American Idol and I have had a pretty dysfunctional relationship over the years. More than once, the show has broken my reality-tv-watching heart. Once, I even went so far as completely ending my relationship with the show (following the ouster of Melinda Doolittle), only to be lured back by the promise of Andrew Lloyd Webber night and an increasingly loopy Paula. In the past, whether it was the dismissal of Tamyra Grey, Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, or Melinda or even the loss of Clay Aiken at the hands of Rueben Studdard (face it -- doesn't that loss seem ridiculous now?), I was able to kind of explain away the battered heart by placing blame where I felt it belonged -- right square on the shoulders of the American public. After all, WE are the ones who call in (or don't call in) for our favorites. We're the ones who let Hawaiians glut the phone lines to keep the marginally talented Jasmine Trias on the show in favor of the vastly superior Hudson or LaToya London. We're the ones who keep Sanjaya Malakar warbling his way across the stage and into the hearts of sobbing tweens. It's OUR fault.
Last night, though, I realized that this abusive relationship is a two-way street. Last night, there was no one to blame for the injustices that occured but those four judges upon whom we often count to be the voices of reason and sanity (well, at least in the case of Simon). Yes, it's America's fault for choosing Jorge Nunez over Ju'not Joyner, but the case could be made for Jorge in that the guy seems talented and likable and the idea of an accented American Idol is kind of appealing (although I don't think poor Jorge has a snowball's chance in Hell of cracking the top three). But I, like many other disappointed viewers, wasn't all that heartbroken over Ju'not. After all, I thought, he would still be competing for one of the wild card slots and would easily gain access to the top 12 that way. Right?
In their infinite wisdom, the judges last night decided that the one contestant who had "made a song his own" in a GOOD way was not worthy of the top 12. They limited their wild card candidates to 8 (instead of the 12 I had assumed) and decided to reward marginal performers like Von Smith, Tatiana Del Toro, and Jasmine Murray rather than the vastly superior Ju'not, Kristen McNamara, and Felicia Barton. While many of the choices they made made a lot of sense to me (and few were huge surprises outside of their decision to bring back Tatiana), I can't help but feel that a great injustice has been done here. I'm not even going to get into the fact that the decision to not bring back Ju'not has, as of right now, made Lil Rounds and Jorge Nunez the only performers of color this season. One of the things I always liked about American Idol was the "rainbow" nature of the show -- that it seemed to embrace all colors and nationalities as long as you were cute, skinny, and marketable. While I am not in any way implying that the decision to not include Ju'not is racist, I can't help but feel that something vital will be missing from the Idol landscape this season.
I'm not giving up on the show, but I continue on in this season with the blinders off, finally really understanding that this is a relationship that will break my heart time and time again but also understanding that, well, I just can't quit Idol.