The subtitle is not entirely accurate. A lot of this story has been told before, and devout fans of the popular television series might occasionally find themselves in familiar territory; for instance, the scandal surrounding the elimination of future Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson and the conspiracy theory that sprang up after Ryan Seacrest accidentally misstated the vote margin between a winner and a runner-up. But Rushfield, an entertainment reporter who’s covered the show since its inception, does spend time on some of the darker and less-publicized elements of the show, such as the way “spontaneous” remarks are sometimes scripted, how “candid” exchanges are reshot to alter dialogue, and the way the judges, by their on-air comments, can influence how viewers will vote. Ultimately, Rushfield presents American Idol pretty fairly, as a show that can be about genuine talent but can also be about audience manipulation and manufactured scandal. Should draw readers from among both fans and critics of the show.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, January 2011