I have watched "American Idol" exactly once, and I couldn't make it through to the end. It was just too excruciating, and I'm not talking about listening to the poor, deluded unfortunates who provide the show's cannon fodder. I can't watch it because I was once a singer, too.
As a child, I always enjoyed singing. I learned "The B-I-B-L-E" song in bible school at the age of three and sang it incessantly. My mother's note on the subject in the "Memorization" category of my baby book, "B-I-B-L-E drives us nuts."
I sang in the choir in school (okay, I mainly just moved my lips and sang under my breath, but I had an interest!), and I sang to myself at home when I didn't think anyone was listening.
From the time I was in high school until about five or six years ago, I sang in rock bands. Early on, it was "oldies" (at the time that meant '60s and '70s covers), then it was hard rock and heavy metal, and finally I sang in an alternative-y band that performed mainly original songs. (Oh, the hairdos I've had!)
Would I subject myself to "American Idol"? Absolutely not. Why? I know I'm just not good enough.
Even though I've been a professional singer (to the extent that I've drawn taxable income from singing), I have a realistic picture of my own abilities. I have had very limited training, I've hit plenty of flat notes in my day, my stage presence leaves a lot to be desired, and my range is only so-so. This isn't false modesty, it's just the way it is.
I can't bear to watch people who believe that they're good singers find out otherwise on national TV. I've blown a few auditions, too, but I was lucky enough not to be jeered and humiliated by judges hoping to score points with their audience.
Now there's another show that's even more unconscionable: "Superstar USA." It's an "American Idol" ripoff where the judges boot out the good singers and tell the awful singers that they're great. I'm sure at the end everyone will have a big laugh, crushing the bad singers after all and blithely ignoring damage they've done to the good singers' confidence and egos.
I'm disturbed by the casual cruelty that passes for entertainment on TV these days. (Don't get me started on the plastic surgery shows!) I can't imagine any sane person agreeing to be on a reality show of any kind these days, knowing the mean "twists" and lies that are perpetrated on most of the contestants. Is that fifteen minutes of fame really so desirable? Not for me, it isn't.
[Postscript: If you're wondering why I no longer sing in bands, it's because I spent too many years spurning hearing protection at the height of the "big stacks of Marshall amps" era. My left ear buzzes unpleasantly at certain frequencies and volumes - even my own singing voice makes it happen - and I just can't handle loud music anymore.]