American Idol Joins The Race For President

American IdleOn Wednesday American Idol will present its second annual “Idol Gives Back” broadcast wherein viewers are asked to call in donations to benefit a banquet of charitable enterprises. This year will feature appearances by all three remaining presidential contenders, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. The taped segment by Obama says in part…

“I’d like to say a few words not just as the father of two young girls who are big American Idol fans, but as someone who cares deeply about what tonight’s show is all about. Whether it’s across the street or around the world, Idol Gives Back is proving that when ordinary people come together, they can do extraordinary things.”

I suppose this is one way for Fox to get Obama to go on their network. Of course it is the Fox Entertainment Network, not the Fox News Channel. It is still a poke in the eye to Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday (which does air on FEN), whose juvenile Obama Watch is still counting down the days that Obama has not appeared on that program. Hang tough, Barack. Let Wallace run that Obama Watch clock up another 10,000 ticks.

Personally, I can’t stand American Idol. I think it trivializes art by pitting artists against one another. And I think the contestants are cliche cutouts who rely on theatrics and vocal bling rather than talent and originality. Idols are not created by game shows. They are adopted by fans who are moved by an artist with whom they connect emotionally.

That said, it is admirable that the wealth that flows to this program is being directed to people who are suffering and in need of advocates. Sure, it is also a big advertisement for the program, the network, and the sponsors who will claim credit for the event. But in the end there will be some relief provided for the recipients of the donations collected from this program. Unless, of course, there isn’t. From the New York Times:

“But even as ‘American Idol” and Fox Broadcasting prepare for their second annual star-studded ‘Idol Gives Back’ appeal on Wednesday, officials at the charity have declined to release a formal accounting of last year’s effort.”

The article goes on to say that most of the targeted charities have expressed satisfaction with the distribution of last year’s donations, but it would be nice to have some documentary evidence that they are successfully administrating these funds. Last year $76 million was raised, and estimates are that the figure will increase this year to $100 million. That’s a lot of money not to be fully accounted for.

Update: As it turns out, the jam-packed entertainment bonanza that Idol producers put on last last was so pressed for time that all three presidential candidates were cut out of the program. Thank God they made time for Celine Dion, Miley Cyrus, and Snoop Dogg.