Thursday, May 10, 2012


DEBORAH CROMBIE: And now, having contemplated scrubbing clothes on a washboard in historic Annapolis and doing without deodorant, for something completely frivolous....

A friend who is classically trained as a singer admitted to me last week--actually, make that "confessed"--that she never missed an episode of American Idol.

So I thought it was time I came out of the closet and admitted (confessed) that from January to May, my week revolves around the Wednesday and Thursday night shows. (Thank goodness for DVR, although when it gets close to the end, you don't want to hear the results after the fact.  Or have your recording cut off just as they announce the winner because they've gone over the time limit!)

This year I have a couple of excuses for my devotion. First, one of the final four contestants, Hollie Cavanagh, is from my home town, McKinney, Texas.  There have been Hollie Watching parties in the performing arts center here for the last few weeks, and before that in the local pub. (She is originally from Liverpool, so that's the Brit connection.) There are signs everywhere, even in my neighborhood supermarket, proclaiming "Vote Hollie!" If she makes it to the "final three" tomorrow night, there will be a huge hometown parade for her this weekend, and our town will be seen next week by some 60 million viewers. So as a community, we are invested.

And two, my book-in-progress features a girl singer, although it's a very small part, and a male guitarist, who is a primary character, so I've spent the last year or so reading singer/musician biographies and autobiographies and learning lots about the music business that I didn't know.  So I'm fascinated by the behind-the-scenes stuff, the coaching by producers and well-known artists, and by watching the development of the singers who start out so raw and unpolished.

But that's only part of it. Why, I wondered, should we (who I assume consider ourselves to be literate and sophisticated) be embarrassed to admit that we care about these young artists doing their damnedest to realize a dream? The ones who only want to be famous are weeded out fairly quickly.  Those that remain--and this season has one been one of the best in the history of the show--have real talent and work incredibly hard to achieve a goal. (For those who haven't watched in a couple of seasons, I think the replacement of Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul by Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez has been an enormous and very positive improvement. Oh, and Steven Tyler's autobiography was published by my publisher, so I hope it sold well... those profits go toward advances for those of us who aren't quite as famous...)

I think as a writer I have a particular empathy with the contestants--writers' careers are made on a combination of innate talent, hard work, and a capricious bestowal of public approbation, as is their success on the show.

But most of all, it's just plain fun. Just don't ask my husband if he agrees.

So what about you, REDS and readers? Will you confess or deny?

And if Hollie Cavanagh does make it through to next week, at least tune in to see my town! (I might be waving at you.)


  1. Okay - somehow Mad Men and The Walking Dead are starting to feel like Chekhov. The only non-sports contests I watch on tv are the Oscars. Chacun son gout. (Jan, did I get that right?)

  2. Rosemary, I think it's "chacun a son gout", but that's through the filter of high school French class of 45 years ago. (And the "c" is a character I don't know how to create here).

    I don't watch American Idol, but am totally addicted to Dancing With the Stars. No idea why; I have no more expertise, or hope of any, in dancing than in singing. :-)

  3. Debs, my nephew Chris's steady girlfriend is Ashley Underwood from Season 22 of "Survivor" (Redemption Island). She's 5'8" and was down to 103 pounds or something when she got home, so sick with a parasite that she had to be hospitalized. I suppose she thought being on the show would boost her modeling career, but OMG ... the sacrifices we make for success.

  4. American Idol? Really??? I've never watched it, not even once. I did get briefly hooked on So You Think You Can Dance.

    I've been a faithful to Project Runway, though this last season was so lame I'm filing for separation.

  5. Ro,
    I'd go with Chacun a ses propres gout or Chacun a ses propres (each to his own), but I will check with my French buddies and find out what's the most common usage. Why? because it's a fun distraction and what are we talking about today? FUN DISTRACTIONS.

    As far as American Idol goes, I am the only person in America who has never watched it. But I got really hooked on one season of the Sing Along? Or is the Sing A-thon? Whatever, now I LOVE Ben Folds.

    But I think all these shows do the same thing, just like sports they hook you into the competition. You start rooting for a person/team. And then there's the drama and conflict the competition inspires, And the backstories so we care about the characters.

    Sounds like something else I know. What is it? Oh yeah. Writing novels.

  6. Well, America Idol and I are separated. The second season, YEARS ago, I was addicted.

    Now--I don't watch at all. It just seems--not interesting any more. But at one point, it did. Hmm. I think the idea that here's a person from NOWHERE, with no opportunity, and suddenly....they COULD be a mad success. I like that.

    Project Runway. I do love, even though I agree, Hallie, the last season was not compelling.

    I like The Amazing Race, though. You can rationalize that you're learning something. And, um, I have been known to watch Survivor.

  7. Okay, I'm definitely the odd man out at this point... I watch The Voice, too, although this year I've liked AI better. And I'm afraid I've never watched Project Runway or Survivor, but I do like the idea of The Amazing Race.

    But I think Jan has it right about part of the fascination--it's a journey with characters and a resolution. As in novels...

  8. well, Debs, I have to admit I've never seen American Idol. However, as someone who trained as a vocalist from 6th grade through my teens and sang professionally with a jazz band before giving it up because I couldn't stand the lifestyle, I suspect I could get hooked on it pretty quickly. So, another reason I'm grateful for no TV!

