America showing how it's done

Just a small cheer for reality TV today (a really small cheer; I don't want to encourage it).  I can't stand bad auditions. I think they're a particular waste of my time, they're unpleasant to witness and I don't like the idea of rejected contestants being pointed at or picked on when the show airs.

I understand that they choose to audition, but perhaps they are deluded or have been misled by family and friends into believing they have a shot. And maybe they did have a shot! Maybe they really did lose their voice the day of the audition because they'd been practising so much! Maybe they really would have done better with a second song! Maybe.

Implausible excuses notwithstanding, the bad auditions are not good television for me. I want to be entertained positively, not at another person's expense.

Take a bow, then, America's Got Talent and American Idol. I had never seen America's Got Talent until this season, and haven't seen much of Idol (the last season I remember being engrossed in that was when David Something won it. I liked him. David Something. Might come back to me before the end of this post).

Anyway, in contrast to the British equivalents and other shows in a similar vein, both these programmes focus heavily on the best acts, with only the odd rejection here and there. The rejections add balance without tipping over into ridicule and, nine times out of ten, the failed attempts are by interesting and/or lovely, personable people who come out of it rather nicely. So they don't get through: the audience still sees them as a fun or genuine person. And the judges on these shows manage to offer honest criticism without being cruel. So many times I have seen contestants in reality shows used as stooges and it stops being funny really quickly.

A word for the judges while I'm here, just because they deserve my praise! Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr are brilliant on Idol: so funny. Now I remember watching some of Idol last season and thinking Connick Jr was a poor choice! He has really come into his own (has he made the role his own?) and now, "he's my favourite". Along with Urban, at least, who is also ten times more entertaining than I remember. They are superb together.

Over on the America's Got Talent judging panel, Howie Mandel and Howard Stern are standouts. I had never heard of Mandel before and only knew Stern through his shock-jock persona of old; I cannot believe how likeable and humorous  they are. Mel B does a great job of keeping up with them - she's so much better than I would have imagined (though I've still no idea how the Leeds lass got on US prime time!).  I can't name a single act you should be loving or looking out for, but the judges alone make both shows worth watching.

What do you think about bad auditions: do I need to lighten up and laugh along? Do you think everyone's in on the joke? Perhaps I am extremely naive and these 'bad contestants' are getting paid to sing off-key!

PS We could be light years behind in Australia re these series - I don't want to Google it in case I see who wins them! And that David Somebody - it's David Cook. I remembered just as I typed that sentence (was about to type that I couldn't recall his name, then my fingers filled in the blank for me. Aren't brains brilliant).