Reality Check: It's All About the Attitude on 'Idol' and 'Dancing'

During a Sanjaya-less season, I think we can all agree on the fact that "American Idol" is first and foremost a talent competition. But right after singing ability on the list of what matters is attitude.

Ramiele Malubay gets an A in this department: she sobs profusely when her friends get kicked off, talks about how grateful she is to be in the competition, and when she gets criticized, she doesn't fall apart.

Brooke White could also win some "Most Likable Person" awards. She's the quintessential "heart on her sleeve" gal — the one who cries with joy when she's singing and is the first to agree with the judges' negative comments.

Of course, nobody can touch David Archuleta when it comes to attitude — I mean, this is a kid who probably grins when he's sleeping. Case in point: when Simon told him his performance seemed like something you'd see at a theme park, the cherub got a bit teary-eyed but never lost that Colgate smile.

Michael Johns also gets high marks on the attitude scale. He's been frustrated while waiting for his moment to arrive (and arrive it did this week, with his awesome "We Will Rock You-We Are the Champions" combination platter), but the eagle-eyed among us (or just those of us in awe of his aesthetic appeal) have noticed that he's handled his disappointments well so far.

And David Cook manages the difficult feat of coming off as confident but not cocky. It helps that he's excelled in the past few weeks — and never more than during this week's rocker version of "Billie Jean." Good attitude aspirants would do well to study and imitate his whole clasp-your-hands-together-and-tilt-your-head move, which somehow manages to convey simultaneous humility and gratitude.

Jason Castro, meanwhile, may have too good an attitude for his own good. Agreeing with the judges so much that he actually admitted he could have practiced more? Really?

Carly Smithson, Syesha Mercado and Chikezie are the ones, however, who could use some serious attitude improvements. I know Carly's undeniably gifted, and she doesn't do or say anything that actually hurts her chances. But her personality doesn't really win her any points, either.

Syesha, on the other hand, could make Kathie Lee Gifford seem genuine. And that girl, no matter how much she beams, seems to just love herself.

But it's Chikezie who's really in trouble here. While he's thankfully edged away from his picking-fights-with-Simon mode, explaining that he sings for the fans and not the judges probably didn't earn him many fans. Can't these kids learn that we like it when they play nice with the judges?

Of course, the "Idol" competitors don't have anything on Steve Guttenberg over on "Dancing With the Stars." The '80s relic seems so thrilled to have a camera on him that he almost never stops saying "Wow" or praising the show for making "this world a better place."

Penn Gilette, meanwhile — who got the boot this week along with Monica Seles — never seemed to understand that the show wasn't "Dancing With Penn Gillette." The magician was clearly not aware of the fact that continuing to make unfunny jokes while other people are trying to talk doesn't win you any points.

While a good attitude can take a person far (exhibit A: Paula Abdul), we also like a little salty with our sweet. In other words, Simon Cowell could never win any good attitude awards — and thank God for that.

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