If you were to ask me what roughly one in every 10 Americans has done each Tuesday and Wednesday night over the past few months, I could probably attempt a few guesses. Brushed their teeth? Showered? Masturbated? It’s not like Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the most exciting days of the week. Still, despite the impossibility of proving my assumptions correct, the brains behind Nielsen Media Research – which gathers information on what shows are watched the most – informs me that nearly 10 percent of our population tunes into “American Idol” each of these lonely weeknights. According to Nielsen, “American Idol” has averaged 35 million viewers per week this season. That’s four million more viewers than there are people living in Canada.

What or who is responsible for keeping such an enormous number of people glued to their TV sets is subject to debate. Is it the contestants’ tantalizing talent or lack thereof? Or is it the pathetically amusing, alcoholic judge, Paula Abdul? It’s hard to say. What is known is that there is one 17-year-old contestant who has been garnering huge publicity. His name is Sanjaya Malakar, and he’s about as talented as the guy who played the Tinman in your high school production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Nevertheless, this lanky teen, whose hairdo rivals Conan O’Brien’s in its absurdity, has gotten so many votes over the past few months that he’s now one of the top eight finalists. The New York Times recently ran an article punctuating Sanjaya’s rise to fame, calling him the most popular “Idol” contestant ever. Shock jock Howard Stern has jumped on the Sanjaya bandwagon too, urging listeners of his Sirius Satellite radio show to vote for the kid. Naturally, the enormous buzz surrounding Sanjaya has created a flurry of conspiracy theories.

One theory behind Sanjaya’s surprising success is the support he’s been given by the popular blog VoteForTheWorst.com, which urges its readers to vote for the least talented contestants. The best rumor, though, is one accusing call centers in India of spamming the “American Idol” voting line. As it turns out, the men and women who work the phones in India aren’t even allowed to call their local pizza joint for a midday delivery, let alone an American phone number.

In fact, the nation of over one billion people has largely failed to get behind the singer, mainly because the show is only broadcast on a scarcely watched English station. And, according to the popular Indian Uncut blog, those who are aware of Sanjaya’s rise to fame view him as an object of ridicule. Is it due to his clear lack of talent? Or is it his ridiculous peacock-like hairstyle, which has become known as the “ponyhawk”? It’s definitely hard to take the guy seriously looking the way he does. It doesn’t help his image seeing news pundits around the nation jumping at the opportunity to showcase the quirky teen. Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel and Rosie O’Donnell have all taken a stab at the wonder kid. Two weeks ago Leno showed footage of terrorists spraying bullets in Iraq to depict the world’s reaction to Sanjaya not being voted off.

Good or bad, the publicity is widespread enough that the kid’s become a household name. He might not win an Oscar like past “Idol” reject Jennifer Hudson, and he probably won’t be putting out any holiday albums that rival the talent of the now famous William Hung. But I’m sure he’ll have a far easier time finding himself some horny groupies. Meanwhile, Simon Cowell, the pretentious asshole that he is, vows to quit the show if Sanjaya wins. And a woman from Washington who calls herself “J,” vows to fast until he is booted off the show. Nevertheless, win or lose, Malakar is sure to find success of some kind.