Over the past several years, television networks have given the classic talent contest a makeover for primetime TV. American Idol and Dancing With the Stars have become two of the most popular, talked-about programs on television -- and that makes them perfect competitors in a TV Throwdown.
Between Randy's "dawg," Paula's incoherent remarks and Simon's jerkiness, it's hard to like the judges on AI. New judge Kara was probably intended to add some spice, but an extra person makes the judging process seem extra long. However, it's the Paula/Simon schoolyard antics and arguments that get old in a hurry.
Meanwhile, DWTS' Len, Carrie Ann and Bruno offer concise, constructive criticism and compliments, while still being entertaining. (My favorite line so far this season was when Bruno told Holly Madison she was like a matchstick: On fire on top, wooden on the bottom.) Bruno does get dramatic and overly exuberant, but for the most part, the trio of judges lets the competitors be the stars of the show instead of hogging the limelight.
The AI contestants arrive already knowing how to sing, so their main chore each week is to choose a song that suits them, show versatility and perform well under pressure. Yes, they get professional coaching each week, but they largely must rely on the skills they brought with them.
DWTS contestants must learn their "talent" from scratch. So viewers really get to see consistent improvement as time goes on, not to mention the dancers must succumb to all the same public pressures as the AI contestants on performance nights. Plus, there's the added threat of injury.
While there hasn't been a lot of recent news about AI winners Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks, each of the other season's winners have gone on to become legitimate, successful recording artists. Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have both won multiple Grammys. (Alumni Jennifer Hudson has a Grammy, a Golden Globe and an Oscar!) In other words, many AI contestants become stars -- oftentimes bigger ones than the people competing on DWTS.
DWTS champions, meanwhile, get a disco ball trophy and a small spike in publicity for their oft-ailing careers.
AI wins this round, and gets an extra credit point for all of its success stories.
DWTS host Tom Bergeron has definitely come up in the world, after having hosted America's Funniest Home Videos and Hollywood Squares. And when it comes to the wisecracks, he's quicker on his feet than AI's Ryan Seacrest. Still, Seacrest -- whose career was lauched by Idol -- has become both a master of multi-media and a celebrity in his own right. AI will be lucky if this busy, big name sticks around for many more seasons.
There are two clear standouts on DWTS: Gilles Marini and Melissa Rycroft. Steve Wozniak stands out because of his incredible ineptness on the dance floor, but his fans must be calling in droves because he scooted by for another week. If anything, though, his incompetence is entertaining, and he truly seems to be having a good time.
The most talented singers on AI, which can vary from week to week, include Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey and Allison Irehata. Meanwhile, listening to Megan Joy would make anyone with ears hate music.
So which of the best and worst are more fun to watch? In our humble opinion: The ones on DWTS.
Both shows run two nights a week, presumably so that networks can capitalize on the very popular programs. The first night depicts the preparations, as well as the performances and judging. The second-night shows offer recaps and results, but too often are filled with a bunch of crap that nobody wants to see, such as AI's cheesy, awful group songs and dances. If they cut out all the preparation footage on night one, both shows could easily accommodate the ousting into the same episode.
In its favor, AI has scored performances this season by mega-stars like Stevie Wonder and Kanye West. But that can't save viewers from the majority of the boredom we endure before finding out who gets the boot.
DWTS is much the same on night two, but the bottom two contestants get a last chance dance-off; there are educational showcase dances by professionals; and musical guests such as Jewel and Hall & Oates. DWTS does a better job of entertaining on night two, and squeaks by with the win in this category by a narrow margin.
Bottom line: We can't deny the popularity and entertainment value of both talent programs. But when you pit the two against each other, DWTS is more consistent, has less filler, and doesn't seem to drag out as much as AI can -- especially during the judging portion.
Do you agree or think we're way off base? State your case in the comments section below.