest U2 fans in North America, Rocks Off isn't one of those sanctimonious critic types who enjoy denigrating something just because it's popular. Hell, he'll even admit to being a fan of past Idol winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood in open court. For one thing, if the show can't be bothered to hold one Season 8 audition in Texas - the closest location was Kansas City, 800 miles away; that episode airs tonight - he's more than happy to return the favor by not watching. The foibles of various Texans on the show (Kimberly Caldwell, Jason Castro, Kady Malloy) have at least been enough to marginally, occasionally hold his interest in the past.

He does, however, hold Idol responsible for ruining an entire generation's vocal cords by holding up the likes of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey as emulation-worthy paradigms, for planting the idea in young people's heads that the only way to become a star is spending hours in front of the mirror with a karaoke machine and, most of all, allowing the likes of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Ryan Seacrest (shudder) to set the music industry's agenda for a good eight years now.

Besides, if Rocks Off wants to watch a bunch of narcissistic people humiliate themselves on national television, Cheaters is on Channel 51 every night at 9:30 p.m. - Chris Gray


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