Television

"American Idol" Handles The Jermaine Jones Situation As Grossly As Possible

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Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe boot singer Jermaine Jones from American Idol. It's kind of uncomfortable and shouldn't have been filmed.

When Ryan Seacrest teased the unplanned ouster of one of the remaining contestants at the top of last night's American Idol, anybody who had spent the day following the entertainment trades and the blogs that cover them knew what was coming. For everyone else, the news that deep-voiced singer Jermaine Jones had been removed from the show for having a number of outstanding warrants against him (and failing to disclose that information to the producers) must have come as a shock.

Either way, Jones's ejection was swift, decisive and entirely in keeping with Idol precedent. Also, in keeping with Idol precedent was the fact that it was handled in just about the least dignified manner possible.

Here we had Jones called on the carpet by executive producers Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe. By itself, that's perfectly fair; it's their show and they have every right to protect it. It's not that the conversation itself was unnecessary. But by making sure that it happened on camera, they transformed what should have been an internal matter into a scolding public ambush.

And it's important to note that, despite the underlying reasons for ending Jones's time on Idol, this was indeed a purely internal matter as far as Warwick and Lythgoe were concerned. There were no authorities on hand to collect Jones, who reportedly flew back to Philadelphia on a first-class ticket. This was purely about removing him from the show.

Idol has never been shy about exploiting its auditioners and contestants for ratings, whether it's to play up their personal tragedies or to mock their occasionally real mental disabilities. But it's never gone so far as to stage a Chris Hansen To Catch A Predator moment in any other ouster.

And the presence of those cameras seems to fuel some of the more uncomfortable moments of the confrontation. When Warwick tells Jones, "We're not judgmental at all. Lots of kids come to us that have problems. ... If they come clean with us and tell us at the beginning, we can help them," it sounds so deeply disingenuous that it's hard not to see the producer as painting himself as a white knight, bleeding nobility, for the audience at home.

By contrast, Lythgoe asks, "What happened with what we're told was a fight?" At that point, the answer doesn't matter. That's purely about making Jones squirm for drama.

All of that could have been avoided with a simple Seacrest announcement from the stage at the top of the episode. But Idol decided, as is its nature, to exploit the situation and maximize the extent to which it could claim to be aggrieved.

Jones had already been cut by the judges once, just before the live performance shows, and Idol patted itself on the back for being magnanimous enough to give him a second chance. Last night, it reminded him — publicly, in an unnecessarily humiliating manner — that it can take that chance away just as easily.

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