American Idol in disarray? Is it time to cancel the reality TV giant?

Is it time for an [[American Idol (TV Series)|American Idol]] reboot or should the show be cancelled altogether? The state of American Idol at this very moment is seeming chaos. [[Randy Jackson]] seems to be the only original judge left. Correction, the only judge, period. Nigel Lythgoe is supposedly planning to return as a producer (he slipped up during So You Think You Can Dance this week when he dropped a rather Freudian comment).

[[Ellen DeGeneres]] has jumped ship, while all the rumours suggest that Miss [[Kara DioGuardi]] was made to walk the plank. The flat-headed svengali that is called [[Simon Cowell]] was last seen grinning inanely as he headed off to launch his own version of the show. Already popular in other parts of the world, The X Factor is American Idol with even less emphasis on the contestants and more emphasis on guest spots from other celebrities promoting their latest singles. You’ll see what I mean soon, America.

A rather fantastic post on PopEater sums the situation up nicely – Cowell became Idol in the last few years, leading to the point where he was able to walk and set up a virtually identical show on the same network. And yet the Idol producers failed to spot this and fire him before his popularity hit fever pitch.

Look, I can watch a two-hour episode of ‘American Idol’ in just under 20 minutes on DVR. How? By listening to about a minute of each song, then fast forwarding to Simon Cowell’s comments. (Even if he did kind of phone it in this past season. Half the time he had the same look on his face that Ted in accounting had after he gave his two week’s notice.)

That kind of sums up American Idol, even if I’m loathe to admit it. I’m a fan of these talent shows, despite the fact that their success rate is terrible, and they delve into types of music I detest (apologies to the Rat Pack, but I hate that crooning, finger-clicking nonsense as much as I hate little pretenders acting like they’re smooth in their rent-a-rat-pack suits).

Suggestions that Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler are possible replacements don’t fill me with confidence. But then, has there been a name thrust forward so far that makes us excited for a replacement Simon? Is it fair to say that without Simon Cowell, American Idol doesn’t have quite the same attraction?

If you’ve read the various opinion pieces around the web and comments on blog entries, there’s a vocal section of the audience that wants the show to shut down permanently. These people will say Idol’s been on the way out for the last few years. One uncharitable commenter claimed it was half-a-decade past its sell-by date. Part of me agrees that Idol is floundering. They don’t seem to know what they want anymore – is it a singer-songwriter to give the show some credibility? Or do they simply want a million-selling pop puppet? Why do they always include a ton of capable but bland singers? And why do many of the singers who get through the auditions process to live shows end up sounding so lame on stage?

But would sweeping changes make a difference? Maybe. Do we want a better judging panel, or do we want clones of Simon, Paula and Randy? I’d prefer some serious judges who can be tough but also give sound advice. I may be out of step with the rest of the Idol audience on that one.

In a post-Bieber pop scene, they’ve lowered the age limit for auditionees this year. To almost universal groaning and forehead slapping from the rest of the world.

Idol needs to do some things better – we’ve talked about them before on Shout:

  1. Drop to three judges (it looks like this is almost a reality)
  2. Drop the theme weeks – I don’t care if Lionel Ritchie has his 20th greatest hits package out this year, I don’t need to hear a 15 year old singing Hello.
  3. Only allow the cream of auditionees through.
  4. Let them write and perform songs sometimes. Maybe as duos – pair up the contestants.
  5. Pull back the celebrity appearances and replace them with more background on the contestants.

That’s just a few suggestions. This year could be Idol’s last chance. Fail to rally the American public and choose a champion who can actually sell records, and I’ll advocate pulling the plug myself.

Maybe that’s the thing – FOX need to look at the mission Idol has set itself: to find an American Pop Idol who can sell records by the truckload. The show’s got beyond that original vision, so maybe focussing on finding the right talent and promoting them via the programme should be the most important thing this year?

What do you Idol fans think?

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  1. Judy

    R.I.P. American Idol ! It will probably die a natural death this season ! I think it’s simply run its course !

  2. steelcitylambrit

    I might be unpopular saying this, but at least Idol makes some attempt to actually focus on the singers. I think its downfall is that in recent years it’s been trying to go down the X-Factor route of focussing on the contestants’ back stories and putting them in a “Box” (the young one with potential; the quirky one; the rocker; the country and western dude etc.)

    I also love the fact that Idol still works with a live band, which I think helps contestants show their potential much better than the dreadful karaoke backing track of X-Factor.

    I think it should go back to its roots and stop trying to stage-manage the process so much. I also think they should get better themes for each week – if they’re trying to find a current artist, how on earth does it help having them sing Elvis/Rat Pack songs? (although having said that, Season 8’s rat pack week yielded some terrific performances like Alison singing Someone To Watch Over Me, and of course Adam’s legendary strut down the staircase to Feelin’Good!) And also have more useful mentors – whilst Rat Pack week this year was terrible, Harry Connick Jr was one of the best-ever mentors, along with Adam Lambert – he wasn’t just there to promote an album but looked like he really cared about helping the contestants to give their best performance.

    I think it has the potential to really differentiate itself from X-Factor USA and take the moral high ground in really trying to find the best singers, not focus on some petty little competition between the judges. I think it’s a shame that Elton John passed on the judge role as I think he would be terrific – a real musical legend who’s not afraid to tell it like it is. I’m actually quite disappointed that Kara’s leaving as I do feel that she was the only one of the panel who actually gave musically-informed and constructive feedback. Much as I love Randy for his comedy value, his whole “for me for you dawg” shitick is getting pretty old now!


    1. Gerard McGarry

      I totally agree – American Idol is better than X Factor any day of the week. If I had to pick which show was more serious about discovering new talent, I’d pick Idol.

      Elton John’s spoken out against reality TV talent shows in the past. I can’t believe he was seriously a contender to be a judge on Idol. But I agree he might have been one of the best things for the show as a singer/songwriter with a fantastic musical pedigree.

      I’m still reeling from the news about Kara though – part of me’s hoping it’s not true, because she was the best judge on the panel by the end of the series. Perhaps not as entertaining as Simon’s effortless sarcasm, but better for the contestants.

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