I haven’t done the math, but just spitballing it, I’ve spent somewhere in the vicinity of 800+ hours watching “American Idol” over the past 13 seasons. Do you know what you can accomplish in 800 hours?! Okay, i’m terrible at math, but that’s more than a month of my life on the couch watching everyone from Kelly Clarkson to that “Pants on the Ground” guy, Phillip Phillips and everyone in between.
Bottom line is this: I know “Idol,” and so I feel perfectly comfortable saying that next season should be the show’s swan song. After 20 percent audience dips for the past three seasons and rapidly declining ratings, “Idol” has turned into that Facebook friend who keeps posting pics from high school and asking if you “remember that one time…”
Yeah, I do. Get over it.
It’s hard to kill the golden goose, but here are 4 tips how “Idol” should go 14 and done with dignity and style:
1. The Panel Is Finally Good, Don’t Blow It
When “Idol” launched in June 2002 its judge’s panel was perfect. There was the washed-up, hilariously wacky pop star (Paula Abdul), some salty British guy we didn’t know (Simon Cowell) and a catchphrase machine who used to be the bassist for Journey (Randy Jackson). And they killed it.
Fast-forward to the last few years, when the shuffling behind the desk went from bad (Ellen DeGeneres) to confusing (Steven Tyler) to awful (Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey). Inexplicably, the current combo of country star Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and jazz singer Harry Connick Jr. have a strangely alluring, dare I say charming quality.
The chemistry is great, the banter is believable, Harry’s musical nerd knowledge is off the charts and Urban’s dewy-eyed positivity is downright adorable. There’s only one problem: Harry’s references are mostly from the 1970s and the trio’s taste runs somewhere South of middle-of-the-road. Truth is, that’s fine, because the average age of “Idol” viewers is now close to 52 years-old. Give them one more season and go out on a high note, but don’t mess with a good thing… again.
2. Look At The Charts, For Once
“Idol” has never been where America comes to find out what’s hot. Hell, the majority of its winners have been so bland lately you’d have trouble picking them out of a lineup. (Quick, name last year’s winner.)
But this year they had a chance to hoist up a singer who could develop into a contemporary star in 17-year-old teen runner-up Jena Irene. Her mash-up of EDM energy and beats and Paramore pop rock instincts could easily make a dent in the charts in a way that Candice Glover can only dream of. (She was last year’s winner, BTW.)
But winner Caleb Johnson? He seems like a nice enough guy, but if we wanted to see a Whitesnake cover band we’d go down to the local sticky-floor bar on a Tuesday night. The charts are packed with female pop stars, hip-hop and pop/country hybrids, where, exactly, does throwback arena rock fit in?
The show has never come within spitting distance of giving a hip-hop artist or edgy female singer a chance (sorry Fantasia), not to mention a guy who isn’t a bland, white guitar strummer. Judges, producers, America! Go for broke on the last go-round and give us a winner that can leave a mark! Who doesn’t need another Drake, Ed Sheeran or Ariana Grande?
3. Keep It Tight
After declining ratings, “Idol” bosses clearly got the message and have decided to cut next year’s episode run nearly in half, giving us just two hours a week instead of 3-4. Wise choice. Less is more, trust us. And while you’re at it, keep your promise this time and take the focus off the judges and actually tell us more of the contestants’ compelling backstories.
After three to four hours of “Idol” every week for moths, even the most ardent fan gets JLo fatigue, so one night a week is a great move.
And speaking of tight, you seem to have already learned a lesson with the disastrous year-plus wait for Glover’s dud album by announcing that Caleb will have a debut in stores by August. Well played, now don’t forget that for next year!
4. Be Honest
For 13 seasons, “Idol” has been like one of those grade-school soccer coaches who hands out big trophies to everyone for “participation.” Not everyone is a precious jem. It’s the last hurrah, so tell the singers some truth when they tank it and don’t be afraid to let America know that they’re way, way off sometimes.
I don’t know if this is the show’s final season, but can you imagine what the buzz would be if all of a sudden “Idol” gave us some real talk that didn’t make us smack our foreheads at home and yell, “WAIT! WHAT! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THAT GUY?”