New American Idol Rule

I know that reality television should not be the first place I go for honesty, but I've been frustrated by the to-do over the new American Idol rule. The judges this year have been granted a "save" - that is, if they feel a contestant is good enough to win the whole contest but they got voted off, the judges can save them and give them another chance.

The example they keep giving - on the show, on talk shows, in interviews - is Chris Daughtry, who was surprisingly eliminated in the final rounds of the show despite being favored to win. The expression on his face when he finds out he's been voted off is priceless ego-check television - he really couldn't believe that he was cut. He went on to become one of Idol's most famous success stories, and the judges keep using this as the example of how they plan to use their save this year. "If we'd had the save back then," one of them mentioned in an interview the other day, "we definitely would have saved Daughtry." This is supposed to be important because whoever wins Idol is supposed to become the big star, and the producers feel that having a runner-up exceed the success of the winner devalues the competition (and, I suppose, it does). But Idol is always going to be beneficial primarily to easygoing, likable singers like eventual winner Taylor Hicks, who America consistently voted for but lacked any sort of commercial marketability. The same is true of this year's likely winner, Danny Gokey - he's talented, warm, and has a heartwrenching backstory, but nobody's gonna buy his CD. And Daughtry, though not quite likable enough to hold through to win the competition, is much more clearly the sort of artist who's capable of making records that people would actually buy. Though if the judges had had this save rule back then, maybe he would have won the competition, too.

Of course, it's not true - the new rule wouldn't have saved him at all. Daughtry, famously, finished fourth during the fifth season of Idol. The new rule only allows the judges to save people up until there are six people remaining.