Reality Check: Inappropriate Behavior on ‘American Idol’

Inappropriate behavior? “American Idol”? New York auditions? Where, exactly, do we begin?

Let’s start with Ian Bernardo, a New Jersey guy whose preening, pursed-lip personality is so clearly designed to be grating that if you’ve been exposed to it once (and I had, on “So You Think You Can Dance?”), the second you see him again, every thought and feeling you had about the guy comes rushing back faster than an asthma attack.

But it wasn’t just the tone deaf that exhibited less than excellent judgment during the New York auditions.

Some of those who won over the judges wept harder than you’d imagine a person being forced to listen to Ian on a 24-cycle might.

Case in point: Sweet little Sarah, who started crying when one of the judges said, “I don’t think you have a bad voice” and didn’t stop until long after she and Ryan called her never-proud-of-her dad; and Kia, who could still be heard wailing while Ryan was telling us we were cutting to a commercial.

It’s cute to be excited and everything, but let’s be honest: These were some I-just-won-a-Grammy tears, not I-made-the-first-cut-of-“Idol” tears.

Yet it’s the ones who just couldn’t take no for an answer that truly veered into the unacceptable range of conduct.

Take Ashanti, who’d made it to Hollywood in two different “Idol” incarnations and was positive that the third time was going to be the charm.

When informed that she didn’t make the cut, the girl broke into the most impassioned but cliché-laden speech about why they had to change their minds that I swore Debbie Allen was going to rush in any second and start talking about how fame costs.

In the process, Ashanti proved not only that there is such a thing as being too determined, but also that anyone who says, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” entirely seriously is going to end up giving the word drama a capital D.

Obviously, no musings about appropriate “Idol” behavior would be complete without a thorough examination of Paula’s latest antics.

On Wednesday's episode, we had her attempts to interview the candidates (sample question: “You work at a bank — is that fun?”), her declaration that a gorgeous 16-year-old guy was “easy on the eyes” (sure, it was true, but shouldn’t she be toning down the leering at teens?) and her screaming match with Simon when he explained that it wasn’t the right time for her to be giving a guy they were rejecting advice about how he should build his future.

I say, Simon and the crew got off easy: after all, she could have been fighting for the right to counsel Ian.

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her first novel, "Party Girl," is coming out in June 2007 from HarperCollins.