It's been a number of years before we had anything remotely kind to say about American Idol, and when we got a full screener of this season's premiere, we definitely rolled our eyes. It seemed like a sign of desperation because the show usually just sends critics teasers for each season, not full episodes. So out of sheer curiosity (and boredom during that off week during the holidays), we decided to check it out. And, well, it was surprisingly decent. We'd go so far as to even say watchable, almost to the point of enjoyable. And if the premiere is any indication of the direction the show is taking this year, maybe we'll grouch less about having to sit through yet another competitive reality singing show. This is not to say that it's blow-your-mind DVR-worthy but it is definitely leaps and bounds above the last few Simon-less seasons. So why the dramatic improvement? Here's our take on the big changes:
We've only had one outing with the new judging panel on American Idol, but we can already see just how this season is going to pan out with the likes of Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj joining Randy Jackson. And frankly, we're not all that impressed, though we never imagined a big fight could erupt over who knows more about Mean Girls. Here are our initial thoughts:
We admit that we were more than a little skeptical when we heard that Simon was leaving American Idol and that they'd ousted all of the other judges besides the typically useless Randy Jackson. And we were still skeptical after the first couple of audition episodes in which Steven Tyler was just talking crazy and Jennifer Lopez refused to be mean. But since the first Hollywood week, this season has completely turned around, and instead of hoping that it would fade away after this year, we're totally enjoying it. Well, as much as we can enjoy a glorified karaoke competition. Here's why Idol is now better than it's been in ages:
I'm not going to lie, I was honestly dreading this season of American Idol. Maybe it's because the last few times that new judges had been brought on (Kara, Ellen), it was such a disaster. But it turned out that I didn't completely hate Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez last night, even though I really, really wanted to. Sure, Steven can barely string a coherent sentence together without screeching (but neither could Paula Abdul) and J.Lo lacks the ability to say no to people (but then again, neither could Paula when she started), but there was something oddly fascinating about the chemistry they have together (and given that I've seen nearly all of J.Lo's movies and have witnessed her lack of chemistry with pretty much everyone, this was a complete shocker). I simply couldn't take my eyes off of this mess. Admittedly, this is not the Idol it once was, but frankly, it hasn't been that show for years. Maybe a shakeup was the best thing that could have happened to it since the franchise is clearly on its last legs.
Producers keep announcing changes to the format of American Idol, presumably in a desperate attempt to keep us interested in that show now that Simon is gone. The latest news is that they'll be filming the contestants living together in a house, even though they tried in some of the earlier seasons and it was really boring. Presumably, they've got a plan to Big Brother/Real World this up - perhaps with a Vegas trip -- because otherwise this isn't all that exciting. But perhaps there are some other recent reality TV trends that Idol could steal some ideas from instead. Sure these may seem extreme, but at least they would give Seacrest a challenge and would likely keep us from banging out heads against the wall during the padded intro packages.
We sadly said goodbye to the sole remaining interesting contestant on this season's American Idol last Wednesday when Siobhan Magnus was unceremoniously voted out of the competition. She wore hideous outfits and sometimes took the screeching too far, but you can't deny the girl had talent. At the very least, you can't deny she was amazing television. In an effort to give her a proper send-off, I joined a media call with Siobhan last week to discuss how awesome it feels to be eliminated, all the letters (real letters, apparently -- like from the post office!) she received from young weird girls that she's inspired and how she's apparently this huge Andrew Lloyd Webber-head. She's weird, you guys. God love her.
We were so glad to have the local audition and Hollywood Week nonsense finally behind us, but now that we're into the actual performance and voting portion of American Idol, we have to say that we've never been less inclined to pick up the phone for someone as we are this year. For all of the "most talented group ever" hype, we've yet to hear anything that remotely lives up to it. Instead, we've got a dull mess of kids, Ellen trying desperately to be relevant and Simon looking like he's just counting the minutes until X-Factor begins. It's going to be a long season, and here's what we're dreading the most:
Well, he's been talking about it for years, but it's finally happening... Simon Cowell is leaving American Idol, which means that after the current season (which begins tonight), not one, but two of the original judges will be gone. Paula Abdul's seat has been filled by Ellen DeGeneres (how she'll fare remains to be seen), but the show has always revolved around Simon's cutting remarks and candid criticisms, so replacing him will be a much larger task. We've come up with some people who might be up for the job, or at least could be entertaining to watch while we wait for The X Factor to premiere.
While we've been hearing for months about all of the very special guest judges who are taking on the audition rounds (from Neil Patrick Harris to Katy Perry and everyone in between), the looming question has been if anyone would take over the fourth seat vacated by Paula Abdul on a permanent basis. Well, we now have an answer: Yes, Ellen DeGeneres. Hiring the popular daytime talk show host and comedian instead of any of the music industy vets we had hoped for could be a stroke of genius -- or it could spell disaster for TV's top-rated program. We've weighed the pros and cons of Idol's newest judge.
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