08 May 2008

The Problem with American Idol

Alan Sepinwall at the Star-Ledger has a terrific article on American Idol (see 5 Reasons the Best 12 Weren't). Just a terrific deep-dive into this season vs the overall franchise. Some of the new gimmicks haven't exactly worked out (for example, the use of instruments this season has more often been a prop than an exhibition in musicianship), while some of the old new gimmicks have been ridiculous (see the Q&A from viewers). His on the money with his discussion of themes and mentors. Everyone is probably very gun-shy about doing away with these things, but I think it is time to do that.

What he fails to mention is how those who have remained (aside from David Cook) are so lacking next to some of those who have been cast away. Carly and Michael Johns should absolutely still be here with Jason Castro and Brooke gone in their place. I'd much rather have seen those two added to the trio that remain to see who could have made it to the last three. My wife cannot stand Little David (photo above from Star Search at age 12). He drips child beauty pageant, and he probably needs a wild weekend with Miley Cyrus to knock some reality into him. From all accounts, his father is in the Crazy Stage Parent Hall of Fame, so it's hard to attack Little David too much directly.

David Cook (above) has been a breath of fresh air in this competition. He's escaped the so-called controversy of knocking off previous knock-off's found on YouTube to become the best this season has had to offer (regardless of who wins). You can definitely see him having a career with legs in the future. The big question AI has to ask itself is what needs to change in the show to have six others like him in the last eight or nine (we'll always have some strange person who makes it deep, like Sanjaya or Jason Castro). As much effort and investment in weeding through the tens of thousands of possibilities, you'd think the show would do a better job of finding more diamonds in the rough.

One reason they haven't had more spit out at the end is that the obstacle course the contestants have to run doesn't correlate with what makes a successful recording artist. A young man or woman with a particular style and tone shouldn't have to somehow push that style on a succession of songs from the Beatles, Neil Diamond, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Dolly Parton, and Mariah Carey. Maybe they can simply perform the absolutely best song they want to perform each week then let us decide.

The cliche that the judges' feedback has become is also a problem that Sepinwall omits discussing, one that makes the show less appealing. Let's go worst to first. Paula really needs to be replaced. She brings no critical eye to the show and doesn't appear credible most of the time. Randy should be much more focused in his feedback rather than simply rambling and throwing in his slang terms. Maybe I'm overstating things a bit, as he does seem to focus on the accuracy of the singing and specifics of the arrangement.

Colin is such a key part of the show that it would be hard to imagine AI without him. The constant booing whenever he speaks is overworn and ridiculous, as is chiming the music in immediately after he says his first words. To watch him on AI then watch him on "Britain's Got Talent" is like watching two different people. He generally likes and respects his two cohorts across the pond. He repeatedly shows that he thinks Paula has no sense at all. He also has resigned himself, it appears, that AI is what it is and there isn't much he can do about the American public.

Lastly, me email to Sepinwall (about to send):
Really terrific analysis of American Idol. As part of the wrong demographic (>40 Male), I've still been a fan of American Idol. The one thing you fail to mention is the impact of TiVo/DVR on American Idol viewership. There is absolutely no way I would watch American Idol live, and I never watch anything on the results show except for a performance that might catch my eye. I fast-forward to the end to see who was voted off then delete the episode. I haven't even sniffed listening to a group sing number and haven't seen a cheesy AI commercial since maybe Season 2.


Blogger Astin said...

It's been a few seasons since I watched it. It got boring really quickly, and I was tired of seeing the solid talent regularly get the "shocking" boot.

They need to mitigate the fans' involvement a la Dancing with Stars. Split the judges and fan votes as 50/50 in the decison. Randy at least has some legitimate experience to validate being a judge, but Paula has to go for this to matter.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

AI is the nuts. Dreams are everything.

1:30 PM  
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5:19 AM  

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