It's big TV entertainment news today. AMERICAN IDOL is returning to TV. On a different channel. The glitzy talent search for young, new pop singers will come back and relocate to ABC.
Now...this might be a case of me being too sensitive. But hear me out. I hated the whole William Hung business in the early days of AMERICAN IDOL. I hated it for the same reason that the Long Duk Dong character worked my last good nerve in the John Hughes teen comedy, SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984). His movies took place in and around the Chicago area. I know that area. I worked and lived in Milwaukee for a decade. I went to Chicago a lot for work and entertainment. Nationally, we spent time in Chicago every week thanks to Oprah Winfrey's daytime talk show. When John Hughes movies were new and I was an entertainment reporter for Milwaukee's ABC TV affiliate, I mentioned the lack of racial diversity in his casts of teen lead and supporting characters. From BREAKFAST CLUB to FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF. No Black kids. The racial diversity we saw in Oprah's Chicago audiences was never reflected in the John Hughes teen comedies. When we did finally see an ethnic teen, it was a high school geek named Long Duk Dong. I hated that name. It played into the stereotype that Asian males are not well-endowed, brainy but not romantically desirable, and not hip. Long Duk Dong is the only ethnic teen character I can recall in a John Hughes high school comedy. Dong was played by a very good Asian-American actor named Gedde Watanabe.
If Disney was casting singers for a Radio City Music Hall spectacular in New York City and an agent submitted "William Hung," a person who clearly could not sing, his agent would have been visibly charred by the heat emitted from the angry casting director's voice through the phone when he or she called to chew that agent out for wasting valuable time in a casting session.
He was the punchline. And AMERICAN IDOL had him sing "She Bangs." William Hung, to me, was a racial stereotype-inspired novelty act.
I went to see Russell Simmons' DEF POETRY JAM on Broadway twice. If some TV executives and screenwriters think that Asian-American males aren't hip, can't dance, can't rap, and can't excite a crowd by throwing down some serious slam poetry, they are wrong. And, as someone who had a YMCA gym membership in New York City for years and always used the locker room facilities, if they think that Asian-American dudes aren't packin'....they are wrong again.
As far as AMERICAN IDOL returning -- um, well, why? It's not like it's been off the air for at least a decade or more. Hell, I've been off the air longer than AMERICAN IDOL and my last TV appearance was in early 2015.
Addison DeWitt was right.
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