5/24/2012
In an alternate universe where Phillip Phillips doesn't exist...

...Jessica Sanchez's win dominates the first forty-five minutes of Filipino newscasts.

Of course, Jessica didn't win. Phillip, him, predictably did.

A teenaged boy on the news today badly wanted to assert his awesomeness by saying that he knew Phil would win. "If you look at the history of American Idol, the last few winners were guys," he said, with a smug look on his face. He was, according to the report, one of the few people who watched that free screening in Valenzuela who correctly predicted that the Dave Matthews wannabe (and "country singer", according to Ale, who thinks he's horrible) will win.

Watching the newscasts today was a surreal experience. You'd expect an endless stream of murder victims and rising prices in the morning, but no. You don't even get news on Renato Corona's condition until 45 minutes into the program. You instead get blow-by-blow accounts of Jessica's performances last night (although, unusually, Umagang Kay Ganda did not have footage of her last performance). You get poll questions set to the tune of "I Have Nothing". You get reports from both sides of the Pacific, from Jessica's actual hometown of San Diego, to Jessica's supposed hometown of Samal, Bataan. ("Nakilala ang Samal, Bataan dahil kay Jessica." Did she even mention the Philippines throughout her run on the show?) (Also, I know Bataan is not on the Pacific coast.) You get showbiz celebrities weighing in on Jessica's run, although all they really say is that she should win, perhaps for fear of reprisal from their fans. ("Traydor ka, Xian Lim! Bakit gusto mo si Phillip Phillips?") It's like the presidential elections, only we don't really have a say.

"You have to understand," Kimmy told me. "A Pinoy getting into the top 2 doesn't happen very often."

True. Until this week, Jasmine Trias is the most successful Idol contestant of Filipino descent. She finished third, and in hindsight, it's an absolute fluke. Now, we have Jessica, a big-voiced Filipino-Mexican 16-year-old who blew the judges away for the most part of the competition, and one who suddenly has a chance of, as most of them insist, putting the Philippines on the map.

"And you know how local news can be so OA!" Kimmy continued.

I woke up today to Alex Santos, Bernadette Sembrano and Anthony Taberna discussing Jessica's chances of winning. Her original song, the misplaced ditty "Change Nothing", did nothing for the judges - they actually hated it, it seems, although the consensus is that they were knocking the composition and not the performance.

That's the sort of analysis I used to do when I was still with BuddyTV. Overanalysis, actually. You try to make sense of how the judges' reactions, the actual performances and the movement of votes in the past months would figure in the final vote. Of course, you do realize that the final performances don't really affect the final vote, since it's all about whose fan base is the most entrenched now.

Imagine waking up to that sort of analysis. They were breaking down Jessica's chances. There is a sidebar graphic on the screen. "Kapag nanalo si Phillip," Alex went, "siya ang magiging ika-limang sunod na lalaki na nanalo sa American Idol."

They are discussing the white guys with guitar phenomenon.

It has been five years straight. David Cook won the seventh season. He's cute (with a huge forehead), plays the guitar, and has a keen sense of musicality. Same goes for Kris Allen, who won the eighth season; he may not have a huge forehead, but he has this weird way with his lips when performing. But that's irrelevant.

Those two? Deserving winners. And then the ninth season came along. Lee DeWyze, a former paint shop worker who can play the guitar and has an ordinary raspy voice - and who tends to sing off-tune - won over the more shrewd Crystal Bowersox. Suddenly the Idol-sphere began complaining about the WGWG phenomenon. More grumbling when Scotty McCreery, who's male and white but doesn't always play the guitar - his selling point was his low vocals and his mama's boy charm - won the tenth season. Well, I can forgive that, but I can't forgive the Nashville Idol finale that led to it, because it meant Haley freaking Reinhart missed out.

And then, today. Phillip Phillips, he with the pleasant voice and the alleged sex appeal, won. All of the analyses on television this morning came true, and that led to all of the chaos on television this afternoon.

"If you look at the history of American Idol, the last few winners were guys."

"Nakaka-disappoint, pero basta para sa amin, si Jessica ang panalo sa aming mga puso!"

She lost, but we're in an alternate universe, so there will be a whole hour dedicated to her successes on TV Patrol and 24 Oras tonight. I can feel it. What Kimmy said. "You know how local news can be so OA!" Suddenly the concern of television critics and Idol followers - I had, or have, both shoes on - is the concern of television journalists. It's weird. I know everybody has a stake in this thing, especially after Jessica went this far. (Office conversations about this season are actually more intense than you'd think. Or maybe it's because I am included in those conversations, spouting my analysis as an "experienced" pundit.) But seeing it lead the national conversation, way ahead of the (tired?) drama of Renato Corona's "walkout"? I told you. Alternate universe.

But I'll start thinking about record deals and record sales. Will the winner fade into obscurity and the runner-up prove more successful? How about Elise Testone, my beloved bet for the season? That sort of thing. Their next concern will revolve around how they can forcibly connect Jessica to us, the Filipinos she probably barely know. Which national anthem will she sing in a Pacquiao match? Which concert venue will she fill to capacity? Which major network gets her as a contract star? And who'll make the smartest meme out of her duet with Jennifer Holliday?

Well, at least everything is right with the world... except for Phillip winning. I may not be a Jessica fan, but she needed to win this season, because with talent increasingly side-stepped by hormones, and lots of pretenders to the throne, Idol is slowly fading into obscurity.

Wait. GMA asked that question this afternoon. Crap.

And your responses...

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