Pop Culture

Advice for ‘Idol’: Judges, host need to move on

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 Photos

    Paula Abdul, straight up

    Before her days as the “nice judge” on “American Idol,” she was a professional cheerleader, scored a string of pop hits and starred in a brief but bizarre reality show.

  • Paula Abdul, straight up

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    Straight up

    Paula Abdul once cheered for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, but then moved into choreography and a singing career of her own before taking a seat next to Simon Cowell at the "American Idol" judges' table.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • "Sleepless In Seattle" - Los Angeles Premiere

    Paula Abdul, straight up

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    Forever your girl -- or not

    Abdul married actor Emilio Estevez in 1992 but they divorced just two years later. She later told People magazine that the split came because she wanted children and Estevez, already a father of two, did not. She went on to marry sportswear designer Brad Beckerman in 1996, but again, divorced just two years later.

    WireImage / WireImage
  • 1991 MTV Video Music Awards

    Paula Abdul, straight up

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    She's got the vibe

    Abdul performs her song "Vibeology" at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles. Abdul was nominated for best female video for "Rush Rush" that year, but lost out to Janet Jackson's "Love Will Never Do (Without You)."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Paula Abdul, straight up

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    It's all about the kids

    In 1993, Abdul and other singers, including Celine Dion and Bobby McFerrin, performed at "For Our Children," a live concert with proceeds benefiting the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Abdul started off the concert singing a jazzy version of Disney's classic "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah."

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Paula Abdul, straight up

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    Meet the Muppets

    Abdul is famed for performing with cartoon cat MC Skat Kat in her "Opposites Attract" video in 1989, so it perhaps wasn't much of a stretch for her to make an appearance on "Muppets Tonight" in 1996.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • FOX 2002 Summer TCA Tour - 7/22/02- American Idol

    Paula Abdul, straight up

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    Dynamic trio

    When "American Idol" launched in 2002, Abdul was paired with sardonic Brit Simon Cowell, left, and affable music producer Randy Jackson, right, as one of the show's three judges. She quickly developed a reputation as the always-positive judge, and just as quickly began to draw attention for her sometimes bizarre and outlandish comments.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Mercedes Benz Fashion Week - Petro Zillia Backstage

    Paula Abdul, straight up

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    Gone to the dogs

    Abdul is seen hugging puppy Yoda at a fashion show in 2004. Abdul may be an animal lover, but in 2007, she broke her nose and toe when she tripped over her pet Chihuahua Tulip. Tulip was unhurt.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Honors Paula Abdul

    Paula Abdul, straight up

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    Fashion plate

    Abdul arrives at the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund AMY awards in 2006. Long interested in fashion, she started her own jewelry line on QVC in 2007, and often displayed her work on "American Idol," even offering pieces to the singers.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Hey Paula

    Paula Abdul, straight up

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    Star of her own show

    Abdul starred in a brief Bravo reality show called "Hey Paula" in 2007. The seven-episode show was panned by critics, who noted that Abdul came off as much less friendly than she does on "American Idol." One segment features the singer's emotional reaction to being fired from a movie based on the line of Bratz dolls, but Abdul later blamed creative editing for the way she appeared.

    Bravo via Everett Collection / Bravo via Everett Collection
  • 20th Annual Kids' Choice Awards - Show

    Paula Abdul, straight up

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    Time for slime

    Abdul and fellow "Idol" judge Randy Jackson accept the favorite TV show award won by the show at the 2007 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- the numerous on- and off-set controversies, "American Idol" continues to dominate the Nielsen ratings.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Gala Premiere Of "Criss Angel Believe" By Cirque Du Soleil

    Paula Abdul, straight up

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    What happens in Vegas

    Abdul made an appearance at the gala premiere of Criss Angel Believe," a collaboration between illusionist Criss Angel and the acrobatic troupe Cirque du Soleil, at the Luxor Resort & Casino in 2008.

    Getty Images for Cirque du Solei / Getty Images for Cirque du Solei
  • Premiere Of Touchstone Pictures' "Swing Vote" - Arrivals

    Paula Abdul, straight up

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    On the red carpet

    Abdul continues to make the rounds of Hollywood events. She's seen here arriving at the premiere of the film "Swing Vote" in Hollywood, Calif., in 2008.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • American Idol Season 8 Top 4 Performance

    Paula Abdul, straight up

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    Heating up the 'Idol' stage

    After scoring repeated hits from 1987-1996, the singer had seemingly put music on the back burner to pursue other interests. But in May 2009, Abdul performed her new single, "I'm Just Here for the Music," on an "American Idol" results show.

    Getty Images for Fox / Getty Images for Fox
  • Paula Abdul, straight up

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    Sitting next to her replacement?

    In January 2009, "American Idol" added a fourth judge, songwriter Kara DioGuardi, second from left. Many critics and fans speculated that DioGuardi was added to eventually replace Abdul, although the four judges worked together for the 2009 season without incident. In August 2009, Abdul and Fox confirmed that she would not return to the show.

    Fox / Fox

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.

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 BritishismsGet 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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