A recent editorial in the USA Today about my least-favorite entertainment phenomenon got me rankled enough to piss out a letter to the editor of that fine rag. If you'd like to read the editorial, click here. The editorial was titled Idol Worship, so I think you can guess my response, so be forewarned. Here is my letter, in its entirety. Note that I did not start with the customary "Dear", preferring to get right to the point:
If it takes a television program like American Idol to bring America together, I fear the worst for our country.
While it is true that, since the advent of cable, television "audiences are more fragmented and shows are more targeted, making it hard for the medium to serve as the electronic public square that it once did." However, it is also true that with the advent of over 100 channels on basic cable, there are more bad shows than ever, simply because there is so much more space to fill.
And fill it they do. As has been said before, nobody ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public, and the success of American Idol bears this out. It is little more than a televised karaoke contest, with the winner guaranteed a recording contract, courtesy of a giant media conglomerate. The same conglomerate who will promote and foster his career whether or not the majority of viewers thought he should have won.
If it is supposed to remind us that we still have common bonds, why was the voting two weeks ago split at 33% each? Why also are there so many people like myself who think it is a pox on society? If 32 million households are watching, those of us who do not have them vastly outnumbered.
America does not need a television program to create celebrities - we have plenty. It also does not need to have mediocre performers thrust at us. There are more than enough of them as well.
Fine, I thought, as I hit the SEND button.
Quickly, a robotic response came from the USA Today thanking me for my letter (I don't think they read it yet), and telling me that your opinion is important to us (it should be), and telling me that they get between 800 and 1,000 letters a week (but none as sweet as mine). I am reminded that the letters that are published are selected for their timeliness (check), clarity (check), accuracy (who's more accurate than me?) and length as well as for the insight and perspective they provide (Insight is my middle name), so if mine isn't published (is that possible?) do not despair, and keep trying, they say (Sure, keep pissing me off) , and that letters of 250 words or fewer are the most likely to be published.
I pasted it into Word and ran to the WORD COUNT function. Out came the results:
Word count: 256 words.