I hate to admit it, but against my better judgment I’ve fallen for the WB’s Superstar USA. Hard. I watch it, I laugh, I say, “This is horrible and I’m horrible for watching it”, and then I laugh some more. I realize that if there’s a Hell, and if I haven’t already reserved my deluxe suite on the banks of the Styx, then tuning into this weekly excuse to humiliate people whose only crime is being oblivious has definitely sealed my doom. I’ve weighed the options. I want to kick it JoJo style, and I’ll deal with the consequences later.

Truth be told, I don’t sing or dance any better than any of the kids on the show, and I was probably about their age before I realized it. That could easily have been me up there, and if it had been, then when they told me, “Congratulations, you’re the worst singer in America and you look like a big loser and you can’t sue us because you signed all your rights away ha, ha, ha!!!!!”, I’d probably kill myself. No, first I’d throw a rock at Briggs’ head, and then I’d kill myself. Briggs, in case like most of America you haven’t been watching this awful, wonderful show, is the WB’s equivalent of Simon Cowell, the difference being that Simon is witty and insightful and doesn’t have a constant need to seem like Simon Cowell. (Side note: every time I write the name Simon Cowell, I have to do an IMDB search to make sure I’m not mixing him up with the guy from “A Room With a View”.)

Part of what’s so fascinating about the show is just how low it’s willing to go. It’s not merely about watching people sing badly. The producers do everything they can to build up the contestants’ confidence, giving them makeovers, dangling mansions and sports cars in front of them as a peek into the kind of lifestyle they’ll someday be living — wink, wink — and handing them off to vocal coaches and choreographers who encourage them to accentuate the worst parts of their performances. They tell the geek that he’s a sex symbol, the sexy girl that she’s too sexy and the girl whose English skills are severely limited that it’s endearing when she flubs the lyrics. Clearly the contestants were chosen not just for their lousiness but for their susceptibility to manipulation.

I’d like to think that the winner is going to be a hero who actually makes a few bucks off this like William Hung did, and that’ll be ample compensation for the damage done. But I seriously doubt it. I’d also like to think that this is just a big hoax on the audience, and these kids are the world’s greatest actors, and on the finale they’re going to say, “You don’t really think we’d be this cruel, do you?” And Jamie will say, “Hi, my real name is Dannika Louise D’aolantonio and I’m going to be the new girl on 7th Heaven this fall!” And Rosa will say, in perfect English, “Hey, yo, I’m Def Jam Recording Artist ‘Kalicko’ and my CD drops July 13.” And then I’ll laugh some more and feel good about life and human nature once again. But that’s probably wishful thinking. Some people really are this deluded, and all TV producers really are this mean.

I know. Hell is going to be bad. Not only is there fire and Hilter and country music, but Tone Loc, who let me down the one time I needed him, will be there, too, and so will Vitamin C, who allegedly was a pop star at one point — I seem to have missed that. But for now let me enjoy watching some poor innocent souls going through a Hell of their own. I’m counting the days until next week when the truth is finally revealed to them. I’m hoping against hope that they’ll handle the moment well.

But I’m also hoping they brought along some rocks.

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