Behind the Scenes at the "American Idol" finals

BlogHer Original Post

I was a rabid American Idol fan for eight seasons, but when Season Nine started, I took stock of my must-see TV list, realized there were way too many shows on it, and decided that AI had to go. So when I found out I had won a trip to the Season Nine American Idol finals, my second thought (after AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! OMG I WON!) was, "Drat, it came one season too late." But how could I miss the chance to see Simon, Randy, and Ryan? Besides, an all-expense-paid trip is an all-expense-paid trip, so I quickly got back into the AI spirit, chose my favorites (Go Michael! Go Crystal!), made my I LOVE SIMON COWELL poster, and got ready to enjoy myself.

Big Mike

Seeing last night's finale live was a great experience, and not just because it was a good show. I also got to be a part of a live TV show and see all the stuff you don't see on TV. I've always had questions about what goes on behind the scenes at these American Idol shows, and now I can share the answers with all the AI fans out there:

How do you get into one of these things?

Tickets are already selling out for the American Idol concert tour, but you can't buy a ticket to any of their season shows or the finale. As far as I know, unless you're part of the AI cast and crew, or one of their family members or guests, or some kind of celebrity, there are only a few ways you can get in:

  • Apply for tickets on the American Idol website, then cross your fingers and hope that they contact you.
  • Win a contest run by a radio station, a magazine or some other sponsor (that's how I got my ticket).
  • Be a "seat filler." I had no idea what a seat filler was until I showed up at the Nokia theater and got told that seat fillers had to line up at a separate entrance. Apparently "seat fillers" get told to show up to an event to make sure that the show opens to a full house. I have no idea why they thought I looked like one; maybe they saw my ratty jeans and T-shirt (I had just come from the airport) and figured anyone who cared so little about how they looked at this all-important final must be a seat filler.

What does everyone wear?

In the weeks leading up to the finals, the question in my mind was not, "Who's going to make it to the finals?" It was "What am I going to wear?" I obsessed about it, asking for advice in countless tweets, Facebook status updates and blog posts. I even ran a giveaway on my blog asking entrants for suggestions! It turns out the answer was pretty darn near "Anything you want". Ticketholders were instructed not to wear T-shirts or anything with a logo on it, but aside from those restrictions, the outfits ranged from Ellen DeGeneres' jeans-and-jacket combo to Kara dio Guardi's black cocktail dress. The fifty or so young women strategically placed near the stage (and the cameras) all wore skimpy club-going attire, but people mostly wore jeans with nice tops -- as did I. Looks like the BlogHer community's advice was spot on!

What's Simon really like?

Sadly, I can't tell you; all I saw of him last night was the back of his head. In fact, I sat at the very highest level, in the very last row, so I saw even less of him and the other judges than I do on TV. And even though you can hear each and every one of his witty insults when you watch AI on TV, when you're in the audience, he sounds like he's speaking through a megaphone. The microphones must be optimized for television only, because his voice sounded crackly and weak, not strong and sexy. What with the bad sound, the catcalls, the shrieks and the "I LOVE YOU LEE!" screams from the audience, we could barely make out what he was saying.

What happens during all those commercials?

In all my years of watching American Idol, I've always assumed that the judges are as glued to their seats as the audience; in fact, they get up and leave each and every time Ryan Seacrest sends the program into a commercial break. I have no idea why; maybe they don't want to have to chat with the audience, or they're afraid their makeup will melt under all those lights. Or maybe they have to go to the bathroom from all that Coke they drink. Not that the audience cares; we've got our own entertainment during commercial breaks. They bring on another host, a Ryan Seacrest lookalike named Corey who tells jokes, throws shirts into the audience, works the aisles and generally keeps the crowd's energy up until the show starts up again. Then, 10 seconds before the commercial break ends, the judges scuttle back into their seats, a woman's voice counts down to zero, Corey disappears, the crowd gets back on its feet, and the magic begins all over again. It's almost as interesting as the show itself, and it sure beats watching ads!

Was it fun?

Heck, yeah! I got to be part of a cultural phenomenon and have millions of viewers watch me (okay, maybe no one ever got to see me but hey, you guys watching in your living rooms, know that I Was There). I got to see the back of Simon Cowell's head (which is a privilege no other American Idol fans will ever get to experience again), and I got to listen to the amazing Crystal Bowersox. Sorry, Lee fans, but to those watching them perform live there was just no comparison. The effect that Crystal's performances had on the crowd was instant, unprompted and electrifying. The judges constantly talk about audience connection, and boy did we feel it when Crystal sang. She reminded me why I started watching American Idol in the first place!

View more photos of Bonggamom posing with former American Idol contestants (Who are they? She has no idea. Who cares? They're from American Idol!) on her personal blog, Finding Bonggamom.

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