After a much-fan-fared buildup, Arab Idol has well and truly-arrived, with no shortage of drama to add to an ordinarily heated region. The Arabic edition of the notorious talent show, American Idol, shown regionally by MBC, comes as a tweaked Arab 'Superstar' - its predecessor from the Lebanese channel, Future TV. After Arab Idol's forerunner had ran its course, MBC bought the rights to broadcast the show in a similar format, changing the name to the internationally branded, 'Idol' series.
Uniting the Arab world from the Arabian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean
Giving us some respite from revolution drama, this entertainment pan-Arab spectacle has stolen the headlines this year, having launched end of 2011. Much of the newsworthy material generated so far, comes from the celebrity Judge Panel's shananigans. It's not so different from its American original whose success rested on the big characters of Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul (incidentally of Syrian origin), now with Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler in the Judge's seat.
In this first-time Arab Idol judge board, we have Lebanese singer Ragheb Alameh and Gulf singer Ahlam. Ahlam has stirred quite a bit of commotion with her ill-judged comments. The panel is redeemd though as she is nicely balanced out by the cool to level-headed Egyptian charmer Hassan al-Shafei and singing sensation Ragheb's fair approach. Other waves being made by the show surge from the contestants' merits, nationalities and looks. Then there's the dashing judge Shafei who's left the female viewers melting.
Music and politics?
The Arab revolutions have found their place in the contest, with 2 out of 4 fnalists from countries at various stages of revolt. A Tunisian near finalist was a recent departee. Not before he gave a little shout-out to his dear country: "Tunisia is a country that is small in size and population, but very big in history and character," he proudly told us early on.
Overdoses of hair gel, as well as of smiles, fetched comments. But did Arabic politics or regional biases feature? Was the turbulent year of Arab uprisings an issue for the Judges or Arab viewers? Did Syrians get a sympathy vote and did Tunisians earn an extra round of applause?
Pan-Arab talent contests, like any other international, entertainment TV show, are when politics are supposed to take a backseat to the showcased Arab talent. Even the Arab revolution could not loosen the gripping nature of this hit-show. Nor did regional politics disrupt the harmony and fair-play witnessed.
Regional prejudice or bickering could be expected to feature in a pan-Arab show that brings together the often disunited Arab front. With its mixed bag of elements (the GCC, the Levant, Mesopotmia, North Africa) one could expect to see the farcical show-down that takes place between European states in the Eurovision contest – which for years now has hardly been a secret stage for more than a spot of politically rigged , mutual back-scratching regional alliances. This is the time where the UK sidles up to Ireland. The Balkan states keep it Balkan. The former Soviet Union reaches out to its ex-satellite states. Greece sticks to its Macedonian corner.
Still, lucky for the Arab people, this forum dredged up no such sympathies, positive or negative. It was predicted that voting would go along regional lines. Saudi Arabia would triumph by its wide-Gulf affiliation, pocketing all the Gulf votes. Not so, we learned as the Saudi contestant dropped out. Would there be revolution favorites? Again, not really as there were no Yemenis, and the Tunisian fell from grace. Still, an Egyptian and a Syrian contestant have made it into the final Four.
After the heady feeling left over from 2011 of Arab revolutionary achievement, was soon replaced by a more disappointing reality, we’re sure the Arabs could do with a pick-me-up. Here is Arab Idol.
We invite you to comment on your favorite contestants or sexiest judges! Who do you think will be the region's first Arab Idol, 2012?