Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Of Idols and Accents

Cuppa and I went back to Phoenix for a few hours tonight ... in a vicarious sort of way. American Idol has begun its eighth season, and it began in Phoenix. Good grief, we've now been hooked for the best part of seven years now. When the dust finally settles in the early summer and the American version grinds to a halt, I suppose, we'll keep the momentum going with Canadian Idol which will just be revving its engines by then.

I know that many disdain these shows because the best doesn't always win and because most winners don't go on to become stars, but that's okay. In the meantime we get to watch real kids struggle for their dreams in a way that I can relate to as opposed to cavorting about in certain contrived reality shows where tribes and fabricated games and the like are the order of the day. While that works fine for millions of viewers who are bound to be much smarter than this poor plod, it hasn't tweaked my interest. We'll stick with the Idol shows, thank you very much, where real kids sing real songs, and real people vote for their favourites with real telephones.

In the last few years, once The A Team introduced us to it, we've also become hooked on So You Think You Can Dance and this year the new So You Think You Can Dance Canada was born. These Dance shows are part of the same family as Idol and work in much the same way. I suppose the difference is in the skill level of the contestants. To be on the Dance shows, the kids have done something that most of us haven't come remotely close to accomplishing: hone their talents through years of lessons and practise. The dancers have a skill level that the general public doesn't while the Idol singers basically do something that almost everybody can do to some degree or other. So, the singers seem more ordinary and less outstanding to us for the most part. Nevertheless, perhaps just because I can relate more, I like the Idol shows just as much as their Dance counterparts.

But none of that is what I had intended to say. I had been meaning to talk about the judges and a difference between the Canadian and American shows in the make-up of the judging panels. It seems to be de rigueur for the Americans to include a British judge on each and every panel, at least so far as I have noticed. The Canadian versions have relied upon homegrown judges, both for Idol and Dance. One wonders why the difference.

Perhaps it is because Americans are further removed from their British roots, for they long ago fought their rebellion and declared their independence. Meanwhile, Canadians maintained much closer ties for a long time. We didn't even have our own flag until 1965 but flew Britain's Union Jack; in fact I saluted it in school when I was a boy. O Canada did not become our official anthem until 1980 if you can believe that: God Save The Queen generally being thought of as our unofficial anthem until then. We didn't even have our own constitution until 1982 for goodness sakes but were nominally still ruled from London. Apparently, although we are thousands of years removed from the Pleistocene Epoch, Canada still moves at a glacial pace in many ways.

Perhaps it is because of these closer ties that we feel less inclined to import British judges to our expert panels. Perhaps because America's ties with The Old Country are stretched thinner, they find the British presence more quaint and exotic. Also, as I was just opining to a British blogger recently, we colonials tend to me mesmerized by those incredible British accents. They sound so polished and so downright upper class. When someone starts speaking with a posh British accent it's all I can do to refrain from bowing and from reaching toward my brow to give my non-existent forelock a tug. I feel like a schoolboy who has mistakenly wandered into seminar comprised of post-graduate doctoral students or a plumber who still in his work clothes finds himself at a cocktail party of aristocrats in evening wear.

Have you noticed that the Brits, those of a certain education at any rate, still tend to speak properly. For example: I couldn't help but notice how Kate Winslett said the word "new" on Oprah the other day. She actually said the "ew" and didn't turn it into "oo." Yes, we now watch the Noos as opposed to the News over here on this side of the pond, and our Prime Ministers and Presidents are pleased as punch to declare that they wanna do this or that.

Somehow, I can't imagine James Gordon Brown, Tony Blair or Margaret Thatcher saying "wanna" or the good Brits putting up with it if they did.

Now does sumbuddy wanna explain to me what this post was about, for I seem to have jumped around a little bit. I guess this little essay must fail the English test for either not having a thesis or not sticking to it. But it's okay ... because I'm just a dumb colonial.


KGMom said...

Oh, don't even get me started on American accents.
But, wait, what about certain British accents? What if one of the judges had cockney accent? Or how about a Yorkshireman? Oh, well--none of us would understand them.

