Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Fix American Idol (And Why They Won't)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about revamping American Idol, which would make a lot of sense if it was slowly tumbling to the bottom of the ratings.


But I guess TV pundits missed that it’s a top-ten TV show.  Actually, it’s in the top ten twice a week, every week, even this last season as the ratings started to fall a bit.


Now, granted, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to do better.  There’s more money in advertising for number one shows than there are for number five shows.


And yet?  And yet…


And yet I just don’t get it.


To date, three judges have quit from last season and two of the producers have either quit or been fired, I’m not sure which.


And blame is being passed around like cake at a party.  Maybe the judges were bad.  Maybe the producers weren’t on the ball.  Maybe the talent wasn’t all that talented.


But, look, I watched the same season everyone else watched, and I had the same complaints I’ve always had.


And the fixes I would recommend?  Fox isn’t going to implement them. 


Want to know why?  Because they would lose money.


Heck, this year, something happened that never happened before, and the judges didn’t use their save.  And the moment that happened, I turned to my wife and said, “No one is going home next week.”  When she asked why, I told her:


“Because Fox can’t afford to lose three hours of programming.”


And so it goes.  (I was totally right, and oddly enough they even admitted it on the air.  So strange.)


The fact of the matter is, so very much of American Idol is boring, time-wasting, or mean.  But it brings in cash for Fox, so they aren’t getting rid of it.


And that will ultimately doom the show.  Maybe not this year, maybe not the next, but a few years down the line.


So never mind that Fox won’t listen, let’s go ahead and talk about what would actually give the show the boost it needs, and maybe get it to year twenty instead of year fifteen.


Thing One:


That results show needs some serious fixing.  Or maybe they could just get rid of it?  But I doubt that’ll happen.


When it comes down to it, the results show is all about giving Fox an extra hour of programming.  You could literally announce who’s off the show in thirty seconds.  Ten, if they didn’t spread it out as: “The person… who is… going home… this week… unless they get that save… which was sponsored by Ford… which is nice of them… because it pays the bills…”


Heck, they could do the opening number on Idol on day one, then send someone home. Or they could announce who MIGHT go them, spend all two hours building suspense, waiting for the “loser” to sing that week’s number to see if they got the save.


Brutal?  Sure!  But it ups that excitement factor, methinks.


Or?  If there must be an extra hour of show, make it more of a party.  Instead of bringing in a bunch of old Idols that people mostly don’t care about, how about bringing in more ACTUAL famous people?  People who are NOT 


And for crying in a bucket, please get rid of the Ford commercials.  They’re barely tolerable at best and awful at worst, and if they’ve sold even a single Ford, I’d be shocked.


Thing Two:


We gotta cut down on judge time.  And other idle time, as well.


Long story short, the judges talk forever, don’t have much to say that isn’t mindless repetition or catchphrases, and after they do their initial selection… they need to cut them loose.  They’re a time-waster, pure and simple, dragging the show from one hour into two.


What could fill that time?  Weeeeeelllllll how about we let the singers perform entire three and four minute songs, instead of cutting them off at two minutes?  Right now, ten singers are performing for twenty minutes total each week.


The show is two hours.  Hack out 40 minutes for commercials, and 20 minutes for singing, and that means an entire hour is people talking.  Judges babbling.  Introductions and videos about the people singing, when all that really matters is, can they sing?


But if you give the singers a full four minutes, well, there’s 40 minutes right there.  Tack on an extra ten minutes for a group number and voting numbers at the end, and you can crunch the show into sixty minutes.  Even chopping out thirty minutes of fluff would go a long way towards making the show less agonizing.


It’s a singing show.  People want to see singing.  Not people talking about singing.


Thing Three


Cut the fluff in the early episodes, as well.


I’ll admit, some of the auditions made me laugh, but it was rarely at the singer’s expense.  I enjoyed it when someone came on just to mess with the judges, like the really loud heavy metal girl this year, or the comedian who showed up last year and offered to sing a song by James Buff-fay.


But watching people who clearly can’t sing come on and try?  Just for the sheer fun of humiliating them?




Shoot, I’ve had friends audition for the show, including one who got in front of the judges.  He didn’t make it to air simply because it was more fun to fill time with someone who clearly couldn’t sing at all?




The fact is, if they dropped a few (or, I would hope) all of those awful auditions, maybe a few more talented people could get on the air.  Maybe a few more careers could be born.


We only get one life.  Why spend it cutting people down on national TV?




I think it’s time to get rid of the “learn a group number in the middle of the night” portion of the show.  They drag it out, try to make it seem like it’s really important, but mostly it makes everyone look bad, and whether people are cut or survive takes on the air of total randomness.


What I’d love to see is people having a full week to put together those group numbers.  Even a few days would be wonderful, and they could, once again, air the ENTIRE result – ten or eleven groups performing their hearts out.


How fun would that be?


And maybe that’s the key thing.  Right now, the show has lost a lot of the fun that should be there. 


That’s what I’d like to see.  Less show.  More fun.


And all around, a much higher singing-to-babbling ratio.


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