It's a special day in "American Idol" land. Even though auditions officially began in Boston two months ago, Aug. 6 marks the start of filming for next season's actual audition episodes. It's the first time that the cameras will roll and the judges will be on hand to bolster hopes or crush dreams.
The recent news that Paula Abdul has left the show for good means that a lot of things are suddenly up in the air. With the chemistry of the judges' table dramatically altered, now is as good a time as any for the show's remaining stars to reflect and make some much-needed changes.
Randy Jackson: Kill the 'tude, a'ight?
Quit trying to be cool.
Your annoyances are legion and have been reasonably well-documented over the years. You're repetitive. You turn to imaginary words like "pitchy" to get your point across, despite being a professional musician who surely knows the proper terminology. You ram inane catchphrases down our throats like Gretchen in "Mean Girls" still trying to make "fetch" happen.
All of it stems from the same core issue, which is your desperate need to be perceived as the Cool Judge. Why else would you constantly drop the names of various artists that you've produced or for whom you've played bass? We get it, you know Mariah Carey. You toured with Journey. That's terrific, but after the second time it comes up, it stops sounding like relevant experience and starts sounding like obnoxious bragging.
Getting over your desire to be cool would also free you from your phenomenally unflattering role as Cowell underling. There are times when your need to be liked allows Simon to quietly step back and let you be the cruel one, laughing at contestants and making jokes at their expense. It makes you look cartoonish, and not in a good Bugs Bunny way. More like yappy little terrier Chester, constantly saying of big bulldog Spike, "He's my best friend!" Dawg.
Kara DioGuardi: Retire the fangirl aura
Realize that you're on television, and downplay the fangirliness.
Maybe that's a holdover from your extensive experience in the industry, where you could give the same advice to hopeful after hopeful behind closed doors and openly root for people without worrying that anyone would ding you for repetition or bias.
Slideshow: Paula Abdul But now it's all being shown on television multiple times weekly, and everything you do — every malapropism like "Studio 57," every inaccuracy like referring to 1993's "Crazy" as “early” Aerosmith, every "playful" snap towards Simon — is enormously magnified.
You have to stop acting like a fan and get back to acting like a judge. When you referred to Adam Lambert as a "rock god," it undermined your credibility, since Paula was the only one allowed to be overinvested and Simon's the only one allowed to call the contest before it's over. You started out so strong last year, offering useful, actionable suggestions to auditioners as well as letting those who'd never make it down gently. Find a way to get back to that.
Also, you might want to think twice before you write any more coronation songs.
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Simon Cowell: Are we boring you?
Stop looking so bored all the time. Look, I know it can't be easy. You've been doing "Idol" for eight seasons, not to mention British shows "Pop Idol," "The X-Factor" and "Britain's Got Talent." That's a whole lot of singers, both good and bad, parading in front of you in just the past decade. You must feel like you've seen and heard it all.
If that's how your facial expression constantly reads, though, that doesn't exactly encourage fans at home to invest in the show.
It's fine that you're Señor Crankypants. That's your thing. But it's not just the bottom of the barrel that leaves you bored and unimpressed anymore. There have been times recently when your mouth offered praise while your face indicated "planning the quickest route to the airport."
What's worse is the way you only seem to perk up whenever you indulge in your frequent gay-panic jabs at Ryan Seacrest. They're dumb, insulting and not in keeping with the family-friendly aims of the show. So knock it off and either find a way to bring back the spark or think about following Paula gently into that good night.
Ryan Seacrest: God save the Britishisms
Get off Simon's case for being British. He can't help it, dude. It just sort of happened one day, and it's not going to change. That's not to say that you can't engage in the witty banter that's made "Idol" the modern equivalent of Noel Coward. (Or Shemp Howard, anyway.)
You should, however, quit jumping on Simon whenever a Britishism slips out, treating us all like we're too dumb to understand what's usually a perfectly clear point.
While you're needling him for saying "treacle" or calling a performance "wet," you're missing plenty of opportunities to nail him on real things, such as his overused wedding-singer comparisons and his hair.
But whatever you do, keep on high-fiving blind people forever. Some things must never change.
Marc Hirsh is a writer in Somerville, Mass.
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