Q: Do you watch reality TV?
A: I'm going to blow my image as an intellectual. Yes, I do.
Q: Which shows?
A: I used to watch Survivor when it first came out. Now I watch American Idol -- pretty religiously, I have to admit.
Q: What draws you to them?
A: I think with Survivor, I must have stumbled on it by accident. The interaction between individuals was rather compelling. With American Idol, it was probably the arts educator in me that drew me to it. I'm interested in young people with talent, aspiring to be the best in entertainment arts. I like seeing that it's not necessarily the prettiest people advancing. That's a good message to send in an image-conscious medium like television. It's based on talent. I like the audience-participation component too. It definitely intrigues people that they can take an active role.
Q: What's the down side?
A: The academic in me finds it interesting the way they make marketing products seem as if part of the show. There's a really aggressive kind of marketing going on.
Q: Like what?
A: Well, obviously a lot of grooming goes on there. People change hairstyles. Some person came up with the idea of incorporating Herbal Essence [products] into the show so they're in the reality part. I root for the contestants, but I also watch with objectivity and a lot of skepticism.
Q: What do you think of Simon Cowell?
A: I think he's dead-on. Someone has to make those kinds of decisions. If you work in the arts, you make those decisions all the time. It's difficult giving honest, constructive criticism. I admire the fact that he has the courage to do it. Most of the contestants are young; they're not professional. Anyone who has gone through being rejected by a jury knows how they feel. But as an artist, you have to toughen your skin, take advantage of that experience of rejection. You have to be constantly putting yourself out there.