It got me. I'm so ashamed.
That's how long it took for American Idol to finally grab me. I stubbornly avoided watching the show since its debut in 2002. I'm not sure exactly why; I've always had a bit of a "holier-than-thou" attitude toward reality television for no good reason. It's sort of like my snobbish refusal to shop at Wal-mart: there's no logical, good reason for my avoidance...I just kind of see myself as "above" it.
To be fair, like most reality competition shows, after the first season or two it descended from greatness and started kowtowing to the masses in ways that made a non-obsessive fan roll their eyes and groan. All of the outlandish camera hogs, the people in costume, the over privileged hometown singers who've never heard the word "no" before...American Idol (in the various clips I've seen over the years) sort of turned into a parade of much of what is shameful about America.
But here's the thing: it may be outlandish and silly and sometimes annoying, but holy crap is it hysterical. My biggest reason for avoiding American Idol is my tendency to over sympathize. In general, I cringe at embarrassment humor. I feel SO badly for the people who are terrible (even the people who know it) that I find it hard to watch them.
My new roommate loves every second of it. I'd never lived with an Idol fan before and when I heard her laughing hysterically every five minutes during the first week of tryouts, my curiosity was piqued. I literally spent the first two episodes peeking around the corner of our apartment, watching a few seconds, then running back around the corner, embarrassed for the people who were terrible and earned laughter and derision from the judges. I graduated in Week 2 to sitting on the couch wrapped in a blanket, which I used to cover my face during the absolute worst auditions.
By Week 3, though still occasionally embarrassed for the people who are just ear-splittingly awful (a feeling I don't think will ever completely go away), I managed to watch like a normal person. Because when it comes down to it, the cringe-worthy performances are worth suffering through to hear the undiscovered people who are actually really, really good. And for Simon Cowell. Oh, Simon Cowell, I kind of love you and your ridiculous V-neck t-shirts.
Oh, Simon Cowell. Where do I begin?
I know auditions aren't over yet, but I already have a favorite. I am in love with David Cook, the slightly punkish dude in the argyle sweater who rocked Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer." More, please.
I have no idea what I'll think of the next stages of American Idol, post-auditions. I actually don't even know WHAT comes after that part of the competition. But, for the first time in six years, I'll be watching to find out.