"American Idol" producers have promised that there will be changes in this fifth season of the talent-show-turned-pop-culture-phenomenon, which hits the air again Jan. 17 . Here’s a list of what the program can do without this time around.
1) Attention-seeking auditioners
Every year, there are people trying out who clearly just hope to get on TV any way they can, at the expense of all personal dignity. It was funny once, but at this point we’ve seen enough people dressed as cows, birds and wombats. Mocking the really bad contestants is part of the fun of the audition stage of “Idol,” but save the costumes for Halloween.
2) Broadway Night
These contestants are supposed to be pop idols in training. Why make them sing in a style that makes the teenagers sound like they’re back at sophomore musical tryouts, and the older contestants sound like they're aspiring to a local dinner theatre?
3) Disco Night
Seriously, did anyone ever sing disco well, even in the 1970s?
4) Paula-Simon videos
Or really, any skit or obviously scripted dialogue that pretends there’s sexual tension between the judges. First of all, nobody believes that for a minute. More importantly, don’t the writers realize that the show’s on right after dinnertime for most folks? Who needs those images in their heads when they’re trying to digest their food?
5) So-called scandals
Please, no more hours of news coverage on rumors of dalliances between a judge and a contestant who came in tenth a few years ago. If there’s going to be an “Idol” scandal, let it be a big one, like exposing that Carrie Underwood is secretly a 35-year-old veteran of a Faith Hill cover band.
6) Simon Mad Libs
Sometimes the best part of "Idol" is trying to figure out how Simon Cowell is going to rip on a poor performance. But doesn’t it seem like he’s making things up as he goes along, from one of those Mad Libs-style cheat sheets that read “That performance was as (pejorative) as a (adverb) (noun) in a (nationality) (location)?” How else can he come up with such infamous metaphors as “That performance was as excruciating as bad karaoke in a Portuguese nightclub”?
7) Twin killings
For whatever reason, the judges are fascinated by the concept of twins auditioning. Sometimes, they have to audition together. Sometimes, they sound exactly the same, and yet one moves on and one doesn’t. Either way, it’s uncomfortably close to being a carnival act. Don't even get us started on triplets.
8) Voting snafus
Many people are getting rich off of this show, but proofreaders clearly aren’t among them. Season four of "American Idol" had to re-run one of the broadcasts after typos were found in the display of phone numbers assigned to various contestants. Would it be too much to ask the producers to hire a couple of college kids to make sure the correct phone numbers are listed for each contestant, so we don’t get a similar debacle this time around?
9) Wardrobe malfunctions
There haven’t been any Janet Jackson-esque scandals, but “Idol” has had its share of wardrobe and hairstyle choices best left unrepeated. Carrie Underwood’s bouffant of last season comes to mind. Of course, it was perfect if she was auditioning for Broadway's "Hairspray," so see item #2 .
10) ‘Why am I here?’ cameos
Fox being Fox, we can accept that there’s going to be people from other network series’ in the studio audience. But can we at least avoid debacles like the time the “Stacked” crew was in the crowd, and Christopher Lloyd looked like he’d rather be getting a root canal? The same goes for former contestants. It’s painful enough when the previous winners and also-rans come back to offer their advice to the new crew, but do we really need to see John Stevens and Jasmine Trias in the studio audience?
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.
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