Idol audience is coached to “help the ratings”; montages use footage from rehearsals

A trio of stories reveal the subtle massaging that occurs behind the scenes at American Idol 5. This isn’t full-scale manipulation, but part of the shaping that affects the show and our perceptions of the contestants.

For starters, the obnoxious in-studio audience–surprise, surprise–is coached. Variety’s Stuart Levine attended last week’s elimination taping, and while most of his observations in an MSNBC essay aren’t surprising, he details that coaching. For example, warm-up guy Cory tells the crowd, “When the bottom three are announced, make sure you go ‘Oooh,’ ‘Aww,’ gasp out loud in shock and act surprised. All of this will help the ratings.” Later, the show’s stage manager “instructs the crowd to cheer wildly.” I’m just surprised there aren’t big light-up “boo Simon” signs.

Elsewhere, Kevin Covais said that Ryan Seacrest’s comments about him were prompted by producers who asked his permission to portray him like they did. In a conference call with reporters, Kevin says comments about him being a sex symbol, plus the “‘Chicken Little’ and the gangster references … was the producer saying, ‘Do you want to try this? Will it offend you?’ And I said, ‘Go for it.’ I wasn’t offended in the least.”

Finally, many viewers have noticed that the montages at the end of the live Tuesday performance shows sometimes don’t match their actual performance. As FOX confirmed to my MSNBC colleague Gael Cooper, that is, in fact, different footage. She writes that the montage “is put together using dress rehearsal footage, not shots from the performances viewers just watched. It’s merely a time-saver, said a network representative, noting that production staff can’t assemble the montage quickly enough using same-night footage, since the show is live.”

Inside an ‘American Idol’ elimination show [MSNBC]
Idol’s “Chicken Little” Gets Plucked [TV Guide]
‘Idol’ ending montage [MSNBC]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.