The Answer to American Idol's Problems Is...
by Joseph Burke
All over the new Internet these past few weeks, there have been many articles analyzing "what is wrong with American Idol?" Although still profitable, the show has lost its cachet and impact, along with it status as ratings juggernaut. One might have thought a few years ago that it didn't matter who the judges were or what kind of contestants populated the staged, but the last several painful years has shown this to be far from true. There have been possible solutions batted about but I have not seen the one answer that I believe to be the one.
The show itself has retooled various aspects of the show, kept one recent judge (Kieth Urban), brought on a new judge (Harry Connick) and brought back an apparently popular judge (Jennifer Lopez). Although this configuration is light years ahead of the train wreck Nikki Minaj/Mariah Carey season, anyone watching on DVR is now well-trained in zipping past he useless judging comments. This begin with the ill-considered stunt cast of Ellen DeGeneres and the painful participation of Kara DiGuardi. Stephen Tyler was terrible as a judge but at least amusing in his weekly reanimation for participation in the show. Now original judge Randy Jackson is the group mentor replacing the insightful but terribly cranky Jimmy Iovine. However, it is not really the week-to-week judging that is the problem with American Idol. It is really quite meaningless and just a part of the spectacle of the format.
The essential problem with American Idol is the quality of contestants. Each year they claim that the talent pool is larger and better than ever. We listen to the judges proclaim how difficult it is to choose between contestants. Each year we have seen a decline from talented, trainable singers that grew through the process of the show. The last few years has seen hopeful and talented replaced by cheesy and gimmicky. One can see why original judge Simon Cowell left not long after a joke like Taylor Hicks won the crown. Now the show is populated with a half dozen Taylor Hicks. Seeming someone like Scotty McCreery win the title can only cause one to throw in the towel. How many years has it been since someone of any impact won the show?
The answer for American Idol is to bring back Simon. He was the person who could steer the talent choices to people who had the fundamental core to build on and provide an entertaining show. Of course, watching his X-Factor would show that he is no the be-all and end-all. His judgement was not bad but his co-judges were riciculous and the productions quality hovered right between tacky and godawful. But, that same judgement made all the difference in the years when American Idol was at its best. Of course, the dude is a dad now and richer than Croesus. Plus it would be hard for him to take a subordinate role now that he has run roughshod over his own failed show. Seems unlikely to happen and it seems improbably that lightning could ever really be captured again, but that is the reason American Idol is a shell of what it was.