Former pop star Paula Abdul has joined the cast of judges on the popular FOX talent competition "American Idol."
Where have I been, you ask? Perhaps a more accurate question might be, where has Paula Abdul been?
After four seasons of parroting everything judges Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell had to say about the contestants on "Idol," the woman in the middle -- Paula Abdul -- has finally shown up for work in season 5.
Millions of people love "American Idol," and as one of those people, I've been Grrr'd year in and year out by Abdul's inability to go her own way when it comes to judging singers.
At times, she has reacted to contestants as if the second coming of Stevie Wonder were up on the stage, but when Simon or Randy would open the judging with some kind of damaging critique, all of a sudden, "it didn't work" for Abdul either.
Other times, she simply was unable to call a bad singer a bad singer.
Maybe Abdul's too nice, but nice doesn't sell records, and at the end of the day, that's what "American Idol" is all about.
But something happened on the way to season 5.
Perhaps it was being raked over the coals by "Idol" watchers after loser Corey Clark made his "bombshell" accusations on ABC about Abdul having broken his heart, then went on Howard Stern's show to brag about the sordid details of their alleged affair.
Perhaps it was the media beating Abdul took from several columnists, including this column.
Perhaps it was the independent investigation commissioned by FOX that pried into her personal life but ultimately found no wrongdoing on her part.
Perhaps all of the above taught Abdul a few things, most importantly, that she is loved by millions of people, including her bosses and her co-judges.
I think we all know that any person who experienced the ups and downs of celebrity life like she did last year is bound to come out of it a much stronger and more confident person.
The Paula Abdul of season 5 certainly is much stronger and more confident than the Paula Abdul of seasons past.
After just two episodes of "Idol" auditions, Abdul is funny, smart in her criticisms and praise and she's even taken a jab or two at some delusional people who fancied themselves good singers.
It all makes for good television.
Throw in Abdul's good looks and terrific smile, and what we have here are three strong judges to guide us through the process of picking the next "American Idol."
So, without apologizing for all of the Grrring I've done over the years, I will say that the new Abdul won't be getting Grrr'd by me anytime soon, and for what it's worth, welcome aboard, Paula.
That being said, what is it about us human beings that makes us believe we are all great singers? I sing horribly, and I know that, but that does not stop me from singing at the top of my lungs, pretending to be a rock star while driving alone in my car or when I'm taking a shower.
If you don't believe me, take a look at this Real Deal video.
The point is, I would never put myself up for a singing competition like "American Idol" unless I were so desperate to be on television that I woudn't mind making a fool of myself in front of millions of people.
The question is, why do they do it?
Surely someone besides Simon, Randy and Paula told Cachet Robinson she is not a good singer, right? And we know somebody at one time must have told Marcus he's not R. Kelly, and the wig-wearing loud-mouthed Rhonetta that she could never be "bigger than Kelly Clarkson," right?
Besides all of the horrible singers who are at least entertaining, I am also jaded enough to find even the most touching moments Grrrable.
For instance, on Tuesday night, two people broke down in tears after they made it through to the Hollywood round.
The first set came from Kelly Pickler, a cute blonde whose father is "in and out of jail." Pickler had me right up until she said "I can't wait to ... write ... to my father," making pen on paper movements with her hand.
When single mother of three Kendra Winston emerged with her golden ticket, she completely ignored the three children "Idol" producers made a showing of before she auditioned, and then flat-out told them she's leaving them for Hollywood.
None of the kids said a word or even looked happy for mom, who according to the show, has lived in 42 foster homes in North Carolina.
VIDEO: Watch Mike's "Real Deal" webcast.
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