JESUSLAND—Whatever anyone may think of American Idol, one thing's for certain: It has its share of genuine characters, not the least of which is longtime judge Simon Cowell. According to his Wikipedia biography, "Many viewers of American Idol know Cowell best for his bitingly critical comments and attitude. He is so prominently identified with being blunt and harsh in commentary that audiences on American Idol can make it difficult for him to speak, sometimes booing him even before he makes his opinions known. Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson tended to cut him off very quickly as well."
So when Cowell announced that he would be leaving the show after the current season, rumors started flying as to who would replace him, and one name that was offered was that of radio personality Howard Stern ... which of course set off a flurry of indignation with the conservative religious types, most notably Brent Bozell's Parents Television Council (PTC).
So of course, they've posted a petition to keep Stern off the show.
"WHEREAS Howard Stern is one of the most profane, sexually-explicit and anti-family performers in the history of the broadcast medium," the petition reads in part, "and in discussing the possibility of becoming a judge on 'American Idol' on his radio program gave audiences a preview of what he would bring to the table as a judge, talking about 'getting little boys hard.' ... BE IT KNOWN that if the reports about Mr. Stern prove to be true, we will no longer watch the program; we will share our concern with our friends, family and others in our social circle; and we will contact every sponsor and urge them to consider whether they should associate their corporate image with a man who talks about 'getting little boys hard.'"
Leaving aside the petition writer's obsession with "getting little boys hard," it's interesting to see PTC essentially defending a show which has featured so many people and things PTC doesn't like: A gay judge (Ellen DeGeneres), several gay singers—PTC got very upset at 'Idol' winner Adam Lambert's kinky production number for the recent American Music Awards— and the fact that a couple of the female contestants have appeared nude in magazines or on stage, with one actually making a sex tape of herself.
But whatever previous differences PTC may have had with the show or its performers, they're now worried that if Stern takes Cowell's place, all the show's family-friendly sponsors—Coca-Cola, Ford and iTunes among them—will withdraw and the show will go the way of all bad television.
"Given 'American Idol's' extreme popularity with family audiences, I hope that Fox will put the rumors to rest and announce that it has no intention of adding to the show one of the most profane, sexually-explicit and anti-family performers in the history of the broadcast medium—either as a guest or as a judge," PTC president Tim Winter stated in a press release. "Unless Stern intends to undergo some sort of moth-to-butterfly metamorphosis—though in his case the change would be more like rattlesnake-to-Labrador Retriever—adding him to 'American Idol' would spell immediate death for one of the best franchises in American family entertainment."
"Any involvement by Howard Stern on 'American Idol' would be disastrous and would immediately destroy the show's hard-earned reputation as one of the most reliably family-friendly programs on broadcast television," Winter continued, apparently oblivious of his own prior criticisms of the show. "It would also immediately, and perhaps irreparably, alienate the show's biggest sponsors, which tend to be trusted family brands and would not want their reputations to be tarnished by someone who has demonstrated nothing but contempt for broadcast decency through his words and his deeds."
But at least the "King of All Media" hasn't shown the contempt for free speech that PTC has demonstrated over the course of its existence.
"I've heard a lot of people say, 'Well, he couldn't do the same thing he does on his radio show if he's on TV. He's bound by FCC and so forth,'" added PTC's Melissa Henson. "But let's not forget that before Howard Stern went to Sirius, he was on broadcast airwaves for 20-something years—and during that time, he was constantly waging war with the FCC, trying to see what he could get away with. I wouldn't put it past him to continue to test the limits of what he could get away with, even on broadcast TV."
Apparently it's escaped Henson's attention that Stern's radio show is live, while American Idol is prerecorded, thus allowing its editors to remove whatever overly salty language Stern might use.
What effect PTC's petition will have on Stern's chances of becoming an Idol judge remains to be seen, but publicity value aside, we'd have to ask, why would he want to?