'American Idol' Could Have Tapped Sanjaya Flow

If I were Fox, I'd have joined in the fun with "American Idol" contestant Sanjaya Malaker (voted off the show last night), and started a marketing campaign referencing those bloggers looking to gum up the works: "See whether Sanjaya is the real deal on the next 'American Idol...'"

Sirius Satellite Radio's Howard Stern and claimed big wins in urging voters to keep Sanjaya on the show -- despite performances called awful by the judges. Supposedly Simon Cowell told "Extra" he would quit the show if Sanjaya won.

It seems as if "Idol" has lost steam this year -- with some saying the female teens are abandoning the show. With Sanjaya you had to wonder. Part of his appeal was with young girls. But part of his staying power might have been the Web sites pleading with "Idol" watchers to skew the results and keep voting for him.

Was this a scandal -- or just TV democracy at work? If Sanjaya really had won, what would this have said about reality competition TV shows? Maybe that they don't really work.



In "Dancing with the Stars" and other reality shows, some contestants do seem to get by on their popular appeal. That's part of the process. In the end, however, each champion seems somewhat deserving.

But "Idol" and Sanjaya was a different case. It was reality show sabotage -- a game of sorts. If you were Fox, you'd have to admire that people took such strong interest -- even if the aim was to muck up the works.

According to Nielsen BuzzMetrics, which measures the blogosphere as well as other areas, blog references to Sanjaya have increased 338% from Feb. 18, when he first reached critical mass, to April 8 -- this according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Fox and ABC based their reality shows on the fact that, despite contestants' mediocre standings, their popularity will probably carry them a bit further than they thought. But not that they actually come out on top.

If Sanjaya had kept succeeding, Fox could have offered up a TV promo like this: "Is he truly bad? Or do his fans and enemies alike really love him. Watch 'American Idol' and see for yourselves. Haircut optional."

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