How wrong is it that I want this year's "American Idol" champ to be Norman Gentle?
That "Norman" -- the campy, headband-wearing alter ego of contestant Nick Mitchell -- is still in the running going into tonight's episode(*) speaks either to the enormous hubris of the "Idol" production team, to the boredom of the judges in the eighth season, or possibly both.
(*) No way, no how am I watching two hours of contestants sitting in The Chair to find out if they've made it through. It's traditionally the most excruciating episode of the season even at one-hour length. The only way they can even vaguely justify it is they make sure to show us significant footage of every person who makes it through to the semis, but I doubt we'll get that.
Every season of "Idol," there's always at least one contestant who sticks around long past his or her appropriate departure date, but even the most horrific of them had some justification for making it at least to the semi-finals. Hard as it may be to remember at this point, for instance, Sanjaya could actually kind of sing in his auditions and his Hollywood appearances; he didn't fall apart and turn into that monstrous thing until he started performing live in front of the studio audience, at which point his advancement was out of the show's control.
Norman, though, is a joke. He knows he's a joke -- I like to think that the character is a performance art piece that Nick is doing just to find out how long this entertainment juggernaut will indulge him -- and the judges know he's a joke, and yet here he is going into The Chair episode tonight, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him wind up in the semi-finals.
Fienberg's theory, expressed in his latest recap, is that Norman and Tatiana (who has some modicum of singing talent but is the most annoying "Idol" contestant I can remember making it this far) are there as bait for Vote For the Worst. I don't think the production gives VFTW and its negligible voting impact much thought. My theory, again, is that either the judges are bored (even Kara seems bored, and she's been here for all of five minutes), or he's still around because they feel every season needs at least one contestant who will lead viewers to self-righteously bellow, "What is he still doing here?" (Not only does that generate buzz, but it also, ironically, reinforces the idea that "Idol" is supposed to be a pure talent competition. If people didn't believe that, they wouldn't get so upset by Sanjaya, Scott Savol, et al.)
Whatever the reason, I think it would serve the show right if Norman were to advance a long way. I know he's not going to actually win -- depending on your opinion of Taylor Hicks, the joke contestants never win -- but the schadenfreude side of my brain has me rooting for the idea of Norman doing his thing on Neil Sedaka Night, and Pat Boone Night, and Al Jolson Night, and generally scaring the hell out of both the "Idol" audience and the "Idol" producers who are stuck with him. If I'm right that Nick is just punking the show, then the joke's not really funny unless he outlasts even the show's expectations for it, right?
Or am I just being too evil? What do you think?