On Tuesday's "American Idol," Simon Cowell told Scott Savol to start packing his bags. That was one of his nicer critiques for the rotund Ohioan.
For weeks the judges and the media have singled out Savol as the contestant who should be sent home, but voters have refused to listen. Even after his domestic-violence record surfaced (see " 'Idol' Finalist Scott Savol's Past Domestic Violence Rap Surfaces"), "Scotty the Body" — as Ryan Seacrest calls him — has managed to escape elimination week after week. So what's his secret?
"My guess is that people feel bad for him," said Jillian Kuras, who covers "Idol" for the Web site Reality TV Calendar. "I've gotten literally dozens of e-mails from voters who say that Scott deserves a second chance and that since he apologized for his past he should be given that chance. Surprisingly, people seem to think that physically abusing a woman is not a big deal."
"I think Scott represents a lot of Generation Y," added Sting7, Reality News Online's resident "Idol" expert. "The kids who are told they won't amount to anything by their parents, the guys who are too fat to date the cheerleaders, not cute enough to be popular in their circles. Simon himself said 'Idol' was created with Scotts in mind, because on his own, Scott would never get a record deal. Scott is kind of an everyman who found himself with a golden opportunity, and there are those out there who are supporting his unlikely dream."
Jason Rich, author of "American Idol Season 4 — The Official Behind-the-Scenes Fan Book," has a theory that Savol gets the "guy vote" because he's not trying to be anything other than himself.
"I think Scott is extremely talented, but in an uncommon, non-celebrity sort of way," Rich said. "He's a nice, down-to-earth, everyday guy who can sing. I think people relate to that. He's not your typical pop star or rocker. As I was interviewing him for my book, I found him to be soft-spoken, humble and deeply religious. I think fans appreciate his values and the love he's demonstrated for his young son."
Rich admits Savol lacks a "showbiz" polish, but he believes that's part of his appeal. "He's not looking for fame," he said. "He's just looking to do what he loves, which is to perform and share his music."
As Kuras pointed out, each "Idol" season has had one or two contestants who stick around for a while despite consistent negative feedback from the judges, dating back to Nikki McKibbin in the first season. Perhaps it's even the cruel comments that keep them alive, earning them sympathy votes each week.
Sting7, however, doesn't see Savol in that category.
"For some reason, there are those who want there to be a John Stevens or a Nikki McKibbin this season, but there just isn't one, sorry to disappoint," Sting7 said. "Scott has a great singing voice. He has a beautiful slow-arching vibrato, which seems better suited for ballads, but he's shown he can handle up-tempo numbers with the same passion as he does love songs."
Kuras, on the other hand, is one of the "Idol" writers who agree with Simon.
"Scott should have been one of the first gone from the top 12," she said. "While his voice is decent, it's nowhere near as strong as most of the others, only average at best. The biggest problem, though, is in his performance. He has no star quality and is boring to watch. He has yet to show personality or emotion in any of his performances."
Anwar Robinson, who was better-reviewed than Savol but was eliminated last week, had only kind words for the singer and painted a much different picture than the common perception of him.
"Scott is a very, very, very nice individual," Robinson said. "He lightens the atmosphere. It's a shame that people don't get to see how wonderful he is on television, because you get a minute and a half of us singing and then how we react to the judges' comments. But he would really just have us in stitches. He's very witty. He's a very spiritually strong young man. He definitely deserves to win, along with the other five remaining contestants."