American Idol: Fixing Season 10

In March of last year, I wrote my 5-Point Plan to save AI Season 9.  It was almost completely ignored… allow me to recap:

1. No more plants, ever. This one, they followed… and we can see the sad results. :)  When I said “no more plants”, I hoped they’d find talented non-professional singers…

2. Stop pimping, please.  Ignored.  The judges are still playing favorites.

3. Transparency is good.  Ignored.  This year, Ryan isn’t even promoting vote totals (although I’m hoping that will lead into one of my 5 points to fix Season 10).

4. Cut back on themes. Blatantly ignored, to the detriment of the contestants.

5. Randomize the singing order. Apparently ignored, as the singing order continues to be manipulated to protect some contestants or bury others.

So… I’m going to try again.  5 ways in which FOX, 19, and Fremantle can fix Season 10:

1. Less audition shows, more focused auditions.  What will help to avoid situations like the early voteoff of Janell Wheeler (who really got hosed, as she’d have definitely stood out amongst the current crop) involves reworking the “preseason” shows.  I’d suggest cutting out the “extra” audition show, and cutting one of the three Hollywood Week shows.  Use the two timeslots thus freed up for the week between airing Hollywood Week and the first semifinals – give us a two-night semifinal preview.  Show us the judged audition, a clip from Hollywood Week, and a short interview or backstage clip of each semifinalist.  Basically, give us a reason to invest in the 24 people you’re expecting us to vote for.  This way, we have more than one shaky semifinal performance to base our first votes on.

2. Vote limits.  Please!?  The NBC summer reality shows have historically imposed a 10-vote-per-number limit.  It’s time for Idol to do the same.  Look, I’m getting as much of a laugh out of the impossible rise of Tim Urban as anyone else, but face it, he’s a creation of 12-year-old girls with Mommy and Daddy’s unlimited AT&T texting plans.  And the ratings reflect that.  There’s a reason the overall ratings are trending downward.  That’s because a lot of the audience no longer feels that Idol is aimed at them, and they’re wandering off for programming that is.  You want to bring them back?  Cut back on the voting power of the tweens.

3. Less theme shows, take two. The judges’ mantra has been “we want you to sound contemporary”.  Right.  After Lennon/McCartney and Elvis theme weeks, how are we supposed to take you seriously?  The newest song in either of those theme weeks was released before any of the contestants was born.  I can see doing theme weeks every other week – alternating with “pick your own songs” weeks.  Let the contestants find their own voices – by letting them find their own voices.

4. Tighten up.  The performance shows tend to lumber along at the start, then go into overdrive for the last 20-30 minutes as the producers realize that they’re over time again… while the results shows drag horribly because you’re doing a 2-minute job in a 60-minute time slot.  One solution is coming at point 5.  Another would be a 30-minute results show (even though that means FOX has to come up with a 30-minute sitcom that doesn’t suck). 

5. Send the judges home after Hollywood Week. Seriously… what do the judges bring to the semifinals and finals other than their own egos and agendas?  How much judging this season has been serious, and how much has been a blatant camera-time grab?  The judges are needed for auditions and Hollywood Week.  And that’s it.  There’s another net gain as well – it was difficult to replace Paula Abdul, and will be tough to replace Simon Cowell, because of the time demands that being a judge would place on a performing artist.  If you eliminate the 15 weeks of semifinals and finals, you can hire bigger-name artists for the 6 audition sites and the few days of Hollywood Week, without asking them to give up 4 months for the competition shows.  Losing the judges would also make the mentor’s role more pronounced – the mentor would provide feedback after each performance instead of just a clip of B-Roll before. 

Well, that’s my opinion.  Yours will probably vary.

See you tonight for the double-elimination.  If ever there was a week for a favorite to go home, this was it – two eliminations and no save means everyone’s in play.  Going into the evening, DialIdol.com predicts that Michael, Crystal, and Casey are safe – but they admit that they are unable to figure massive texting into the equation.  It’s going to be an interesting night.

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Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), improv tech guy, generally nice person (if you ask me).

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