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TV Review: American Idol Returns, Unfortunately

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***Warning: I am going to be harsh. If you are a die-hard fan and loved last night’s American Idol as much as ever, I ask that you please do not read the following article, as it will just make you mad. I don’t like to make people mad.***

There is no denying that FOX’s American Idol is a TV mega-hit that draws more viewers than any other show on the air. Even last night’s premiere, which showed a drop of 13% in total viewership from last year, and a 17% drop in the 18-49 key demo (the biggest drop in Idol history, and the worst opening numbers since season one), it still dominated the night. Quick side note, Live to Dance with Paula Abdul took 4th place in its time slot. Not looking good, Paula. Anyway, Idol could afford such a hit, bigger even than the overall network ratings decline in the past few years, because it was so far ahead of everyone. The question is, how long will that last?

My best guess? Until next fall when Simon Cowell brings The X Factor to America. You can read plenty of Idol reviews right now about how Cowell was not the show, and this season will bring the focus back to the contestants, where it needs to be. However, I submit, Cowell was the show, and without him, it’s doomed to veer sharply downhill til death. After last season’s widely regarded crap-fest of a yearn, Cowell chose the right moment to abandon ship.

The new judging panel was incredibly disappointing. Randy Jackson has never contributed anything worthwhile to any episode of Idol ever. A recent poll by The Hollywood Reporter puts him as the most popular judge of all time, baffling me, as I usually am fast forwarding through just about every word he says by the time we get to the Top 10. I occasionally listen, just to make sure he hasn’t grown wise while I wasn’t paying attention. Up til now, including last night, that has not been the case. At this point, I’m not hopeful he will change.

Steven Tyler was probably the most entertaining judge. I don’t know that he actually added a lot to the judging process, but his strange noises and odd phrases were more interesting than anything else going on in last night’s tenth season premiere. That was almost canceled out, though, by Tyler’s creepy uncle routine, in full swing last night as he ogled girls that weren’t even of legal age. Lowering the minimum age you can enter to 15 the same year Tyler was brought on board was not a good idea by any stretch of the imagination. It’s disturbing.

Jennifer Lopez was the most disappointing. I mean, despite my criticisms, Tyler and Jackson were pretty much exactly as I expected them to be. I saw J-Lo as this year’s wild card, figuring she would set the tone of the show from now on. She began by letting everyone through to Hollywood, with 51 ‘Golden Tickets’ given away last night. Starting with the very first girl, who made my ears ache, J-Lo let mediocre and downright bad singers slide right through. You know I’m right. The other two certainly can’t be expected to act as gatekeeper; it’s her job. She got a little better as the night wore on, but a huge improvement is needed quickly if she’s going to be any good. J-Lo: Please don’t be another Ellen, whom I adore, but could not bring herself to criticize nice people!

There are plenty of arguments to be made that the show is not about the judges, and much as I might disagree, I’m happy enough to examine another angle. Last night’s group did not show extraordinary talent, though plenty got through. Idol‘s new optimistic spirit surely contributed to that. There were a few I could see myself rooting for with some work, but fifteen hours after watching the episode, I can’t recall a single name. Not a good starting sign, as I can’t remember the last time that happened.

If I have to be completely honest, my favorite part of the early rounds is watching delusional people who think they have an amazing voice taken down a peg. With the current weak judging panel, that clearly won’t make good television anymore, which is my best guess as to why there were so few genuine stinkers last night. I assume it was because watching J-Lo wince, but say nice things, wasn’t all that much fun. Plenty of fans don’t live for the bad singers, but for the ones who do, Idol has lost them already.

I also found the opening, with all the explanations of new features for the show, boring. I was intrigued by Jimmy Lovine, and am curious how his mentoring will change later episodes. Other than introducing him, he wasn’t involved in the premiere, which makes sense. He can’t really start mentoring until he is provided with a group to work with. If nothing else, I’ll probably keep watching this season at least until I see what he brings to the table.

There was very little Ryan last night, disappointing, as he is the best personality left on the show. Where the heck was he? I heard his voice, but almost no comforting and chatting up the contestants.

Tonight will bring another round of hopeful auditions, and I will tune in as I have almost every week since season four, when I finally gave into the buzz and began watching, except for one year when all my favorites were gone long before the end. If you dare, do the same. You may not be able to too many more years. I fear the end is closer than the beginning. American Idol airs Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • arizona wonder

    This article is so right on!!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/rachael-pontillo/ Rachael Pontillo

    Totally agree. I am giving Idol one last chance this season, and if it doesn’t deliver I am done.

  • lin

    randy is the only one left who dares to speak his mind. without simon, i guess he finally has to do his part in cutting out the crappy singers. steven is just creepy and irritating when he tries to tell randy not to be so harsh.