Five Things 'American Idol' Could Learn From 'Dancing With the Stars'
by Don Reisinger, posted May 27th 2010 2:05PM
Just a few months ago, 'American Idol' was the country's most popular television show. It was a juggernaut that most believed couldn't be matched. But 'Dancing With the Stars' challenged 'Idol' in the ratings this season, thanks to an all-star cast that offered the best dancing ability of any group so far.
Some say that 'Idol's' ratings decline can be attributed to the poor quality of talent this year. Others say that it's viewer fatigue. In either case, something is seriously wrong with the show. And until it starts taking cues from 'Dancing With the Stars,' it will only get worse.
What should 'Idol' learn from 'DWTS?'
1. Stop with all the buildup: Is anyone else sick and tired of all the buildup that goes into each new episode of 'American Idol?' First, Ryan Seacrest comes on the air and tells us all about the "theme" for the night. And then, we're inundated with self-promotion from current artists and inane comments from the judges. The performances, once the focal point of the show, are now an afterthought.
'Dancing With the Stars' is nothing like that. Although it's still a long show, it focuses on the talent. And along the way, it keeps the comments to a minimum and the entertainment -- what everyone is watching it for -- to a maximum.
2. Bring on celebrities: 'American Idol' is turning into a karaoke contest. Yes, finalists Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze had nice voices, but most of the other "artists" couldn't carry a tune this year. Maybe 'American Idol' should follow the lead of 'Dancing With the Stars' and start bringing celebrities onto the show. It could call it 'American Idol: Celebrity Edition.'
It's not as dumb as some might think. 'Dancing With the Stars' would be nothing without celebrities. Even Donald Trump's 'Apprentice' franchise reinvented itself with celebs. Why can't 'American Idol?'
3. Too many voices, too little time: Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi have been criticized extensively this year. Although those complaints have been shrugged off, they highlight a major issue for 'American Idol:' there are too many judges offering too little in the way of constructive criticism.
Let's be honest: Ellen and even Kara have shown that they know little about musical talent. When Paula, Simon, and Randy judged the show, it made sense. But now there is a team of judges that talk too much and say too little.
That's certainly not the case on 'Dancing With the Stars.' Carrie Ann, Bruno, and Len are dance experts. They know what to look for, understand what goes into choreography, and provide useful tips to the celebrities each week. That's important. It not only helps improve the quality of the show, it also brings the audience in on the learning process. And it can't be underestimated.
4. Compact the season: 'American Idol' lasts forever; the ninth season premiered on January 12 and just finished yesterday, near the end of May.
'Dancing With the Stars,' on the other hand, understands the value of shorter seasons. Season 10 of the show started at the end of March, and ended earlier this week. It was two months of non-stop action. No fluff, no wasted time. And America loved it.
5. Make the judges count: The judges mean nothing on 'American Idol.' And the longer it stays that way, the worse it will be for the show.
'American Idol's' finale showcased the program's desperate need for judge scoring. When it was Simon's turn to discuss the finalists' performances, he seemed aloof, and his criticism was empty. The singing was over and he knew that it just wasn't up to him who won or lost. If he and the other judges had been allowed to score performances, it might have drastically changed the dynamic of that episode. It could have also changed this season's outcome.
Like 'Dancing With the Stars,' 'Idol's' judges need to account for 50 percent of the vote. The season's "save" option is a good start, but they should be scoring each performance. Yes, it will make the show look more like its arch-enemy, but you know what? It works. Plus, it will ensure that the so-called "experts" can have a say in keeping the best talent on the air.
With Simon leaving after this season, the future of 'American Idol' is decidedly in doubt. And without some serious restructuring, it might only be a matter of time before 'Dancing With the Stars' is crowned the show that killed one of America's biggest sensations.
Tell us: What can 'Idol' do to improve next season?