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Watching the Winter Olympics on TV is good for kids. The success of Evan, Shaun, Lindsey, Shani, Apolo, Bode, and the others not only encourages healthy patriotism, but respect for hard work and dedication.
One might try to say the same thing about another multi-night, live competition that currently overlaps on-air with the Olympics, American Idol. Especially when that "one" is Ryan Seacrest. But when you and your DVR collaborate so your family can watch both programs, Idol is reduced to what it is: A slow-paced exhibition of shallowly- talented wannabes hoping to fast-track their paths to success. (And I say this as a fan!)
The distinction is obvious to grownups other than Seacrest and Idol's Top 24. But kids may not intuitively know the difference, especially when Fox, Seacrest, the media, and many of their classmates treat American Idol like... well, the Olympics.
As a primer, here are some of the more obvious differences when the two go head to head:
In the Olympics, success is primarily a result of skills, practice, and one's smarts.
On Idol, success is primarily a result of likeability, luck, and one's ability to hold a note.
In the Olympics, failure is typically handled with grace, and winning is something you earn.
On Idol, success is often handled with immaturity, and winning is something to which each contestant apparently feels entitled.
In the Olympics, judges matter, but are rarely seen.
On Idol, judges are always seen, but don't matter.
The Olympics is about the pursuit of perfection.
Idol is about the pursuit of affection.
I know Idol is hardly poison to children. It's just a TV show, and comparing it to the Olympics makes that very clear. But if we want to raise a generation of kids who can appreciate the difference between talent and auto-tune, between commitment and stubbornness, and between Evan Lysacek and Adam Lambert, then I think it's important for parents go the extra kilometer to explain the difference between a podium and a stage.
Just remember to do it during a commercial.