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Beyond the Hype: What to Look for in Season 10 of 'American Idol'

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 22nd 2010 1:45PM
It's already the busiest TV week of the year, so of course, Fox had to add to the chaos by hosting a glitchy live stream of its 'American Idol' judging panel announcement on Wednesday.

One fact may get lost amid the hype about Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler joining Randy Jackson on the revamped judging panel.

The best news to emerge from Wednesday's announcement is that 'Idol' has finally given up on the four-judge format. But is that enough to keep the show's ratings from declining further?

Speaking of glitches, the last couple of seasons of 'Idol' were often painful to watch, and not just because those group sing-and-dance numbers were always so embarrassingly dorky.

When 'Idol' added a fourth judge, the show began running over its designated time slot frequently, and last season in particular was sloppy and badly paced. The show has always dragged things out with pointless filler, but the repetitive rambling by the judges didn't help matters. And to expect people to be OK with missing the week's elimination, which frequently happened in the age of the pre-programmed DVR, was just shockingly arrogant behavior on the part of 'Idol's' producers.

Ellen DeGeneres in particular was a waste of judging space; she was supposed to bring some humor to the proceedings but she never offered useful criticism and she also wasn't funny. Add to that the fact that Randy's opinions and Kara DioGuardi's were often similar, and you had too much of a bland thing.

We'll see in Season 10 how the return to the previous format, as well as the new judging panel, works out. Clearly Simon Fuller, the 'Idol' creator who has returned to oversee the show, has some firm ideas about what works on 'Idol,' but the fact is, this is an aging franchise. Will one aging rock star, a diva and a nice but unspectacular judge be enough to revive it?

Before offering a few thoughts on the new judges, it has to be said: Who'd have thought Randy would be the only original judge to make it this far? Dawg has staying power. And perhaps not a whole host of competing career options that offer a large payday for very little work.

Once the Kara and Ellen experiments didn't work and Simon left, the show did need some stability, so I can see why 'Idol' kept Randy around. He does, on occasion, offer cogent criticism, all of it couched in the non-threatening Randy-isms that prevent contestants from having a meltdown onstage. Still, his critiques are often predictable. When Randy does his gentle version of ripping into a performance, you can bet the performance was really terrible, but he gives often gives mildly bad or bland performances a pass.

As successful entertainers, JLo and Tyler know what it takes to give a good performance, but whether they have anything coherent or entertaining to say to aspiring singers is unknown at this point. In the past, notable performers have seemed more comfortable in the mentor role; harshing on someone's dreams isn't always fun, and some pop stars have seemed visibly uncomfortable at the idea of doing that on camera.

The fact is, I don't think the presence of these singers, which may give Season 10 of 'Idol' a ratings boost in the early going, will make up for the absence of Simon Cowell. Cowell brought entertaining snarkiness to the show, and Paula Abdul, for all her rambling incoherence, brought an element of unpredictability to the proceedings.

They both were wild cards, and they helped keep the performers and the audience on their toes, Simon with his harsh but often on-target critiques, Paula with her general loopiness. Yes, that loopiness could be annoying, but she did have her lucid moments and she could also be entertaining in a campy way -- witness those tearful goodbyes to favored performers.

Will Tyler or Lopez be willing to go for the jugular with their critiques? Will they just recycle the same kind of rote, predictable record-industry blather that Kara and Randy often gave? Record-industry executive Jimmy Iovine will be the show's official mentor this season, but in that role, will he be able to be stringent and acerbic as he assesses the contestants? It's hard to say. Few people want to be seen as the bad guy when the contestants are so hopeful and often so young, but unlike Tyler or Lopez, Iovine has no high-profile public image to burnish. I suppose there's a chance he'll be critical in ways that the others won't be, but if how harsh will he be if his title is "mentor"?

All things considered, my prediction is that the new 'Idol,' for all its star power, won't end up being as entertaining as the classic lineup in its heyday. And given that the talent pool on the show gets thinner every year, we could be in for a long Season 10.


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Pat

Sad to say, but its time to admit that the magic is gone.Not many shows are still any good going into a 10th season. The show had a good run, but it burned out and its over.

September 29 2010 at 9:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ColleenO

Steven Tyler has just proved that he will do anything for a buck. I am really shocked and a little saddened by his being on the show. J-lo, she is so 6 years ago. I have NEVER watched this show, and am glad I didn't... seriously, just watch the last episode to see who won.... I've done it for years!

September 23 2010 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
myopinion

I wouldnt give JLO the time of day! I absolutely have no respect for her. She wont quit making clothes with animal fur. She is a total waste as a human. I cant stand her and wont watch any movies she is in. She is like Lohan no talent just hype!

September 23 2010 at 7:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dana

I was hoping Idol could lure Shania Twain, who I think would be a thousand times better as a judge than Jennifer Lopez will be. I think Lopez is too much into drawing attention to herself and actually being a diva to offer good constructive critisms of contestants. I think the producers picked the wrong woman for this job.

September 23 2010 at 7:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DAWN

i HATE people that constantly say "IM NOT GOING TO WATCH ANYMORE!" when you know dam well you will!
HOWEVER...............................
I just learned.....................
I HATE MYSELF!!!!!!

September 23 2010 at 5:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bredia

Steven Tyler!!!!!!!!!!!!That was the best choice they could have made! He is a bad man, just wait and see!

September 23 2010 at 5:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
baltimorealana

Maaaan they should have gotten Diddy to be a Judge! He knows how to give straight up critiques just like Simon did and he has oodles of experience judging and finding talent..Man if it wasn't for J.Lo I wouldn't even consider watching this season, but I'mma see how she does. I don't think she'll be all that but who knows.

September 23 2010 at 5:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
msgtmnm

I love Randy..BUT....will he please..stop saying "YO YO" EVERY time ???? That got sooooooooooo old.....

September 23 2010 at 5:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom

Tyler looks like my grandmother in drag. The guy is certifiable. I used to live in Middleboro MA until 5 yrs ago, and he is an oddity around town. Joe Perry dresses like any normal person, hardly noticeable. Then here comes Tyler to Dunkin Donuts. Dungarees, sweathshirt, HUGE sunglasses and a big Yellow hat. He's hidin behind counters like he doesnt want to be recognized, when all the while he's hopin someone does.Without all the makeup, youd think he was another 62 yr old homeless man

September 23 2010 at 5:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mark

After the last two season's of runner-ups winning because of teenie bop vote. I will never watch a fixed american idol ever!

September 23 2010 at 4:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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