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Idol Illness

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I have watched "American Idol" from Season 1, Day 1. Part of what makes the show so wonderful is hearing the stories behind the contestants. Americans of every shape, size, color, creed, sexual orientation, political party, and talent quotient walk into auditions with big dreams, and we see our own aspirations in their faces.

However.

Is it me, or does it seem like this season on "Idol" contestants can't earn a golden ticket to Hollywood unless they have some personal tragedy or illness in the family? Some disability or massive disadvantage? None of this is new for "Idol"—this is a show where contestants haven't let poverty or crime or even blindness stop them. But this season, the "sob story factor" seems to have jumped the shark. The back story has often become more important than singing ability.

We've had the young woman whose grown up with the right side of her face paralyzed. The ex-con who served years in prison for robbing a bank at age 15. The man whose son has autism. The girl who grew up dirt poor from nowhere in Tennessee. The mother with the disabled daughter back for her last try. The young man who cares for his mother with spina bifida.

Some of them have great potential (the girl from Tennessee might be the next Loretta Lynn). But most seem, well, just ok.

What's more, even silliness qualifies for a trip to Hollywood like never before—the two sisters from New Jersey, or the guy who split his pants. I'm all for entertainment value, but have we run out of entertaining SINGERS?

Zzzzzzz.

No wonder boredom is written all over Simon Cowell's face. There's no Paula Abdul anymore for him to tease mercilessly. Kara DioGuardi is doing her best to fill the void. I'd say she's trying too hard. Randy Jackson is his usual jovial self, but the guest judges aren't around long enough to gel (though Kristin Chenoweth and Kara will probably Facebook friend each other). I'm really counting on Ellen DeGeneres to turn it around. I bet Fox is, too.

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