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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Linda Perry (left) walks the red carpet with Cyndi Lauper and Chely Wright at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center's "An Evening With Women" in 2011. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Songwriter: "American Idol" isn't real


Reality shows are often just as scripted as real dramas and comedies are.

The trick is for the formula to work, the audience needs to think they play a role in the show's outcome. It somehow validates that their opinion matters, that spending so much time and energy into something will have a gratifying payoff in the end.

In its day, one of the more popular shows of the genre with some of the highest ratings in recent history helped lift Fox to the most watched network in television.

"American Idol," as a singing competition reality show goes, is fun to watch. However, singer and song writer Linda Perry says the situation behind the show is anything but real.

Appearing on "Larry King Now" on Hulu and Ora.TV, Perry covered a number of topics in her interview, including that the "real" part of the reality show would never happen.

"My process of songwriting comes from a very real place, a place that when you watch 'American Idol' – God bless it – it's probably an awesome experience that these people are having – but it's not a real one," said Perry, who has written hit songs for Faith Hill, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys and Celine Dion.

"Those kids that are on that show would never, would never be found out by a label. A label would never go 'I want that kid' – you know – they're not special enough … they're singing cover songs, they're not real musicians."

It would be interesting to get Perry's take on exactly what characteristics would make a "real musician," when she herself lets others more in the spotlight sing the songs she has written for them. Perry is probably best known for her work with 4 Non Blondes. King missed a chance to ask a logical follow up question there.

"They're more being put out on the show because this person seems a little f*cked up so they're gonna be good for TV. That person we know we're gonna dump them in the second episode, and you know it's already planned out to who the winner is," Perry said.

And that's where the big red flag is – never mind the phone calls, texts and any other ways the audience is able to interact with the show.

"It's already planned out to who the winner is," Perry said.

"Is it really about music or is it about selling Coca-Cola? Is it about the judges and their million dollar paychecks? What are these f*cking shows actually about? Because what it's not about – is about music," she said.

I think most people know that the show isn't about music. If that was the case, the performer/contestant would be singing original songs, not cover songs from the 1980s. But the show is about building a career of a person that "deserves" a shot at being recorded.

Any show that directors say "action" should never consider itself to be "real." But any show that has a predetermined winner should also never consider calling itself a contest.

It will be interesting to see if there is any fall out following this interview.

HOLIDAY AND POLITICS: Fox News is presenting a one-hour special, "America: A Kelly File Special," tonight at 8 p.m. The program will focus on the film "America," a new political documentary by filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza.

Lionsgate is releasing the movie this week and it takes a look at whether America is undergoing a fundamental transformation under the Obama administration. The special will feature an extended analysis of the big themes in the film and Megyn Kelly will debate them with both D'Souza and former member of the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers.


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