Though “American Idol” finalists Candice Glover and Kree Harrison have yet to sing for the final time in season 12, the show's executives are starting to focus on next year. Original judge Randy Jackson is already out, having announced his resignation last week. With the show slipping in both ratings and entertainment value, odds are small the changes will end with his exit.
The one-time ratings juggernaut needs a lot more work done than just changing one judge on the panel if it hopes to get back on track. These six moves could be a good start in the right direction. (Heck, almost any change would be something at this point.)
Dump Mariah Carey
Rumor has it that Randy’s departure was just the first step in “Idol”getting rid of all four judges and starting over next year. While it would be a shame to lose Keith Urban or Nicki Minaj (though FOX boss Kevin Reilly said they'd be "welcome back, absolutely"), it’s hard to say what the point of adding Mariah Carey was in the first place. Perhaps the folks in charge were hypnotized by the constant use of the word “darling” and her diva aura, but without Randy providing her the commentary to say “I agree” with, she’s just an expensive piece of eye candy. If the goal is just to provide buzz, surely one of the former "Jersey Shore" cast mates would do the same thing for much less money.
More Harry Connick Jr.
Harry Connick Jr. is perennially the best “Idol” guest mentor around, and he’d be an even better judge. Much like Usher is doing now on “The Voice,” the musician is great at helping artists by both challenging them and offering concrete suggestions for improvement. Hopefuls might not leave a session with him feeling warm and fuzzy about the experience, but they'll know he isn’t just throwing empty platitudes their way either. Plus he’s not afraid to spar with others on the show. And speaking of that ...
Nothing is more boring than seeing four judges respond to an average performance with:
“That was great!”
“I agree, that was perfection – great job!”
“Yeah, dawg, I agree with everyone else. That was real!”
“Dahling, I agree – that moved me.”
They’re called “judges,” not “cheerleaders.” It would be great if the “Idol” panel occasionally argued for one singer or against another rather than being in lockstep. Sadly, after Nicki stalked off the stage briefly when Curtis Finch Jr. was eliminated, there was very little controversy. Had “Idol” featured Keith arguing in favor of Janelle Arthur while Randy vehemently objected, or if Nicki yhad gone toe-to-toe with Mariah over the abilities of Burnell Taylor, this would have been a much more memorable year.
Everybody knew that “Idol” wanted to have a woman win after five consecutive years of white guys with guitars taking the crown. Selecting a really talented group of women for the live shows was a great start. What wasn't so good was the decision to practically force voters to change their minds about who the champ should be by eliminating everyone similar to the last five victors. It’s no surprise that the five men were the first five eliminated from the finals. That’s what happens when a show consciously makes an effort to give viewers something other than what they want.
“Idol” should think of itself like a restaurant. It’s OK to want people to eat healthy, but if a neighborhood favorite suddenly changes its menu to offer only steamed vegetables and tofu burgers, it can’t be surprised when customers start to check out the burger place next door instead.
Easy on the also-rans
“Idol’s” big advantage is its history. It can bring back Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson and even last year’s champion, Phillip Phillips, to remind the audience that sometimes its stage is just the first step to superstardom. On the other hand, bringing back the likes of Stefano Lagone to perform live and doing regular “where are they now?” features on former contenders only shows the viewers that singers who are really popular today may be forgotten entirely moments after the confetti drops.
This is a singing show, not “The Hunger Games.” The best moments of “Idol” are the ones where everyone forgets that every note has to be enunciated properly in the correct key and volume with the perfect expression on their faces. Everyone in the audience wishes they were onstage and wonders how much fun it would be to be that good, but “Idol” tends to err on the side of criticizing its contestants who pick entertaining songs rather than ballads that can show off their vocals. Make sure the viewers are having a good time, and fewer folks will change the channel.
What changes would you like to see "Idol" make next season? Share your thoughts in the comments!