We don’t watch American Idol (it’s just not our thing), but we tune in religiously to see what Rabbi Richard Rushfield has to say about the show on latimes.com.
During this past season, Rushfield has regaled us with sermons peppered with poetry about winning, losing, death and love. And we are smitten.
So, as the season comes to an end, we asked the good rebbe if he would answer a few of our questions about the importance of Idol. His answers were as thoughtful and complete as you’d expect:
1. How long have you been covering AI and in that time, has your opinion about the importance of the show changed? I have been watching since season three, but I only began covering the show last season. I guess the more I see of it, the more I see of the hysteria around it, the public obsession, the screaming fans, etc. the more I feel like it remains, sagging ratings and all, the only event in our national culture that still unites a broad uncyncial audience. As I noted in my column last week, no one else in America, not politicians, astronauts or other TV stars, still gets a parade when they return to their hometowns. Only the conquering heroes of American Idol, plucked from out midst for greatness, can make us feel good about rooting for them.
2. You often employ literary (and biblical) allusions to your stories. Is this a tongue-in-cheek effort to add gravitas to the subject matter? Not a bit! How dare you. I spend months tracking what is an epic journey for these contestants from their table waiting jobs in middle America to the pinnacle of American reknown. I am constantly striving for analogies that can capture the immensity of that journey.
3. What else do you watch? So You Think You Can Dance. Modern Marvels. Match Game, on the Game Show network. Battlestar Galactica. Deadliest Catch. The Paper. The Hills.
4. Who is your favorite former Idol contestant? Why? I have written extensively documenting the fact that this year’s Carly Smithson is the greatest performer in Idol history, so she outshines all former contestants. She projects an intensity and vocal power beyond anything previously seen on the show, or anywhere in the Universe. She has a fantastic backstory filled with sorrow and rebirth. Carly is the ultimate Idol.
But last year I liked LaKisha Jones.