Reality Check: On 'Idol,' It Was Sweet Home Nebraska

We're in our third week of auditions, and while you'd think this would mean it's high time for some meltdowns and harsh words, sweetness was actually the most consistent sentiment on display.

And I'm not talking about the people who auditioned — though some of them were undeniably precious.

I'm actually referring to the judges.

While sweet isn’t a word one tends to associate with the "Idol" gatekeepers, I'm here to tell you that as they whittled down over 10,000 hopefuls to 19 golden tickets, Simon, Randy and Paula seemed to be beaming sunshine and roses.

Sure, Paula's always got something kind and encouraging to say, but the same can't always be said for her cohorts Simon and Randy.

And I can only venture to guess that there must be something in the Omaha water, or corn has serotonin-increasing properties, because I can't recall the last time I saw the judges be this collectively compassionate.

When, for example, an enthusiastic but tone-deaf "Idol" fan cried over how excited he was to be there, showed off pictures of Kelly Clarkson and then did a handstand in the middle of his rendition of "Since You've Been Gone," our trio (actually just a duo at that point because Paula hadn't yet arrived) didn't mock him. Instead, they offered to help get him hired to cover the "Idol" finales for his local FOX affiliate.

And when 21-year-old Jason forgot the lyrics to the Keith Whitley song he was performing — not once but twice — they just let that go and ushered the guy through to Hollywood.

Sweetness was also on display when they encouraged 22-year-old Samantha, who managed to be nervous, insecure and adorable all at the same time, and Angelica, who cried about her issues with her dad.

While the "I want to make my parent proud by getting on 'American Idol'" story line isn't altogether new — we'll probably have a few more versions of it before the auditioning process is over — it seemed like everyone went out of their way to be especially benevolent on this one.

Then there was the reaction our trio had to Leo, a cheerful guy who amusingly recounted his mom's line that she raised the perfect homecoming queen but it was too bad it wasn't one of her daughters.

Yes, he was charming and sure, he had a good voice, but I'm still not certain he deserved the emotional standing ovation our triumvirate gave him. (Simon even accused Paula of wanting to take Leo home as a pet, a disturbing image to anyone who waded through the entire season of "Hey Paula.")

All of this doesn't mean, of course, that our judges didn't let a few snappy lines out. Simon told a stunned singer that he performed "the worst version of the song I've ever heard in my life," informed another that he just did "everything I hated" and explained to a third (in what was actually a major understatement), "You're just really strange."

And thank God for that. Because while sweet is nice every now and then, I prefer "Idol" to be a bit more salty.

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her novel, "Party Girl," is in stores.