Dear American Idol,
First just let me say how happy I am that you’re back. We love writing you into the family schedule with extra exclamation points and stars; already, we’ve spent way too many family dinners in heated discussions about prospective winners. (Phil Phillips: You heard it here first!) We love being part of the national conversation and the fact that we can go almost anywhere — from the soccer sidelines to the conference room to the birthday party — and have a common currency among adults and kids alike. (“Do you speak American Idol?”) I’m not the first one to say it — but I like you guys a lot! WOW is it a fun show to watch!
But now that you have been around eleven years and now that you’ve made a mockery of all other shows in terms of what counts as ratings, and now that, as 30 Rock once pointed out, you are arguably as powerful as the U.S. government… how about doing something good with all that muscle? Cause you guys can do anything! You had Hulk Hogan stop by the show just because James Durbin happened to mention he liked pro wrestling. Lady GaGa, Beyonce. Josh Turner showed up to sing “I’m Your Man” with a shocked and delighted Scotty McCreery! You can call Carole King and she’ll be there. (Yes she will!) And I don’t even want to talk about what you pull off in the finale.
So my question is: What’s up with Coke as a sponsor? I know they’ve been your advertising bro from the beginning, but don’t you have your pick of the litter by now? Do you really really need them to be aligned with a show watched by tens of millions of people — many of whom, I have to assume, are children? I could almost overlook the constant, gratuitous sipping by the judges from their giant coke mugs (because everyone knows they’re really drinking water), but why run an ad showing mom (always mom) plunking down the big-ass two-liter bottle of Coke on the family dinner table? You know the one, right? The commercial where every family member is off in their own corner of the house, texting friends or killing aliens on xBox, and then with the magic fizzy twist of the Coke bottle, everyone gravitates, like zombies, toward the family table and begins to connect?
I like the message of dinner interrupting all the noise, I really do. But since you guys know everything, you must know on some level how bats#@t crazy the underlying premise of this ad is: That a jug of caffeine-and-sugar-loaded soda is the thing that not only brings everyone together… but calms everyone down? It’s crazy, because you must also know that consumption of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to childhood obesity. And that one third of children in this country are considered clinically obese? Right?
Listen, we’re not pleasure crushers around here. I am all for a soda now and then — we’ve even gone into way too much detail discussing the virtues of the post-beach ice-cold Coke on vacation (synonym for vacation: special occasion). But at the dinner table? I have to say, that really hits me where I live, and I just have to ask: Can’t you do something about it? Can’t you just say no to a commercial like that? Or how about this: How about calling up Michelle Obama — you have her on speed-dial, right? — and suggesting you partner her Let’s Move campaign. Or what about having Mom (or go crazy: make it Dad) open a bottle of Dasani Water, which is owned by Coke? I realize that’s not quite as sexy as dessert in a glass, and wow, do I sound like one righteous blogger here, but it just seems like the right thing to do. That ad makes me pine for another creepy slow-mo shot of a girl in a bikini washing an SUV. Or whatever.
If it sounds like I’m mad — well, I am. But more, I’m just concerned. All signs point to the fact that big things are coming in the way this country sees food. When Michael Pollan overtakes Ryan Seacrest with twitter followers, I just want to make sure you are on the right side of things.
Plus, that commercial is making it kinda hard for me to like you guys and I don’t like that feeling at all.
The DALS team
P.S. We can talk about the Kellogg’s chocolate-stuffed cereal later.