Television Review: American Idol Season 12
· Nigel Lithgoe
· Ryan Seacrest
· Randy Jackson
· Nicki Minaj
· Mariah Carey
· Keith Urban
· Official Site
by Mike George
Published: February 28, 2013
American Idol is a show that always elicits a response, either positive or negative. You don't find too many people on the fence. As the show gets closer to the live rounds, there is some pretty good talent -- but will that be enough?
I must admit, I watched the show in the beginning. I especially liked the audition rounds for the awful singing and the harsh critiques. I would then lose interest once all the talent was really good. However, it seems now the steam is running low on the Idol engine.
1. AI isn't really a singing competition, but more of a reality singing competition. At the audition level, contestants have to be heard by at least one producer, and often more. Contestants have to pass through all of those hoops before they ultimately get rejected by the judges. Of course, they are brought in for entertainment value. But, to me, it tears away from the credibility of the process. Are the best singers really going before the judges, or are they being eliminated because they may not have an interesting back story?
2. The voting is completely flawed. I don't believe that the show is rigged in any way, but there are major problems. When it comes to the live voting rounds, a person can vote as many times as they want, as long as the redial function is working on their phones.
In the last five seasons of the show, the winners have been labeled "White Guys With Guitars." In fact, Idol producer Nigel Lithgoe has used that phrase when talking about the show this year. The voting demographic seems to be teenage girls, who may not pick the person with the best voice, but rather the person with the best looks.
3. When the show progresses to the live rounds, the judges' voices are pretty much irrelevant. They still appear on each show and they still offer their critiques, but their thoughts do not weigh in at all in the voting process.
A good example of this was in 2007. There was a contestant named Sanjaya Malakar. Malakar, while an affable person, clearly didn't have the voice to compete with the rest of the talent. Week after week, the judges were almost pleading with the viewers not to vote for him. And still they did, at least into the top seven.
4. The show is getting desperate. I admire the producers' efforts to make things more interesting. This year, they are having a "Sudden Death" round. The group of 40 remaining contestants sing before a "live" audience, and half of them are eliminated by the audience vote. But again, I think the judges need some sort of voice in the voting.
The ratings are falling, but can the show be saved? Sure.
1. In the audition round, take the best singers. The early rounds might not be as entertaining at the comedy level, but if the viewers are seeing one talented singer after another, it builds drama and excitement for the rounds to come. Some editing to the show might also showcase more of the talent that is being overlooked now.
2. Fix the voting process. A good way would be to have the judges score the contestants and have their scores weighted with the audience vote. And allow one vote per phone number. This would reduce the flood of votes just because of an efficient redial.
3. Make the judges' panel consistent. The judges lost a lot of credibility when Simon Cowell left the show. He was easily the most vocal judge, but he had the industry behind his opinion. He knows the business and it showed. Although Cowell's new show X Factor is struggling, it's his show, so he's not going anywhere. Paula Abdul left the panel as well, taking away the unpredictability factor.
Since their departure, there has been a long line of replacements: Kara DeGuardio, Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and now the current panel. Only Randy Jackson remains from the original group of judges.
4. Keep Ryan Seacrest happy. Between seasons, there is speculation on whether AI could survive if he left. He is the glue of the show. He's very good with the contestants as well as judges. He keeps the show going.
Can Idol right the ship or has it sunk too far? This season may be the ultimate decision maker. Let's hope FOX sees the light at season's end, no matter what the results may say.