American Idol 5 debuts tonight

The fifth (!) season of American Idol debuts tonight on FOX. Who will make us swoon and lead us to buy their CD? And who will, say, warble a song through their tracheotomy hole and become America’s newest celebrity even though Simon Cowell dismisses them with, “You have the worst voice I’ve ever heard, at least since the last person I told that to, and you’d have to have a hole in your head to think you’re a good singer.”?

The mass hysteria and parade of delusional talentless media whores begins tonight at 8 p.m. ET, when nine (!) hours of auditions begin. Two hours air tonight, two hours air tomorrow night, and then one hour airs each Tuesday and Wednesday until Feb. 8, when the Hollywood round begins. The actual voting competition starts Feb. 21, more than a month away.

Although most things won’t change, the show is dumping the celebrity judges, thankfully. The financial stakes are higher this year, however, which means that the show will find more ways to cram products down our throats.

Why have we continued to be obsessed by this parade of commercials interrupted by singing? Journalists and writers have answers, and the trend this year seems to be providing those answers in lists. Knight-Ridder’s seven reasons why the show is successful. MSNBC’s Craig Berman calls this “comfort food” but lists 10 things that should be dropped from the show. TV Squad lists five “reasons I shouldn’t watch American Idol”, but promises a list of five “reasons I should watch American Idol” later today.

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