Monday, May 11, 2009

My Conversation With Michael Slezak

Anyone who has been reading this blog over the past 2+ years knows the name Michael Slezak (from “Entertainment Weekly”)…

He’s my favorite “Idol” writer—besides myself, of course—and Friday I got the chance to talk to him. The opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time, because I was having what I called a “crisis of conscience” about Tuesday’s column. My original intention was to completely expose the manipulations the show has been attempting on us over these past few weeks. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that there may some people who don’t want to see what’s behind the curtain. Plus, I realized that by writing such a column, I would in fact be trying to manipulate people myself into voting for Kris over Danny.

For the first time all season, I was completely unsure about what to write, so I knew that a talk with Slezak would set me straight…

I started out by asking Slezak if he was okay, since he is an Allison Iraheta fan. “I’ve fluctuated between rage, depression and grim resignation.”

I then plunged into the topic that had been on my mind since the judges refused to bash Danny Gokey for his horrendous performance Tuesday—manipulation. “I do believe there is a time every season on ‘Idol’ where Toto tugs on the curtain and we see the wizard. I think it happened Tuesday,” he said.
“The judges are in lock step. They're all giving us the same message. They're using different words, but the message is the same. Don't listen to your ears. A vote for [anyone besides Danny or Adam] is a wasted vote.”
But Slezak believes that the audience is catching on. “It’s like people repeatedly telling you the sky is another color. At one point, you’ll stop and look at the sky and say, ‘Did I miss something?’”

So the reason for this unified message from the judges? The show’s desire for a Danny-Adam finale.

“The producers convinced themselves that they wanted a Danny vs. Adam finale and they have pushed those two on us as the only possible choices,” Slezak said. “But only one has actually played his part. Danny leveled off early. Instead of getting better, the wheels started coming off, and he started playing it safe. Kris and Allison surprised the producers with their risks. Everyone got that memo [about Kris and Allison] except for the show and the producers.”

So why the show’s fascination with Danny vs. Adam? “They really got invested in that light vs. dark,” Slezak told me. “They get those ideas in their head,” he said, much like David vs. David last season.

Slezak looks for the judges to use all of their “subtle ways” to sway viewers Tuesday, unless they get clued in that viewers are not that thrilled with Danny’s performance…I will predict that on Tuesday night there will be a questioning of Kris’ lack of confidence by Simon, Randy will say it was just ‘a’ight’ and Kara will question his song choice.”

“They threw [Kris] under the bus. He’s not a power vocalist, but he’s interesting and current.” Slezak said if the judges’ comments were all you heard from Kris’ performance “you would’ve almost felt like it was worse than Danny. America has a right to vote for Danny if he’s the one they like, but if the judges were being honest, the performance was laughable. They would’ve criticized his song choice. We heard them lambaste Lil all season long for that.” Slezak also pointed out that “Idol” used some revisionist history Wednesday night during the results show when Ryan referred to Danny’s note as the “note the judges couldn’t let go of.” Only Simon mentioned the note during his comments.

You might recall that I was pretty angry with Slezak over his treatment of Danny in the early part of the season (when I was a big Danny fan)—so angry in fact that I swore I wouldn’t read his recaps any more (which I had to tell him, and of course he found it hilarious, because it is). Clearly, I changed my mind about that. So what is Slezak’s problem with Danny?

“I don’t get the guy. Rat Pack Week was his best week…He seems very dated and hasn’t really done anything special. He’s the perfect season three contestant or season two. And he’s a little clueless up there. But the judges are obsessed with pushing him. It’s very strange to me.”

Slezak said he would’ve preferred a Kris-Allison-Adam final three, but since Allison is out, he clearly wants a Kris-Adam final two. “Kris is much more subtle that we’re used to on ‘Idol’ so it’s easy to dismiss him. He deserves a chance to make the final two, but the production won’t allow it.”

You can read Slezak’s latest recap here. And his latest “Idolatry” video can be seen here.

You can read what I finally came up with for my column in tomorrow’s “Herald-Dispatch”…