Friday, January 23, 2009
Confessions of an American Idol Producer
Hey folks, we've got a real exciting exclusive here today. I managed to wrangle a producer from American Idol into giving us a little insight into what it's like to be a part of the #1 show on television. Here's their account, given on condition of anonymity and, note the quotes, "if someone can please God get me out of this, dead or alive." So here it is...
I hooked up with Idol back in 2004, right before the auditions. I'd done some work with kids before, mostly corral duty, but the Idol guys thought I had an eye for good stories. And trust me, when Idol comes knockin at your door you open it. At this point they could do three hours a week of that retarded Chinese guy pooping on Simon and they'd still be #1. So my first job was at the San Antonio auditions. I had to go through the line & type people out. This part of it wasn't really that bad. The kids I ended up sending home either weren't quite attractive enough or weren't quite good enough to win it all, and they were too smart or raised too well to make good TV. I didn't feel so bad about this. They were good kids who worked pretty hard, so I knew this wasn't going to be the end for them. I was still sleeping most of the night. Finished out that audition season, and they told me to come back next year. Took a few months off with what they gave me, went on a cruise with the wife, started a solid college fund for my daughter.
I came back to the same position next season. First city or two were fine. Then, due to a couple events higher up the chain that might have been accidents, might have been self-inflicted, we lost a few decision makers after the next city, maybe Chicago, I don't know. It all looks the same to me now. So based on my performance so far, it fell on me to start deciding who went in front of The Judges. This is where things get interesting. The showrunner called this part "Sad Sacks and Circus Acts." Here we've got cattle that will get to sing for someone, but is it us or The Judges? Here's a little secret: most of those Gold Ticket kids you see don't meet Simon til Hollywood. No one wants to watch an hour of attractive, talented young people getting what they want. They want to see those people get knocked down a notch or two. Or they want to see People Who Can't Catch a Break actually, well, catch a break. Or they want to see freakshows try to act like they aren't the result of a brother and sister getting inappropriate. So we sent a few obligatory Mouseketeers through to The Judges with all the Sad Sacks too, recorded the rest auditioning for us, and that leaves the freakshow. That's all Judges. We got none of them.
This was around the time I started feeling tired, dragging around these convention centers drinking gallons of burnt coffee. Then when we finished and I got to the hotel, I couldn't sleep to save my life. Couldn't peg it. I was making crazy bank now, I should have been overjoyed. I could take off the whole time before the next season, my kid could have gone to fuckin Yale if she wanted, but here I was in Salt Lake City or some other armpit trying to get Zs on stale motel pillows, giving up and watching infomercials.
I got another pay bump next season, so I coasted on autopilot most of that one. It wasn't until this year that I really pegged what was going on, and I'll tell you just who was responsible for it. Rebecca Garcia. Damned if I ever forget that name. She's that cute, awkward brunette from Nashville that showed up at our Louisville auditions. I don't know how she made it in front of The Judges, and I'd sure like to make a few heads roll, but I know that wouldn't really change anything. She was too attractive to be weird enough to be interesting, if you follow, and she wasn't quite bad enough to give the lumps at home that familiar sense of superiority. But I watched the tape on her that night, and I felt the weight of what I'd been doing for the last four years. She really thought she had it. And I know what you're thinking. Plenty of people think they have it when they walk into that room, and they're thinking otherwise when they walk out. But most of those people are the freakshow, born into failure. It's written on their faces, and they're too dumb to see it when they look in the mirror. Garcia was different. Something ended that day that was really important to her, and I'm the one that ended it. Blame it on autopilot, blame it on some kid below me in the food chain, it doesn't matter because it made me see how many roads I'd turned into dead ends. For what? For Nielsen points. For money. For holes like you, so you can sit at home stuffing your face, knowing you're better than these kids because you've got the sense never to try anything, never to stick your wattled neck out on the line to get something. Well good for you.
Why don't I quit? My family, I guess. The network suits are wise to us after the "accidents" I mentioned earlier. Anyone threatens to quit, they sweeten the pot til you can't resist. Anyone mysteriously disappears, or maybe they leave the car on too long in the garage, their family loses everything. Damned if it doesn't work. So I'm not sleeping much these days. Every once in a while I manage to find some sort of trance-like state before the sun comes up. And what do I dream of? Some nutjob coming in and just slaughtering the whole staff. Then my kid could go to Yale, and I could sleep.
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