American Idol Deserves to be Idolized for Its Legacy

Less than a week and counting until the next season of American Idol. Whew, just in time! I need my Idol fix.

But it seems like every time I tell someone I'm excited about the start of the next season, I'm met with sighs, rolling eyes, and an occasional "Whatever, dude."

It's becoming fashionable to bash A.I. these days. I can't say I'm totally surprised. The show has started to slip into a comfort zone of sorts. I mean, on more than one occasion last season, I thought Simon was being mean just for the sake of it. He has obviously embraced his character. And Paula Abdul has gone from being cute and quirky to obnoxious, bizarre and possibly alcohol-impaired.

Still, you can't deny what American Idol has done for reality TV. The same way Survivor is the grandfather of countless "vote-you-out-of-the-tribe" type reality programs, Idol has spawned its own genre within a genre. Just think of all the current talent

competition shows that owe their very existence to American Idol.

NBC's America's Got Talent, ABC's Dancing with the Stars, FOX's So You Think You Can Dance, and most recently, NBC's Clash of the Choirs are all Idol-inspired reality shows. (In

fact, two of them are Simon Cowell produced spin-offs!)

Plus, A.I. has set the ground rules that almost all talent shows follow these days:

1.) You need three judges: one industry insider, one over-the-hill (or nearly) celebrity, and one mean British guy. (Or in the case of Dancing with the Stars, a crazy Italian guy.)

2.) There has to be a swanky set that rivals the one used for the Academy Awards. Nothing succeeds like excess. No more small sets in the corner of a sound stage. Nothing will do but a packed theater with a full orchestra and light show. Even game shows like Deal or No Deal are following in Idol's footsteps.

3.) The show requires call-in or text voting. What's more democratic than letting the viewers decide? We'll take what Simon, Paula and Randy have to say, give it proper consideration, then vote for whoever the heck we want to anyway.

Like it or not, American Idol is the gold standard of talent-based reality shows. It's a founding father, the Thomas Jefferson of reality TV. My friends can roll their eyes and sigh all they want. I can't wait for Idol.

The 7th season of American Idol premieres Tuesday, January 15th at 8 p.m. on FOX.

Ethan Morris: "Not always right, but never in doubt." Go ahead and write me.