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'Idol' kicks off with mix of laughter, inspiration

As "American Idol" kicked off its 12th season Wednesday night, I kicked back on the couch, not really expecting to see anything too extraordinary from the show, which I've followed off and on since it was first aired in 2002.

After a while, you kind of get used to the bad voices, wacky outfits and random reactions from the judges.

But during the two-hour event, I confess I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining it was. I'm a guy who likes to laugh, gasp, roll my eyes and cheer on people who audition for the show, and the season premiere made me want to get back into following the Fox program entirely.

Had my family not chosen to sit down and watch "American Idol" when it first started, I probably never would have considered following it. I don't really consider myself to be much of a reality TV fan.

But on Wednesday, it was definitely interesting to watch Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj constantly exchange backhanded comments with each other. By the end of the episode, I had to give Keith Urban credit for sitting between the two bickering judges. And Randy was the same old, lovable Randy I remember from past seasons.

The thing I admired most about watching the show, however, was the creative manner in how peoples' stories were presented. It truly is an art to be able to take the life stories of those either favored or dismissed by the judges and engage the viewer.

One particular man's story caught my attention. For minutes, I listened to Ryan Seacrest's voice as he talked over a video montage of a singer/dancer who had been through a fight with cancer. About halfway through the dancer's interview, the camera tilted down and showed that the cancer had claimed one of his legs. It truly was a shocker. The man didn't end up going through to Hollywood, but I was still amazed at how the show presented his story.

There were other impactful stories, of course, most of which either inspired me or made me cringe. There truly are some bad singers out there (and I'm one to talk). It's easy to laugh at those who crash and burn on camera, but I'll admit that it takes guts to get up in front of the world to sing.

Ultimately, I think "American Idol" is an impressive TV show because of its ability to reach such a diverse audience. Plus, I never had any interest in listening to amateurs sing before the show came along.

I often think of how interesting it would be if the auditions for "American Idol" were held closer to our neck of the woods. I believe the closest audition point this year was Chicago.

I'd love to see someone from our area audition on "American Idol." When I think back to my time served reporting in other communities, I remember coming across certain individuals who I thought really had that star factor needed to make it on the show.

Unfortunately, I imagine I won't have time to watch every episode of "American Idol" this year, but I'm glad I got to see the first episode of the new season. It's nice to be able to get a dose of shock and awe every now and then.