Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fred Bronson Lends "American Idol" A Much-Needed Helping Of Cred

"American Idol" fanatics are using harsh terms like "jumping the shark" to describe the cataclysmic appearance of Miley Cyrus on Tuesday's show as a "mentor" to the finalists. Through a tirade of guffaws over "Miley" and "mentor" ever appearing in the same sentence, I's got to agree.

One fan summed it up on the forum: "How ridiculous is this show in trying to pander to a perceived portion of the viewers? A 17-year-old whose main claim to fame was masquerading as a fictional character who sings. Is she now gonna masquerade as an actual mentor to the contestants? This show is starting a slow descent into becoming a caricature of itself."

That is, in fact, why I stopped watching "Idol" without my finger poised on the fast-forward button two seasons ago. And boy, was I proven right last year when Adam Lambert, the clear favorite and obvious talent, "lost" to the safe, standard-issue Kris Allen. Of course, since, Lambert has triumphed in the pubic eye, further demonstrating the irrelevance and politics shadowing the pageant. A reality show? Har.

I will hand it to "Idol," however, for inviting my dear pal Fred Bronson back to the show a fourth time for this week's Billboard No. 1 hits theme. Like me, Fred was among the veterans booted from Billboard's staff last year, after serving as the mag's (hell, as the world's) most knowledgeable chart expert, as well as "Idol's" chief statistician (He maintains a count of No. 1's achieved on any chart by all finalists: currently 261). He is also an author, has written for numerous awards shows, including the American Music Awards and World Music Awards, and co-wrote a couple "Star Trek" episodes, among many other accomplishments. He has also created an app for the iPhone (and iTouch and iPad) called getidolsnow.

Fred also scripted the Billboard Radio Countdown from 1998-2006, where I served as host, reading Fredly's finely crafted words about the week's top hits. It was a golden era for the two of us as friends. Among our annual treats four years running was recording on location from the Idols Tour, which features the top 10 finalists of each season. Fred was so filled with off-the-cuff factoids about each finalist that during my interviews, I couldn't help but succeed. We also had an absolute blast. To this day, Fred maintains contact with dozens of Idols. That is a true mentor.

Fred's segment on this week's Tuesday show lent credibility to a franchise that, in its ninth season, is suffering from being so affected, so painfully self-conscious, that it's like watching one ongoing promotional video. It remains the No. 1 show on television—but then again, "Jersey Shore" has returned MTV to some semblance of millennial relevance. It was nice to see some real smarts on "Idol," if only briefly. Well done, Fredly.