The Only Way to Save 'American Idol'? Start Over
By Mike Ryan Posted Jul 31st 2010 11:27AM
One original judge from 'American Idol,' Randy Jackson, remains. With the return of producer Nigel Lythgoe, this isn't really a huge surprise -- considering he's said all along that the only way to save 'Idol,' post Simon Cowell, is to start over with three new judges. And, for the most part, he's right. It is the only way to possibly save 'Idol' -- even though it probably won't save 'Idol.'
Here's the problem 'Idol' faces: You can't just plug in someone like Steven Tyler (as the latest rumors suggest) and think that Cowell can be replaced. 'American Idol' is not the brand anymore -- Simon Cowell is the brand. Cowell is the star of the show and, with him leaving, it's the same situation as if the lead in a scripted show left after nine years. Imagine continuing 'Seinfeld' without Jerry Seinfeld; 'Cheers' without Ted Danson; 'The Sopranos' without James Gandolfini. Only, for 'Idol' the situation is worse (hold that thought).
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.)
Seriously, didn't we already kind of know what the other three judges were going to say anyway? And it wasn't just to hear Simon say something mean. I may be in the minority, but I enjoyed it more when Simon said something nice -- because that contestant really had to earn that compliment and, because of that, you could see how much his words mean to each and every one of them. If the contestants didn't care what Randy, Ellen and Kara had to say, why should I care? But that's what all the Simon Cowell clones on similar shows miss: It's not about being mean, it's about being right.
Has 'American Idol' run its course? PopEater asked New Yorkers -- see the video:
Now, we're presented with the decision to completely blow up the remaining cast, or keep them and just plug in a new "Simon." Well, considering Lythgoe made it clear from the beginning that he wanted to return to the three judge format, it was pretty obvious they were not going to go with the team of Randy, Ellen and Kara. And, yes, the thought of just replacing Cowell is almost as creepy as Henry Francis moving into Don Drapers's house on 'Mad Men.' Even though he's left, 'American Idol' is Simon Cowell's house -- and everyone knows it. The ghost of Simon Cowell will always be there. So, you might as well start with all new judges and try to create the illusion that it's an entirely new show. It may even work, for one season.
See, that's the real problem: In 2011, Simon Cowell is returning, to Fox, on a singing competition show -- 'The X Factor.' This would be like Jon Hamm leaving 'Mad Men' to star in another AMC show called 'Draper's Place.' Seriously, who's going to watch 'American Idol' when, on the same network, the reason we all used to watched 'Idol' is doing pretty much the same thing? If the rumors are true: Is a three-judge panel featuring Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler that exciting? Sorry, there's nothing about that group that makes me want to tune in for their opinions on singing. I mean, what's Tyler going to say, "Hey, next time, can you make it sound more like every song on 'Get A Grip'?"
What we witnessed Thursday night and Friday is the death knell of 'American Idol.' If it's any consolation, as desperate as things are, at least they haven't brought back Brian Dunkleman.
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