Skip to Content

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]

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More great stories

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


I value our community at reality blurred, which connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

Comment rules: My goal is for us to be able to share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space. That’s why I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to them.

Happy discussing!