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled that the Idol shows are back on. I watch and enjoy both the American and the Canadian version. My daughter and my grand daughter both tried out. Neither one made it past the initial interview.. but both found it so exciting.

Mara said...

I used to live in England for nearly two years and have picked up the accent quite well. There was however one accent I never got to grips with: Geordie (Newcastle). I mean Pooob when you mean pub is hard to understand for every non-geordie!
Nowadays more and more people on television are sticking to their own accent, their own language, diversifying (is that how you write it?) the whole English language in the process, which I think is beautiful. Also because every different accent seems to bring their own sense of humor with them.

Donna said...

LOL...Well, I believe you've just recovered from..."pondering"!
I love to "ponder". It's healthy.
American Idol...nah!
Dancing with the Stars...nah!
Poirot?? Yes!Hahaa....
Sherlock Holmes? All night long!!
So, Well pondered Ac! I enjoyed it!!hughugs

Mary said...


I enjoyed your meandering thoughts. I don't watch much TV at all, so don't watch either American Idol or the dancing.

Others I know enjoy them but I just don't seem to have time. With writing, blogging, reading and keeping (or trying to) this house presentable, taking the grandsons when I need to and other necessary things, TV has become almost a thing of the past for me.

Canadians certainly have left the proper English of our ancestors behind. I am a mixture of English, Irish and Dutch and have what the boys call an "accent." It seems there are times when the Irish in me shines through.

Take care, be safe and try to stay warm. No ice fog here today, but it sure was pretty yesterday.


Pearl said...

accents are like paint colors. we get such strong visceral reactions about them.

I remember reading about an academic panel where all questions kept being directed to the fella with the posh accent. he was actually the Masters student or something. The main presenter and authority had a Louisiana accent and it seemed people felt his accent couldn't be the top voice. I think I described that poorly. get what I mean?

Lorna said...

I love your view on American/Canadian Idol and SYTYCD, or was it Dancing with the Stars? From the start, I've not been able to watch because I can't bear the tension and the heartbreak. Your perspective is much healthier.

I was born in England but don't have an accent, except to my American family and friends---when I speak French, because I have a good ear, I sound like a femme de la ville de Qu├ębec, which is right because that's where I learned my french, but when I spoke french in Germany, people remarked on my Algerian accent.....

thailandchani said...

Someone amazed me one time with his ability to tell where someone is from by listening to their speech.

I'd always considered mine to be very bland and non-descript. He looked right at me and said, "you're from Los Angeles".. which I am!

So... I suppose we do develope some sort of regional speech.

As for Idol, I don't mind watching when the top 12 have been selected.. but before that.. not so much.


Amanda said...

I'm a Scot living in Scotland and unfortunatley although we have a Scottish Parliment we are still run from London :-( That's how i feel anyway!
But i love American Idol. I wish Canadian Idol was on our T.V ~ i would watch that too. I love Canada.
And us Scots have our "own" unique accent! LOL!!
(Gordon Brown is Scottish!)

jinksy said...

This crap Brit managed to mislay your blog, though not your email (alas, do I hear you say?) Thoroughly enjoyed it, now I've found it again, and in any accent! Once upon a time Auntie Beeb (the BBC) was 'frightfully posh', but these days the accents are as varied as you could wish. personally, I wish we could all learn sign language as babies, and there'd be no accents to worry about!

RC said...

HOw funny, interesting thoughts on the difference between USAians and Candadians in their connection to their british heritage...i it certainly will be interesting to see what type of success a Canadian idol has.

enjoy the new season of American Idol. I'm sure it'll entertain you...shows like that certainly can be addicting :-)

Woman in a Window said...

HA! You self deprecating Canuk. I've wondered about the British presence and I'm still at a loss but I've always kinda (oh ya) felt it was to add some sort of official mark to something so democratic. Oh look, we are serious shows after all, look at our British dude!

I love the two shows also. This surprises me a little. It's the fact that people are putting their absolute passions out there that touches me somehow, and yes, that's why the Dance shows are all the more poignant.