The fifth (and arguably finest) season of "American Idol" wraps up tonight. Going into last night's final set of performances, Alabaman Joe Cocker-wannabe Taylor Hicks was the odds-on favorite to defeat Katharine McPhee, a so-so pop singer who happens to be hotter than a thousand dying suns. Post-show, Hicks was even more of a favorite—the betting site Tradesports puts the odds of a Hicks victory at better than 85%. Slate's Jody Rosen does a good job unpacking the success of the show in general and this year in particular. And there's a helpful Daily Kos diary reposting the front pages of Alabama newspapers. Red-staters have always won American Idol—the lack of connection from the music industry and the slow news of the contestants' home states probably doesn't hurt.
In 2003, Charles Paul Freund wrote on reality TV's impact in the Middle East.