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He can't sing, but he can mousse

Sanjaya Malakar says something with his big-hair day. What, we're just not sure.

March 29, 2007|Richard Rushfield | Times Staff Writer

TUESDAY night's "American Idol" raises so many issues, it is hard to know where to begin, so let's tackle them from largest to smallest.

To begin, the grinning, rolling-on-the-floor elephant in the arena -- the Sanjaya problem -- has been threatening to tear "Idol" nation asunder. There have been joke contestants who have lived unnaturally long life spans before (Kevin Covais, Scott Savol), but never has someone been so openly contemptuous of the show as Sanjaya Malakar. Watching live from the Idoldome on Tuesday, one can see he has clearly transformed from establishing a passive-aggressive juvenile distance from the competition to seemingly giving the whole thing the finger.

Perhaps the Sanjaya problem will be "solved" as of this reading -- Wednesday's ouster was unavailable at press time. But should he survive, surely Malakar is aware of the controversy he has caused, of the counter-"Idol" movements (votefortheworst.com, Howard Stern, etc.) that are promoting him. Has he taken up their banner as "Idol's" antihero? If so, this introduces a toxic element that has never before been unleashed on the "Idol" stage.

Another factor to consider -- if it is true, as one contestant said last week: Blake Lewis, the Chrises and Phil Stacey are all roommates, which means that in the guys' dorm, the surviving gentleman contestants are in one room together, except Malakar, who then would be in a room by himself.

If this is the case, also consider that presumably he would have come to inhabit this suite after the decapitations of his roommates. So we can visualize the specter of Malakar, after watching his roommates be killed off one by one, sitting alone in his cavernous, cold, bare dorm room while the cool kids party down the hall. He'd be surfing the Web and seeing how one girl is starving herself in protest until he is kicked off, while at the same time he has become a hero to a generation of "Idol" haters. You don't need to be a Carl Jung, just someone who reads enough comic books to know that this is how super-villains are born.

Of course, as the secrets of Idoldorm remain more tightly guarded than the cells of Guantanamo, all this is pure speculation.... But until we get real answers, the how and why of that hairstyle, speculate we all must. It is our duty as the "Idol" electorate and citizenry.

Second, Gwen Stefani was the biggest twit of a mentor "Idol" has seen. Could she give one single compliment without couching it in "If he can only ..."? Poor Chris Sligh, having to endure the "He was definitely off" review from the woman brought in to help him. These kids today could learn a thing or two about celebrity mentoring. Bring back Barry Manilow.

Finally, let's condemn in the strongest possible terms the reduction of "Idol" horsepower to a mere hour a night. Not long ago we had five hours a week of "Idol" viewing, and now we are down to a paltry 90 minutes. Are they trying to wean us off the show? The "Idol" producers ought to remember their debt to their obsessive-compulsive core fan base and feed us adequately.

richard.rushfield@latimes.com

Show Tracker follows television series through their highs and lows.

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