For all of Fox’s promotional bombast and the creator’s smug assumptions, the show itself has turned out to be appealingly unpretentious in its update of the age-old talent competition format, very entertaining and sometimes dramatic to watch, and its slowly unfolding winnowing process creates a strong dramatic arc as viewers get to know and identify with the young (16-25) contestants as they survive the ax one more week, or perform a farewell swan song over the closing credits, as did 17 year-old Hawaiian Jasmine Trias last week, setting the stage for this week’s showdown between Barrino and DeGarmo.
Giving viewers the vote on finalists and the ultimate winner has encouraged audience investment in the contestants, and having viewers vote to keep their favorites on the show keeps the process positive rather than punitive. Despite sharp-tongued judge Simon Cowell’s reputation for verbal cruelty, he’s really just honest, upholding his vision of the show’s integrity. (Okay, so sneered adjectives like “pathetic,” “tragic,” “abysmal” and “malodorous” may go a tad beyond the bounds of descriptive necessity, but why not work on the old vocabulary while he’s at it?)
The reality on the ground is that the show is very respectful of its contestants (at least once they are out of the preliminary rounds — the show does revel in the awfulness of the worst auditioners, but such is the penetration of the show into American culture that the worst of the worst, William Hung, has become a novelty success in his own right), seeks to present them in the best possible light, and sends them off with warmth and regret (before bringing them back for the 52-show live summer tour, of course, and guest appearances on subsequent shows when their records come out, and…).....
Lastly, while I admire, enjoy, like, and wish nothing but the best to many of the other contestants from this and previous seasons, Fantasia is the only one I love, and I don't say this lightly.