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Why is ‘Idol’ fascinated with bad singers?

Plus: What happened to "The One"; good news for Canadians.
/ Source: msnbc.com

"American Idol" is four months away from airing, yet it's still on reader's minds. Our first question this week is about an infamous part of the FOX show's history: The really, really bad singers who populate its audition footage.

Looking for the answer to a question we haven't answered recently? Check our . It's organized by show title, with shows that are likely to only have one question listed at the end of the index.

Q: Why does American Idol waste people's time by putting people through that obviously can’t sing and not picking people with great voices? This is so frustrating to me and many others. Isn’t this about voting for the “best”?    —Sheri, Ohio

Andy says: The better question is, Why do people waste American Idol’s time by standing in line for days just to make an ass out of themselves? Seriously, don’t people dressed in chicken suits have better places to go, like the “Big Brother” house?

If you’re talking about the finalists, and not the talent-less singers, the question makes an interesting point. Many fans of “Rock Star” on CBS cite the level of talent as one of the show’s primary attractions, and the implicit corollary is that the talent on “American Idol” is weak. Heck, Chris Daughtry was rejected from “Rock Star.”

Ultimately, the real answer, I think, is that American Idol has never been about talent alone. It’s also about the spectacle and the drama, and the producers are ultimately making a television show. Let us not forget that what hooked the entire country on the show four years ago were the audition segments, and since then the parade of idiots has continued to draw huge numbers of viewers, never mind huge numbers of idiots who try out next season.

And even when they’re selecting people who can sing, those people need to be idol-worthy—talented, yes, but also charismatic.

After all, how else can you explain Bucky and Scott Savol?

Gael says: "American Idol" is a singing contest, sure, but it's a money-making business above all else. If no one watched the episodes in which people in cow costumes shrieked the national anthem, or raged at Simon for not recognizing their genius, you can bet they wouldn't be making those kind of episodes. But we do watch. And those episodes are buzzed about. Sure, in the same way that a nasty car wreck is buzzed about, but when you're selling commercials, buzz is buzz.

Or if you want an answer in two words: William Hung. The genial guy from Berkeley couldn't sing a lick, but he parlayed his horrible voice into three albums, a movie, an appearance on "Arrested Development," commercial contracts and a truly creepy level of fame. No-talents the nation over saw this happen and apparently told themselves "Hey, I also have no vocal talent to speak of! But I, too, would like to have a large quantity of money and fame handed to me." It's unlikely anyone can recreate the craziness that was Hung-mania, but good luck putting the genie back in the bottle now.   

Q: What happened to "The One" on ABC? were the ratings that bad? I liked it!    —Todd, Georgia

A: Hi, Todd. Whole world, meet Todd: the one person who actually watched ABC’s “The One.” I’m exaggerating, of course, but not by much: “The One: Making a Music Star” had “the lowest-rated adults 18-49 debut for a reality show ... in modern TV history,” according to Variety.

The show broadcast a grand total of four episodes, but be grateful you were able to watch that many. The debut episode placed fifth in its hour, and was behind even Univision. Thus, ABC cancelled it.

“The One” was based on a format that’s actually been a huge hit elsewhere in the world. It’s known as “Fame Academy,” “Star Academy,” or other variants around the world, and more than 20 versions have aired in more than 50 countries.

But the US version, at least from the few minutes I watched before turning off the TV in disgust, seemed to try to copy “American Idol” in a really incompetent way. The host wasn’t very charismatic, and the voting procedures seemed ridiculously complicated when compared to the simplicity that “Idol” offers.

Basically, as far as singing competitions go, there’s only one “Idol.”    —A.D.

Q: Are Canadians allowed on "What Not To Wear"?    —Lindsay

A: You're in luck: Although , non-Americans are barred from many reality shows, according to a TLC spokesperson, Canadians are indeed eligible for "What Not To Wear." In fact, says the show representative, four Canadians have been featured in the past.

The application for "What Not to Wear" is ; be sure to read it carefully before applying, eh?   —G.F.C.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is MSNBC.com's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.