Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thoughts on last night's American Idol and America's new favorite reality show, AIG

I wasn't going to blog about American Idol or American International Group (aka AIG) today, because, frankly, I have had more than enough of these two reality shows. (Don't believe AIG is a "reality" show? Then you must not have a TV. Think Simon's tough? Ha! His comments are downright tame compared to Republican Senator Charles Grassley's admonitions. Simon's worst criticism is calling someone a karaoke singer, or suggesting the only place for them is at some karaoke bar, whereas Grassley wants bonus-baby AIG executives to commit a form of Seppuku. Though after listening to some past American Idol contestants (Sanjaya), the judges may have wanted to kill themselves.)

So re last night's American Idol, where the show's producers showed, once again, how out of touch they are with their so-called target demographic (16 - 35-year-old women)...

Grand Ole Opry?! Are you effing kidding me? Hey, I like country music (okay, SOME country music), but when I hear "Grand Ole Opry" I think Minnie Pearl and Buck Owens (even though, as we learned last night, Carrie Underwood is now a member). Couldn't they have at least called it "Hot Country"?

Despite the heinous name, last night's show, while not as funny as Hee Haw (sadly), was almost as entertaining, with a few standout performances.

Last night's winners: Kris Allen, Anoop Desai, and Matt Giraud, who were just all right for me last week, Dawgs, NAILED it this week. They were dope, the bomb, brilliant (to quote Randy and Simon) -- and all three should be safe.

Last night's also rans: Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta, and Megan Joy (where did the "Corkrey" go?) all gave solid performances and should move on. Megan was the weakest of the three, but she looked great and considering she had Influenza B (thanks for the heads up, Paula), did an amazing job.

In the "that was just all right for me, Dawg" department: Michael Sarver, Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre, and Alexis Grace. None of these performers sucked, but none of them did themselves any favors last night. And I REALLY like Lil, but she totally chose the wrong song. Ditto Alexis (re song choice). As for Michael and Scott, a good story and being "likeable" (whatever that means) will only get you so far in what is in theory a singing competition, and I have a feeling Michael is going to be gone after tonight, though I wouldn't share a tear if Scott got the ax (though I don't think that's going to happen for a few more weeks).

And in the "WTF?! I though New Wave died, like, 25 years ago" department: Adam Lambert! It was like watching Morrissey (or Jim Morrison on a bad trip, as the spouse commented), though Nine Inch Nails meets Johnny Cash also works. "Self-indulgent rubbish"? Absolutely. But you can't say it was forgettable!

As for that other reality show, known as AIG, and the latest "bonus" round, I am having trouble putting my thoughts and feelings into words that will not cause me to lose my PG-13 rating.

I was more than ready to let AIG fail/go bankrupt months ago (even though it would mean my AIG stock would go to zero, which it pretty much has anyway). And I still don't quite understand the whole "too big to fail" rhetoric. (By that logic, wouldn't it behoove all companies to get too big to fail by any means possible, regardless of the consequences?) But what do I know? I'm not the Treasury Secretary (thank God) or the President (ditto) or an economist. I'm just a lowly taxpayer, who has no or little say in how my tax dollars are being spent.

Getting back to the bonus brouhaha, I am all for people who make their firm money being rewarded, within reason. But getting paid regardless of performance, indeed, for failing? And getting a bonus for not taking another job (i.e., retention bonuses)? What up with that? Btw, in the case of the later, AIG has now proved they don't work.

But what really bugs me is the lack of contrition on the part of these multimillion-dollar-earning executives for the damage and destruction they have caused. I'm not calling on them to commit Seppuku, like Senator Grassley, but a sincere apology -- with an explanation -- would be nice. But we all know that ain't going to happen, because these people believe they deserve every penny. And that's the problem.

Salaries and bonuses -- not just on Wall Street but in sports and Hollywood as well -- have gotten so outrageous, with the top wage earner making 400 times more than the average wage earner at the same company or organization, they are detached from reality. Is anyone really worth $100 million?

I'm not advocating socialism or Communism here, and yes, I understand the basic principles of capitalism and am all for being paid more for doing more, but it galls me, truly galls me, that teachers and cops and firemen, many of whom work 50 or 60 or more hours a week, make so much less than an executive at AIG or a trader at Merrill Lynch or a backup quarterback.

Disagree with me? Go ahead. Jump all over me. I need to get back to work, so I can (hopefully) make a few hundred bucks this week.

UPDATED AT 4:44: So did those AIG execs offer to give back half of their bonuses before or after Congress threatened to impose a hefty tax on their (mostly) ill-gotten gains?

UPDATED AT 7:35 P.M.: Per disgraced former NY Governor turned Slate columnist Elliot Spitzer, "The Real AIG Scandal" isn't the bonuses. "It's that AIG's counterparties [Goldman Sachs, Merrill, Deutsche Bank...] are getting paid back in full." Your tax dollars hard at work.

Btw, I find much of the "moral outrage" somewhat disingenuous. I don't recall hearing much complaining or questioning of methods when the bankers/these businesses were making money. That's because we love easy money -- or the promise or lure of easy money. That's why there are casinos (and part of the reason why you can find me at Mohegan Sun two or three times a year) and Ponzi schemes. If people only wanted to earn money the old-fashioned way, there would be no Mohegan Sun and no Bernie Madoff.

Also, I know plenty of people who work or worked in the financial industry, who worked hard, made their firms money, and deserved to be compensated. This isn't about them.

AMERICAN IDOL UPDATE: So much for saving Grace -- Alexis Grace, that is. I am not totally surprised, but still... I thought it would have been Michael Sarver who would have been voted off American Idol this week, though he was in the bottom two. And I was sure up until the last minute that the judges would save Alexis. Well, until next week, Idol fans, when we have to endure 120 minutes of Motown. (Not that I don't like Motown, but yet again another night of songs written and sung long before any of these contestants were born. Sigh. And I have a strange feeling Danny Gokey is going to sing "Heard it through the grapevine.")


@ScottBradley said...

After seeing Adam's performance I couldn't help but sit there in amazement and think...WTF!?

Dave S. said...

Laura and I, as usual, started watching around 9 after the kids' bedtime routine, so we missed Adam. However, I just caught it on YouTube. I have to say, as a gigantic Johnny Cash fan, that I do not reject that version out of hand, and found Randy's comments enlightening. That being said I would now very much like to hear Annie Lennox doing the same arrangement with a slightly more restrained band, and I would also direct all and sundry to Social Distortion's argument-ending version.

Anoop made a nice comeback although Laura was mortified to have declared "Anoop is back!" seconds before Paula did. Laura at least did not stand and dance woozily during the entire show.

No comments on AIG, except that I find their bonus reasoning pitchy, dawg.

Little Miss Cupcake said...

Ech, AIG makes me sick. I haven't followed the news that closely from over here across the pond but happy to hear that Obama has asked his staff to find ways to block those bonuses (though said bonuses probably wouldn't be possible without the government bail-out to begin with). What a tawdry tale and you are right, it is like a reality show!