‘Rock Star’ outwits, outplays ‘American Idol’

Thousands of wannabe stars embarked on the initial leg of auditions this week for the sixth season of “American Idol.”

Despite the fact the show won’t air until January, even the process of trying out has become newsworthy due to the sheer number of potential contestants involved.

Previously, I would have greeted the report with a certain amount of anticipation. Like many, I’ve become hooked on the Fox TV talent contest, even as I’ve fully come to terms with what a shimmering pile of junk it is.

Yet I’ve grown bored with the program.

Those who’ve logged countless hours watching “American Idol” – which, going by the show’s ratings, is about half the nation – have to admit the judging has become the most tiresome aspect of the show. That’s because two-thirds of the panel are morons.

I’m not sure I can sit through another season of listening to Randy Jackson’s critical vocabulary, which is limited to the phrases “yo dog,” “all right,” “da bomb,” “not good” and “wow.”

Nor can I stomach another season of Paula Abdul slurring through therapeutic pep talks while a mixture of prescription pills and Long Island Ice Teas shoot the rapids of her bloodstream.

I often tape the show and fast-forward to Simon Cowell’s biting commentary. If it occasionally seems repetitive (“You’re like some ghastly cabaret singer”), at least it’s accurate.

Tommy Lee prepares to lower the ax on another contestant during an episode of Rock

But even surly Simon has lost some of his allure.

No, I have seen what a “real” reality talent competition looks like, and its name is “Rock Star: Supernova.”

The key ingredient doesn’t lie in the format, which is fairly similar to “Idol.” Nor in the talent pool, which is more seasoned and edgier but not necessarily superior to “Idol.”

It all has to do with the judges.

Drummer Tommy Lee, bassist Jason Newsted and guitarist Gilby Clarke don’t sugarcoat or cheerlead. They aren’t impressed by their own nasty cleverness. They walk the tightrope between making pithy comments and offering constructive criticism.

And THEY comprise the band that is ultimately going to choose a lead singer from this lot of hopefuls.

What’s funny about these men is that they aren’t exactly considered intellectuals in the industry. And, let’s face it, they’re best known as former players in bands (Mtley Crüe, Metallica and Guns ‘N’ Roses) more remembered for their excesses, egos and dysfunction than their musical legacy.

Throw in guitarist/executive producer Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction fame in a moderator role, and it only adds to the entertainment value. Navarro, who also was on last season’s “Rock Star: INXS,” is simply fearless when dissecting the skills and suitability of the 15 contestants, which was whittled down to eight this week.

Last season also was a blast as INXS searched for a new frontman/woman. But there was something very sad about seeing a group of 50s-ish rockers regurgitating hits two decades removed. Even though the Supernova guys aren’t exactly young (all are 43), they are in the process of crafting something brand new. That in itself lends a freshness to the proceedings.

(Trivia: Chris Daughtry, a recent “American Idol” frontrunner, auditioned for “Rock Star: INXS” but was denied.)

Who would have thought the guys who played behind singers such as Vince Neil, James Hetfield and Axl Rose – among the most ugly-voiced and irritating frontmen of their era – would have such clear opinions of how one should sound?

Or maybe that’s why they have such clear opinions. Perhaps they’re energized by the thought of backing someone with legitimate talent.

Want predictions?

The three finalists will be South African Dilana Robichaux, Canadian Lukas Rossi and Icelander Magni Asgeirsson.

Not an American in the bunch.

Apparently, they’re all too busy waiting in line to be on “American Idol.”