    I do think that writers will naturally tend to identify with others, especially other artists, who sacrifice for their ambitions. Though I think we don't usually have to go as far as Marcia's son's girlfriend. I sorta draw the line at intestinal parasites! But Project Runway, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol--I can see how writers could get sucked into watching these because they showcase the same drive and the same overwhelming odds that we all face when we know a sane person would say, "hell, no!" and walk away to a secure paycheck and evenings, weekends, and vacations off.

  9. I've never watched American Idol, but I am a little addicted to Pawn Stars. I tell everyone it's book research. Maybe someday I'll put the guy with the Pez dispenser collection in a book.

  10. And this is the perfect segue for me to let you in on some fabulous news:

    ****Our own Darlene Ryan--see above--in her alter ego as Sofie Kelly is the author of Copycat Killing--which will debut next week at #24 on the NYT best-seller list!!!****

    SO wonderful!! And we are all so happy for you, dear Darlene!

  11. Hurray! Congratulations, Darlene! Way to go! Now I must go get Copycat Killing.

  12. I'm here to support you, Deb! My girls and I watch AI. My oldest (14) is aiming for a Broadway career, but really enjoys the singing. Completely agree that it's much better since Steven Tyler and J-Lo signed on. I'm sorry to say I think Hollie's going home tonight. I'm rooting for Joshua who is absolutely amazing.

  13. Laura, thanks for not leaving me out in the cold! I knew I wasn't the only one... And yes, I'll be surprised if Hollie doesn't go home tonight, although I would love the parade. She has improved enormously, and with that powerful voice, she might be a candidate for Broadway.

    Both Joshua and Jessica are amazing, but he has huge stage presence and she still seems a little unformed to me. And I'm still loving Phil Phillips. I think he's a really unique artist, and I'll buy his records whether he wins or not.

  14. Darlene, YAY!!! I am so thrilled for you, and am getting the book asap!!!

    Big cheers from Jungle Red!!!

  15. I have never watched American Idol, not even when I still had TV. My reason? This will probably sound amusing, coming from someone who loves to read mystery, thriller, and suspense novels,i s that I can't stand the suspense! I've heard enough about the program to know that I would pick a favorite and then feel as though my own kid was rejected if the person was eliminated! Friends and relatives who watch are always talking about the program, so I sometimes feel as though I DO watch it. (Jeopardy was always one of my favorite programs, and I stopped watching it because of the suspense factor. I have no idea what this says about me!)

    Watching the Olympics takes a lot out of me, too!

    Keep me posted about American Idol, Debs! (You know, I think maybe I DID watch it once,around four years ago. It seems to me there was no singing, just following contestants around at home and asking them questions. Someone told me that each season starts out that way?)

  16. I had never watched AI before this year but now I'm hooked. I think Joshua is amazing and hope he wins. Jessica has a big voice but I don't care for her style. Unfortunately, I think Holly is going home also but quite like her - she's come a long way. Phil is unique.

  17. Thank you for the good wishes, everyone. (Hank is the perfect pseudo-sister!)

  18. I have watched Idol from time to time out of sheer horror. If I think someone is awful and literally screaming the judges think they are great. I used to enjoy watching Simon be absolutely cutting.
    The only reality show I have to watch is The Amazing Race. I love going round the world vicariously.

  19. Darlene, is that the german guy with the Pez collection? There was a Pez Convention in Stamford recently and he was all over the local news.

  20. Sorry, Deb, never watched American Idol. The promos turned me off right away. But I've added my "Voice" just in case you and other hadn't seen this quote for the day from Aunt Agatha's Bookshop on Facebook.
    "Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookshop
    Had customers in this a.m. who I turned on to Deborah Crombie after they read all of Elizabeth George - today it was Peter Robinson and Ian Rankin. Are they ever lucky!"

  21. Ok, I'll confess...I watch the Voice!

  22. I used to watch American Idol and DWTS faithfully and then suddenly stopped.
    When Simon Cowell left American Idol it all went downhill for me.
    Strangely enough last evening Howard Stern who will be a new judge on America's Got Talent summed up the philosophy of competitive show saying that after a while it is all about the judges not the competitors. The judges are already famous. Now it is time to let the competitors shine.

  23. No, Rosemary, the Pez guy wasn't German. His name was Joe and he wore a porkpie hat and a bowling shirt if I'm remembering correctly. And he called the offer on his collection "an insult to the Pez community." movedif sectlysi

  24. Thanks, Ann!

    Rhys, they did go through a screaming stage on AI for a couple of years, and I still don't like the contestants who won.

    Marie, it's definitely been about the contestants rather than the judges, which I much prefer.

  25. Congrats Darlene/Sofie!

    Way to go!

  26. Okay Ro,
    This comes from my friend Cathleen who teaches writing in Aix-en-Provence. She went to the highest French authority. You had it right, but it needed to be plural.

    Re; all our various reality shows.

    (À) Chacun ses goûts!

    (merci à Cathleen et estelle d'aix-en-provence, france!)

  27. This is one of my favorite periods of history for mysteries. Definitely sounds dangerous to start these. I'll never get anything else done... But such fun. I keep hearing about these books and I think you've dumped me over the edge. I'll have to read them.