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REALITY TV CHECK: Po-Hawk Nation and Found Idols

This week in reality TV, after a hairdo that shocked the nation, it is finally official: America has Sanjaya fever. Meanwhile on Survivor: Fiji, an underdog finds the Idol.

March 30, 2007

By Laura Gosselin
Bodog Nation Contributing Writer

When it was announced that super villain Heather Mills was going to appear on Dancing with the Stars, there was an outpouring of Paul McCartney love as well as loathing for Mills… because really, how could she?  Then the first episode aired. Heather's prosthetic leg didn't fly off as the world hoped it would, she had fingernails rather than talons... alas, she seemed like a normal person. The media frenzy was out of gas, momentum lifeless. What the Hell would Americans IM about now?

Po-Hawk Nation
Enter 17-year-old Sanjaya Malakar, a contestant on American Idol who is a cross between Michael Jackson and Prince with the hair of a Pantene girl. His singing voice, perhaps a bit shaky (okay, he sucks), but he manages to stay in the competition. Then, he appears on the show with multiple hairstyles. That was the straw that broke America's back. Forget Iraq. Forget global warming. Forget Astronaut Sunita Williams who is stuck in space, destined to orbit until further notice - did you see Sanjaya's po-hawk?

It was the pony-hawk that swept the nation. On Tuesday night's most talked about episode of American Idol, Gwen Stefani was the guest mentor. The pre-performance clips of Sanjaya standing in front of Gwen forgetting the words to No Doubt's "Bath Water" were ominously painful. Gwen told the cameras "I feel for him. It's a tough song and he chose it, so good luck." She offered a tight smile to the camera, one that said, "Yeah, he totally sucks."

America breathed in... then out. The Sanjaya hype had been building on the net, and now it was the moment of truth. Around the country, microwaves beeped, second batches of popcorn, ready... but nobody moved.

The lights came up, and there was a collective gasp, giggle and wince from an entire nation. Sanjaya was donning a mighty po-hawk. But, there was a glimmer of self-awareness in those big browns of his. He started to sing, and it was obvious he was very, very afraid - like he suddenly realized he was the punchline to a national joke. His voice shook, he forgot the words, looked down... then looked back into the camera and warbled, "You're my kind of girl."

Could Sanjaya Win? American Idol Odds:
Gina Glocksen 30/1, Haley Scarnato 50/1, Jordan Sparks 5/2, LaKisha Jones 5/1, Melinda Doolittle 4/5, Blake Lewis 4/1, Chris Richardson 25/1, Phil Stacey 35/1, Sanjaya Malakar 25/1.

Pop Culture, Rage Culture
One question here is the level of Sanjaya's self-awareness. He seems to have this uncomplicated grin plastered on his face at all times — but surely Sanjaya is aware of the controversy he is causing, of the counter-Idol movements (, Howard Stern, etc.) that are promoting him, the Sanjaya conspiracy theories, and even the MySpace woman who is starving herself in his name. Moreover, so many people have been leaving threatening comments on Sanjaya's Myspace page, he has reportedly had to terminate his account.

The teen's success has also brought about a raft of conspiracy theories, including one from radio jockey Howard Stern, who has attributed all this to getting a boost from all of the employees in India whose jobs were outsourced by American phone companies. And then there's the death threats. Seriously... has America gone mental?

Philosophy doesn't provide answers to the profundity of this question, but it only leads to more questions and more theories. The media is like a huge wave, and the Sanjaya wave is a goddamn Tsunami.

Sanjaya Malakar - Bodog NationAre we blaming Sanjaya for our own deficiencies? (Courtesy Fox)

Perhaps the media is simply responding to a culture that is riddled with environmental and political issues. Maybe the anger we unleash upon this seemingly oblivious singer is in fact a subconscious way of avoiding our own inner self-loathing. Perhaps we are replacing what we should be saying, "My God, we are destroying the planet," with "My God, did you see Sanjaya's hair?"

"J" the leader of the Sanjaya Hunger Strike, is perhaps the most flagrant example of this thesis, denying herself sustenance until Sanjaya is voted off the show. But, like much of America, "J" is unaware of the real issues, writing in her online blog, "Remember guys, I am simply doing this because I don't think Sanjaya is right for American Idol. I do not 'hate' him as many people have tried to claim I do. I actually don't hate anyone. I am still feeling kind of weak but okay... not at the point of hospitalization yet, thank goodness. It won't be long now until Sanjaya is gone!"

American Idol: Tuesdays 8/7c and Wednesdays 9/8c.

Survivor: Yau-Man Power
When we were first introduced to the new Survivor tribes, there were all the usual suspects: the strapping young lads, the hot but sporty girls, and of course the quintessential, frail Mr. Miyagi type, who although wouldn't go far, would add a little wisdom to those aggressive, superficial youngins. However, in one of the best Survivor twists ever, Yau-Man found the Immunity Idol. With Miyagi-wisdom, he created a fake idol and buried it in its place. Snap!

Earl and Yau-Man on Survivor - Bodog NationAfter finding the Idol Yau-Man (left)and Earl will surly rise to the top. (Courtesy CBS)

The Dream Team
Earl persuaded Boo, Michelle, Stacy and Cassandra to help him retrieve the beached Moto boat, leaving Yau-Man alone to dig for the Idol. Armed with a shovel, he dug furiously and uncovered a small package containing a wooden carving of a little sea turtle, "This is my million dollars right here!" Yau Man squealed. "My plan now is to let Earl know. He engineered this whole boat saving party for me. I agree to share the use of this Idol when the time comes with him." By the time the others returned, Yau-Man was sitting carving coconut out of the shells just like he was doing when they left.

Jeff Probst vs. Mark Burnett
Survivor host Jeff Probst made controversial comments to Jam! Showbiz, admitting that the last two seasons of the reality show sucked. "I am just happy that the audience sticks with us to see how it plays out. We've never had two seasons in a row with people who are lackluster." Looking back at the current "Fiji" production, Probst agrees that the "rich versus poor" twist is not working.  

Jeff Probst - Bodog NationProbst claims that he fought against Burnett's lame ideas, but was overruled. (Courtesy CBS)

"I cannot argue with the audience. I can feel that it (the series) has not been as fulfilling because it has been unfair," Probst admitted. "If you look at this (the twist) as a mistake then we certainly didn't have luck but I will say the season isn't over yet."

To Probst, the bigger mistake on the series was allowing Ravu a chance to win Moto's beach at an Immunity Challenge a few weeks ago. Probst says he fought against the twist but series producer Mark Burnett overruled him.

"When you are voted out of the game, you are out of the game. That's what I would call a mistake. This (twist) is what I would call an idea that didn't work out so well."

Survivor Fiji: Thursdays 8pm et/pt on CBS.

Photo: The Sanjaya Malakar Po-Hawk that has the nation up-in-arms. (Courtesy Fox)