American Idol

'American Idol' hopefuls need to follow the four commandments of the show

March 14, 2012 at 12:17 PM ET

AMERICAN IDOL: Top 12: Clockwise from top right: Elise Testone, Heejun Han, Jessica Sanchez, Hollie Cavanagh, Skylar Laine, DeAndre Brackensick, Erika Van Pelt, Jermaine Jones, Colton Dixon, Shannon Magrane, Joshua Ledet and Phillip Phillips. CR: Michael Becker.

News reports indicate that Jermaine Jones has been disqualified from “American Idol” for concealing “multiple crimes.” But that alleged deception is just the most recent in a series of violations of time-honored traditions on the show this season -- and we’re still only in March. So it seems worthwhile to remind the 11 remaining hopefuls of the four commandments of “American Idol" etiquette.

I. Thou shalt not lie

It’s one thing to paint your circumstances in a way that will generate sympathy. Anything that gets people to care about you as a person, in addition to your voice, is a smart move. Use everything at your disposal -- your small hometown, rough financial circumstances, charming family members, comedy talents, stories about how hard you’ve worked to get here. All’s fair in ‘Idol,” as long as it can be verified.

But in this day and age, there’s no hiding things like arrest records -- or even racy photos or risque jobs, as we found out a few years ago with Antonella Barba and David Hernandez. At best, those generate negative press when they’re inevitably brought to light. At worst … well, just ask Jermaine Jones.

II. Thou shalt look thrilled for the success of fellow contestants

Part of basic etiquette is putting a happy face on a sad situation in public. Sure, this is a competition, and only one person can win. Deep down inside, audience members know that the vast majority of contestants would secretly like to give everyone else on the show laryngitis or strep throat right before performance night, if that’s what it took to have all of the confetti dropped on them in the finale.

But people want to see some graciousness. If they were watching Elise Testone last week, they wanted her to be very happy for Erika Van Pelt when she got sent back to safety from the bottom three -- even though that made the odds of Testone going home that much greater. And another tip for Testone: The next time Shannon Magrane tries to give you a hug, don’t react like she has a hyper-contagious case of the measles. Just hug her back. She’s bigger than you, so there’s no resisting anyway.

III. Thou shalt not throw a party when declared safe

When there are two or three people onstage in danger of being voted off, and one gets sent back to safety, there are a few options. Look up at the sky in relief. Make a gesture of thanks to the judges or the audience. Maybe – maybe! – do a fist pump. And then turn to everyone out there with you, wipe that smile off your face in favor of a rueful expression, give them hugs or pats on the back, and look like you have no idea how you could be so fortunate while folks as talented as them were still on the block.

That was another Jermaine Jones infraction last week. Of course, everyone knew he was thrilled to survive. But poor Jeremy Rosado was left onstage crestfallen, knowing that he was likely a goner. It’s proper “Idol” etiquette to at least make a pretense of showing sympathy for him.

IV. Thou shalt not argue with the judges

Sometimes the judges offer legitimate criticism. Sometimes they’re talking just to hear themselves talk. On those rare occasions when the talk is negative, it no doubt makes contestants wonder why they are being singled out while everyone else’s missed notes and pitch problems are ignored.

But the correct response for dissed contestants is to grit their teeth, form some semblance of a smile, nod their acceptance and then tell Ryan something about how they understand that point and they’ll try to take that advice going forward.

The natural reaction of the viewers is to be sympathetic to the singer in those spots, and it’s fine to play that up with brave platitudes about how you just hope your fans forgive you and you get the chance to do better next week.

But don’t be fooled by the audience booing the judges when they go negative. Those same voters will hold it against you if you talk back to Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, even if you know you’re right. Elise Testone, you’re on thin ice anyway – don’t do that again this week.

Are there any other rules you think the "Idol" hopefuls should follow? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.


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