Justin Buckle's 'American Idol: Exposed': A Review
I'll be the first to admit that when reality tv hit it's stride, I was completely sucked into it and I watched it all. From smaller productions like 'The Mole' and the obscure 'Murder in Small Town X' to large scale shows like 'Survivor' and 'Big Brother'. I loved them all. When 'American Idol' debuted in 2002, I was drawn in, hook, line and sinker. (I'm even listening to Kelly Clarkson's greatest hits CD as I write this!) I watched faithfully, every week, as one by one America's vote ousted one unlucky contestant. I always sided with the blunt Simon Cowell as he seemed to say exactly what I was thinking. Especially considering the fact that often times the judges comments were just as entertaining as the performances themselves!
I've always heard rumors about how the show was rigged, and to a degree, I believed it. I mean, Justin Guarini over Tamyra Gray? Usually, I just chalked it up to sore losing contestants and over zealous fans. When I heard about the exposé that had been written by Buckles, I knew I had to read it. When I bought the book, I was expecting to get every bit of juicy gossip about the judges and contestants as I could. Who was bribed? Who slept with who? Who fought with who? While there was some of that, it isn't the core of the book. So if that's what you're looking for, don't get your hopes up. The story comes from the point of view of Justin Buckles. A producer who shares his story as he jumps up in rank and is exposed to more and more of the idol machine. Through his eyes, we get a guided tour through the corrupt members of the production team, the horrendous conditions he was forced to work in, and even how Nigel Lythgoe had his hand in how everything played out. He talks us through every stage of the competition, from the unfairness of the pre production interviews, the brutality of the Hollywood rounds, to the poor treatment of the young singers once they break into the top 12. Buckle's revealing memoir also exposes how readily available the supply of drugs really is and just how willing crew members were to sleep their way to the top. All of which the network apparently knew about, but refused to acknowledge.
So after all is said and done, am I convinced the show is a fraud? Not 100%, no. I've always had suspicions, but the book hasn't done anything to cement those. Sure, it sounds believable, but how credible is Buckles as a source? One could argue that he's just a disgruntled employee. While others could say it's just a publicity stunt for the network. Without any way to validate his claim, there really isn't any way to know for sure. While I genuinely want to believe the story, the proof just isn't there. However, I DO believe that he was made to work under some incredibly harsh conditions. Although, I will give credit where credit is due, to write a story that completely tarnishes the reputation of an entire network is incredibly ballsy.I'm giving the book three stars for a lack of substantial proof to convince me of his claim. This is definitely a book that you will have to read yourself to draw your own conclusions.
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