This… Is… A Waste Of Time
I watched the first season of American Idol when it was brought over to the states and was team Kelly for most of the ride. Season two kept me hooked but I was quite let down that Clay Aiken didn’t win. Season three held my interest through the auditions, but I can’t tell you who won. Seeing my college classmate belt out Like A Virgin in his green sweater during the auditions was a riot! Whatever season Daughtry was on, I watched until he was eliminated. I started thinking it was an absolute joke the year that grey-haired guy won. And now, I honestly can’t believe it’s still on the air.
Passive Paula left and was replaced by Kara and Ellen, neither of which brought the possibly drug-hazy charm that Paula had. The female judge spot now holds Jennifer Lopez, who may or may not shown her nipple at the Oscars. Simon left, who had always been the voice of reason and the one person you could count on for an honest opinion. His position has been filled by everyone’s favorite crazy grandpa, Steven Tyler. Randy and our beloved tiny host, Ryan Seacrest, stuck around, but they’re not exactly bursting with charisma and bringing in audiences with their crazy antics and funny quips. The judges table is truly in a sad state.
Many people say the auditions are the best part of Idol; learning the back stories of contestants who will go to Hollywood and laughing at the misfortune of those who claim their momma said they have a beautiful voice and don’t understand why everyone else disagrees. Whether you admit it or not, it’s fun to laugh at the misfortune of others and acceptable to do so when done in a lighthearted way. Back when William Hung “sang” his heart out in the audition and my buddy mentioned above, Keith, let us know how a virgin does it, the auditions were amazing because they featured people who honestly believed their voice was golden and who were determined to go to Hollywood and make their friends and family proud.
And now? With the exception of the man with his pants on the ground (bless your heart, Larry) the “bad” contestants are nothing more than attention seekers who will do anything to get a few minutes of air time and achieve the fame that William Hung was able to get despite the fact that he couldn’t sing. What these people fail to realize is that contestants like Hung found success, although short-lived, after their Idol audition because they were sincere and the audience recognized that and loved them for it. Idol has lost the sincerity, for both the talented singers and the ones who sound like feral cats, and I believe the producers have realized this and try to make up for it by adding longer and more back stories to give contestants a chance to win your heart.
I realize that ratings rule the airwaves and that American Idol is a cash cow that anyone would be reluctant to give up. I also realize that it’s run its course, it’s done all that it could do, and the viewing public deserves and should demand something new and fresh to take its place. Prior to the departure of Jerry Springer and The Hoff (and the addition of the waste of space that is Nick Cannon) I was hooked on America’s Got Talent, mainly because it went beyond solely showcasing singers and because the judges had the ability to cut acts short if they were horribly bad and not hilariously bad. Unfortunately, once Nick Cannon took over as host, I couldn’t stomach the show any longer. The same goes for The Voice; the format is different and new, but I’m bored with Christina Aguilera and annoyed at the promos featuring her hogging the spotlight. That being said, I prefer both of those shows over Idol because at least with them, I get a bit of variety.
I would love for Idol to do more with guest judges. It’s hard to get great talent booked to judge an entire season when they have numerous other projects to commit to, which is one reason I feel Tyler and Lopez were cast; they just weren’t terribly busy but were still big enough to attract attention. It’s much easier to book someone for a handful of appearances or just one or two than it is an entire season, plus this way you give the audience more variety, you give the contestants a wealth of new teachers, and you guarantee everyone a better experience. I also would enjoy seeing a non-expert thrown onto the panel each week. Idol votes are ruled by us average folk who may have taken a few music classes in high school but who don’t know the technicalities and jargon. Since we’re voting, get a famous version of us to comment. Sports figures, actors, talk show hosts, or reality stars; anyone we love to watch but who isn’t a musical expert. Throw one of the Twilight stars in a judge’s chair for a week and you immediately up your viewers. Throw George Clooney in there and you’re attracting a whole other audience. And I don’t care what anyone says, Neil Patrick Harris was probably the most brilliant guest judge they’ve ever had on.
Idol has become the one side dish at a large family dinner than no one touches and is left to go cold and stale; their apparent reluctance to change anything more than their permanent judging staff from time to time is hindering their ability to last and remain appealing. They come each and every year with the same formula and the same story. While Ryan Seacrest’s pauses get longer and longer, their ability to shock and wow us gets smaller each week they air. Throw an undercover judge in with the contestants to see what really goes on backstage, give surprise concerts in public places to really test the contestants, have them compose their own song or allow them more freedom to rework existing songs, get one of the former Idols to come back and act as coach for a season (you know they’re not up to much right now), be more creative with the themes, just ANYTHING to bring some life into the show and break from the norm!
As much as I’d like to be optimistic and hope for change, I know well enough to be realistic and I know that the money says their current formula works and therefore there is no need for change. At this point, every season I wish for it to be over. And every year, I’m let down when the promos start again and Idol begins to wreak havoc on regularly scheduled (and better) programming. Maybe this year will be the last. Fingers crossed.