A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that American Idol has spawned countless other similar series. The judges' rapport and comments are as big a part of the show as the singing. Their feedback, primarily Simon Cowell's (who left the show in 2010), can be severe and hurtful ("you remind me of a wasp," "that was terrible," "that was the worst one yet"), though the new judges take a gentler approach. People of all backgrounds and body types try out for the show, if only to get a few minutes to meet the judges and/or get their 10 seconds of fame. Contestants have been mocked for cross-dressing, lack of talent, strange attire, dressing/acting sexy, and general physical appearance. The camera lingers on contestants who respond to the judges with joy or bleeped obscenities, hand gestures, and tears. Parents should also know that the show is a walking advertisement, with commercial products embedded throughout.
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What's the story?
Every season, the AMERICAN IDOL judges -- including Simon Cowell (2002-2010), Paula Abdul (2002-2009), Randy Jackson, briefly Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, Luke Tyler -- and host Ryan Seacrest visit cities across the United States, judging thousands of hopeful singers. Performers at both ends of the spectrum are showcased, but only the top ones make it to the main competition in order to sing their way to Idol stardom.
Is it any good?
The hugely popular series, which has been on the air for over 14 years on two different networks, has become a staple in reality competition entertainment. Some of judges' often over-the-top personalities have become infamous, as well as reality-show benchmarks. Meanwhile, the contestants' emotional, sometimes astounding performances grab those watching at home, who also feel involved in the process, since their votes determine the show's outcome.
Many contestants are clearly looking for their moment in the spotlight. But plenty of the Idol wannabes are in it because they're truly talented singers who are dreaming of a big break. Many winners and runners-up have also gone on to become true pop stars. Like it or not, American Idol's show formula -- as unforgiving as it can sometimes be-- really does work.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the audition process. Are the contestants who clearly have no singing ability auditioning for real or for fame? How can critiques be helpful to those who take the competition seriously? What's the difference between constructive and destructive criticism?
What is talent, and what talents do your kids feel they have? Does American Idol inspire them? If so, in what way?
How is the show making money by having consumer products obvious at every turn?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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