One of the more controversial aspects of our reality-TV era is the chronic tendency to feature the inflammatory over the meritorious — give your audience a diet rich in scumbags, because ratings never skyrocketed watching good people do nice things for noble reasons.

As American Idol now enters its official competition portion — with, ostensibly, the best of the talent remaining — we still find ourselves saddled with an annoying little partridge named Tatiana, who sings generically, laughs (I think it’s laughing) incessantly and vomits emotions panoramically. When this series premiered eight years ago, all the buffoonatics were excised during the preliminaries and didn’t make it into the actual competition; I think we had the effete snarkiness of Simon Cowell to thank for that, because his suffer-no-fools mentality impacted judging decisions.

But as the seasons have dragged on and the concern for ratings has grown, other factors besides talent have infested the process. What else could explain this Tatiana creature still in our midst, except that she is “good television” — a misnomer that can describe the type of train wreck we hate ourselves for staring at, but can’t look away from.

In the age of the Hiltons, Paris and Perez, achieving fame through notoriety has become equally as valid as achieving it through accomplishment. In certain cynical and 24-hour news cycle circles, it is actually more appealing. The hypodermic is filled with hype, and we’ve been injecting ourselves like heroin addicts.

But, two-edged sharp object that it is, “good television” doesn’t always have to be awful. The filet mignon of reality competitions, The Amazing Race, just premiered, and once again it offers more wonder than pander. There are certainly drama queens and morons among the contestants, but there is also one team that includes a deaf young man and his mother. I realize how sensationalistic that sounds, but watching them finish the episode in first place — and the pride and emotion this young man felt, showing the competitive equality of the disabled — I couldn’t help but get a little sniffly and feel a bit better nourished.

One reason Barack Obama initially caught the country’s attention was the nutritional factor he brought to his campaign. After eight years plus, of watching our country go to hell while being fed a steady stream of glossy detritus, we heard Obama bring the hype machine to a halt and refuse to contribute to the meaningless sound bytes. He insisted on talking authentically, and enough people were hungry for truth to take him up on it.

It is no secret that I’m not very happy with the GOP these days. In fact, if you Google the words “asshat” and “Republicans,” my blog will come up at number 16 on the results list. The recent actions of the Republican members of Congress to unilaterally oppose Obama’s stimulus package — and his stabs at bipartisanship — have been cynical and malicious, with complete disregard for the good of the country and total service to their own selfish agendas.

My most apoplectic reaction has been to the weasel-virtued Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. This was President Obama’s pick — earnestly reaching across party lines — to be his commerce secretary. This asshat Gregg backed out of the appointment at the last minute, citing “irresolvable differences.” I’m sorry, but whatever happened to the honor of being asked to serve by your president? And, barring anything along such civilized lines, what about simply turning down the offer when it was first made privately? The answer is, that wouldn’t have been Good Television. None of the actions of these disingenuous Republicans have been made out of a conscientious urge to help democracy; they have been flagrant tactics to attack, discredit and disrespect their “opponent.” It would delight me to watch the whole lot of them voted off the island as quickly as I hope Tatiana is expelled from her little corner of influence.                       

Scott’s blog, “Multiple Personality,” can be found at blog.scottpatrickwagner.com

web@scottpatrickwagner.com