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How To Fix An Ailing Idol

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It was bound to happen at some point. Every television powerhouse eventually hits the proverbial Moldavian wall. For Facts of Life, it was Edna’s Edibles. For Ally McBeal, it was Robert Downey Jr. And for American Idol, it’s Sanjaya Malakar. To be fair, however, the roach-like survival of Malakar is the least of AI’s problems.

Here are some ideas to help get the reality giant back to the top of its game:

More Crazy Paula – It has been rumored that producers gave the “Straight Up” songstress a firm talking to regarding her bizarre behavior, which is really too bad. Her nonsensical babbling and wacky outbursts make for entertaining television even when the performances are sub-par. I say keep refilling that giant “Coke” tumbler and let Abdul do her thing.

Give Simon the Day Off – Is it just me or does our beloved Simon seem a bit exhausted? His recent sophomoric gay slurs lobbed at Ryan Seacrest indicate that Cowell has run out of snappy one-liners. Also, missing in action is his signature “tell it like it is” contestant critiques. These days he can barely muster up a “that wasn’t good enough.” Give the guy a few episodes off to regroup and find his crabby inner child and a shirt with a collar.

Shorten the Road to Hollywood
– I’m a Gong Show fan like everyone else but nearly three weeks of guys in Uncle Sam outfits singing Celine Dion was arduous, to say the least. The freak show element needs to be toned down. How about more clips of people who can – I don’t know – sing? Cram the best and worst performances into two nights and get to the heart of the competition.

Cast Actual Singers – When a cast is so bad it actually makes you long for the days of Bucky Covington and Mikala Gordon, it’s time for a change. The judges need to have stricter criteria when it comes to picking hopefuls. A smaller amount of fixer-upper types like Sundance Head and more semi-professionals like Melinda Doolittle would finally elevate beyond the occasionally hokey talent show trappings.

Limit the Voting – Before I get a thousand “I H8 U” text messages from angry teenage girls, let me explain myself. Back in season three, Jasmin Trias made it to the top three simply because the entire state of Hawaii called in. Soon it was pretty clear that the competition was more about who was the most popular kid in school and not who was the best singer. Now three years later, it’s spun out of control. Being from a particular state, belonging to a certain religion, or appealing to a specific ethnic group have nothing to do with a performer’s talent. The Sanjaya effect proves that the voting just doesn’t work. The UK’s X Factor (also created by Simon Cowell) accepts call-in votes only when the group has been narrowed down to the top five. I think this is a great idea. Limited voting would open doors for more Kelly Clarksons and Jennifer Hudsons.

Besides, if the judges picked the top five, we could go back to being mad at them and not each other.

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About Sean Paul Mahoney

  • Edna’s Edibles: what a mess. What about the gym teacher on Happy Days? Carol Brunett on Magnum PI? Freddie on The A-Team? Ok, enough.

    Man, I forgot Trias reached top three. Yeesh. I’ve ran out of things to say about Sanjaya. The real travesty is yet to happen. What if he out lives Melinda or any of the other better singers?

    Good suggestions. Especially the vote thng. If people are going to be insipid take that right away and bring it at a more serious level.

  • sean Paul Mahoney

    Oooh I forgot about Burnett on Magnum. Ouch. How about Oliver on The Brady Bunch or Sam on Different Strokes?

  • writermom

    Excuse me, but comparing Robert Downey Jr. (THE brilliant actor whose filmography can speak for itself!) with Sanjaya of AI is soooo unfair! RDJ’s appearance in Ally McBeal was one of the best things that happened to that show. Just ask fans who fell in love with Robert when he played Larry Paul. Enough of the negatives on RDJ! It’s about time people consider his versatility and talent as an actor (just look at how many projects he has this past 2 years) and not at what he has done in the past.

  • judy

    thanks Writermom! my sentiments exactly! Robert was fantastic on Ally and those were some awesome shows. Great writing and great acting. Just ask the scores of fans that grew to love him from those shows. Downey is doing so much great work now it is hard to keep up with. Go see Zodiac if you want to see him in top form. Leave his past in the past ok!

  • sean Paul Mahoney

    Writermom and Judy, I think you may have missed my point. I was talking about benchmark moments on television shows that signified a decline in a show’s quality/popularity.I used the word Moldavian to help illustrate this point.
    I agree that RDJ is an amazing actor but he was brought on to Ally Mcbeal to help save the show which was dying in the ratings at the time. As a fan of McBeal, I think the show really started to suck around this era. So in my mind his addition to the cast is the benchmark moment.

    By the way, I never brought up his past and even wnet to see him speak at The Director’s Guild. So realx……

  • judy

    ok I am sorry. I guess I totally missed your point. But I still think the best year of Ally was the year he was on. But again.. sorry. I get very defensive about Robert. I read your wrong. take care.

  • Ah man, Sam. I hated that kid. Does Pooch on Itchy and Scratchy count? What about the Crosby Show? He had everyone living with him. Couldn’t keep track of which kid belong to whom. It’s also called ‘jumped the shark.’

  • I loved your Dynasty reference. I was just a little kid back then, but even I thought that season finale was stupid. They made you think that nearly everyone died in that shootout, but when the show returned in the fall, pretty much everyone was ok (IIRC).

    Personally, I thought that Ally McBeal jumped the shark earlier than that. It was when Billy finally became interesting- only because he was dying of a brain tumor.

  • sean Paul Mahoney

    Thanks for getting the Dynasty reference, koanashi. I forgot about the Billy brain tumor. That was pretty lame. NAd don’t even get me started on Ling’s Judge Judy type show. Yikes.

  • Virginia Abreu de Paula

    I didn’t miss the author’s point. It is clear he said Robert Downey Jr. helped to end the show, when the truth is the opposite. Ally McBeal was on decline before he joined. The truth is he saved it for a whole season! The show grew up in popularity in such a way, they even didn’t care when he first had a problem. Let’s remember he even got a Golden Globe and Sag’s award for that role. Larry Paul brought life to a show which was dying. Who was responsible for the show failure next season? Fox itself, not Robert Downey, Jr. They made the mistake not to forgive him for his second relapse. Lots of fans could not watch the show without Larry Paul. I could not. I also left when he left. But we will never forget what a perfect character Robert played in Ally Macbeal. I remember everything so well. Fox could never regret contracting him or nobody has the right to put the blame on him. They made the mistake. Not Robert.

  • Yes, shame on FOX for not allowing a drug addict to work on their show, a guy who has so much trouble getting his act together that he relapsed. Twice.

    I like Robert Downey Jr. I think he’s a good actor. But he’s such a screw up with his personal life.