A Tired Template...and An Exciting New Comeback!

I've been too serious in these postings lately, so it's time for something superficial! So what does a pastor do to unwind, to relax with his family, to distract his attention from weighty matters? This pastor watches American Idol--and follows the comeback of recently un-retired Lance Armstrong. They're similar and oh-so different, it seems to me.

American Idol...where do I begin? This is a show well past its prime, in my opinion. Why I tune in week after week in this Season 8, I really don't know. Sure, they've added a new judge, Kara. What she really contributes, I'm not sure. The voting of the judges, I've concluded, has nothing to do with the talent of the contestants. That's become patently obvious. What they vote upon is the creation of cast of contestants that will assure them viewership, particularly in certain demographics. Among the more serious contenders, they inexplicably choose the most eccentric contestants, presumably because they will provoke viewers and add some dramatic tension or ridiculous entertainment to the mix. I've gotten to the point of turning the TV off--it's become, for me at least, that predictably bad. The only thing that keeps me tuning in, is that it's a show the whole family can watch together, sharing groans and all. SpongeBob Squarepants might come close--but my wife fails to appreciate its subtle, sophisticated humor.

What Idol is teaching me is that there really is a shelf life to creative ideas. Slavishly working the program year after year doesn't yield the same results. What was fresh and dynamic a few years back has now become tired and predictable--even if you do move the judging venue to the "judges' mansion" (isn't that the same place The Bachelor was filmed?!) and have a sing-off or two. Ugh. Gag. The taste of milk past its spoil date...

Contrast this to Lance's comeback in cycling. Now, I'm not an early adopter of The Return, a big fan of the comeback from the get-go. I confess it all feels very Dara Torres-ish to me, if you know what I mean. I suppose that publicity for Lance's anti-cancer Livestrong campaign is noteworthy and admirable, but I still think this is about the Alpha Dog getting some fresh meat. But to his credit, Lance is an exceptionally gifted athlete who instead of reworking a thoughtless, predictable template, is coming back after three years out of racing and facing an enormously strong competition and racing races he judiciously avoided before (Tour Down Under in Australia, the Giro D'Italia, and a bunch of others before Le Tour). Lance's reign on the bike is probably as long as American Idol's run, but Lance can't just rely on old ways of doing things . He's got to adapt and risk and reinvent himself. This feels "formula-free." Therein lies the freshness which a stale Idol season desperately needs.

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