Many Poskim who permit listening of music year-round prohibit it during the Omer and the Three Weeks. Is it ok to watch American Idol during these periods of time, according to the opinions who permit it during the rest of the year?
Not having a television, and not being a big music guy anyways, I've only seen bits of the program at my fathers house while it was on, and that was many years ago. Nevertheless from memory and/or assumption I would suggest the following issues:
T.V. in and of itself isn't so poshut (simple, i.e. it isn't a given that it is permitted in the first place, I have my own question on this which people have helped out a lot, but not quite driven home).
Kol Ishah, a television program is going to fall under this category even according to some of the poskim who are lenient with recorded voice because there is the visual component with television.
Such performances are generally accompanied by dances which are, usually if not always, provocative and inappropriate. It is not at all clear that women are allowed to watch even other women behave in an inappropriate way.
The Shulchan Aruch, chapter 302 I believe, prohibits reading works such as "Emanuel" which lead to inappropriate thoughts, many songs are going to deal with romantic themes which are not appropriate for men or women.
There are many leniencies people practice during the Sefirah, but there are I believe (I know with regard to the three weeks there are) those poskim who feel you should be machmir to begin with.
This might be a good time to put in an additional reminder to ask your rabbi for questions about how to act in practice.
I thought Rav Ovadiah's opinion was that non-live Kol Isha was only a problem if you knew the singer personally; I hadn't heard about the visual component. (No pun intended.) But I could me mistaken.
Let's ask the following question: if your practice is to watch American Idol when it's not Sefira, should anything change because of Sefira?
The answer as I see it: certain customs were adopted by the American Jewish community for sefira. These include avoiding music and movie theaters. (My guess is the latter descended from a custom not to attend live theaters.) To the best of my knowledge, the custom never extended to TV. I've never heard of someone who would watch a TV show when it's not Sefira, but avoided it during Sefira because of its background music. American Idol is a good question because (arguably) the music is the main part of the show. My sense is even so, we never accepted a custom against "TV shows", so Sefira shouldn't change anything.
Of course, if someone wants to watch less television as a way of religious improvement during this period, that's wonderful.
I'm surprised no one yet argued that it should certainly be permitted to listen to certain contestants, as what they're producing isn't "music", and your first reaction would be to cringe and moan, not clap and dance! :)