Author Topic: Change is afoot at American Idol  (Read 1420 times)


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Change is afoot at American Idol
« on: January 20, 2008, 05:21:24 pm »
Change is afoot at 'American Idol'
5 reasons why this may or may not be the best season
Sunday, Jan 20, 2008 - 12:03 AM
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We can all agree to disagree on "American Idol" and pretty much always have over the past six seasons.

Some editions have been grand, some less so. Which was which? That was strictly a matter of opinion and the maddening and unpredictable hobgoblin known as "taste."

Then, something happened last year. It started quietly enough -- maybe a sort of revulsion at the early contestant rounds, which featured a tsunami of false notes and bad hair. Then, there was Sanjaya, who became a national joke. Melinda Doolittle, the finest singer in "Idol" history, was prematurely ejected. Ratings slid slightly, teens abandoned the show by the millions, the summer tours were sparsely attended and potential buyers remain allergic to winner Jordin Sparks' self-named CD.

In other words, there was no disagreement whatsoever on the sixth season: It stunk.

That's why change is afoot at "Idol." As the world's most popular TV show started its seventh season last week on Fox, we offer five reasons why this could be the best one. Then, five reasons why seven could be its unlucky number:

1. Much better performers

That's the word from the "Idol" camp. The focus this year was on improving the front line, and in a recent conference call, Simon Cowell said, "We got a better Top 12, more interesting than [the 12] last year."

In a separate phone interview, "Idol" brain trust-exec producer Nigel Lythgoe slightly disagreed: "I said last season that we had the strongest Top 12, and I still stand by that."

Of this year's crop, he says three or four "could easily be signed" by a label.

And the flip side:

May I remind you of the Sanjaya effect? The tendency for the outrageously bad or silly to survive and for the outrageously good to occasionally get dumped?

2. The Writers Guild Strike

The theory goes: Because there's so much junk on the air now -- "American Gladiators!" -- that viewers will give "Idol" an even bigger bear hug.

And the flip side:

Nice little theory, but even Cowell and Lythgoe think it's bunk, and they may be right. Ever pragmatic, Cowell says: "People will have a choice with other channels, and we have to make a better show than last year, and that's the reason we'll gain or lose viewers."

3. Fewer superstars

"Idol's" cutting back all those so-called mentor sessions that tended to be more about the mentor -- Diana Ross or Andrea Bocelli -- than the mentee. "This season, we go back to what we used to do, which is tell the kids' stories," Lythgoe says.

And the flip side:

Well, maybe viewers watched because some of those superstars were more interesting and the jam sessions were reasonably good TV.

4. The bad performers will be among the most horrific.

Lythgoe says they will remain "a staple. . . . It shows a lot of the stupidity that goes on in audition, and I personally love it."

And the flip side:

Some of last year's sessions were needlessly cruel and petty. What if this year's are even crueler and pettier?

5. New set!

Even superhits need a face-lift now and then, and "Idol" has one. Viewers don't tune in to watch a set, but it can give them the (subliminal) impression that they're watching something fresh.

And the flip side:

We kinda liked the old set, and will hams like Taylor Hicks still be able to come up beside Paula for a personal serenade?