I’ve been meaning to write about the new season of American Idol, not because I want to praise or condemn it, but because I still have a few friends that watch it and sooner or later they’ll click over here and go, “Hey, what does that joker think of Idol? He hasn’t said yet.”
The correct answer is that I think of Idol almost not at all. I bought the Phillip Phillps record two years ago, and then last year I bought a Kelly Clarkson compilation because I’m too forgetful to go on iTunes and remember what songs my wife likes.
By the way, the answer is “People Like Us.” There are a few others that she goes between liking and tolerating, but even on Kelly’s “best” collection, there are songs she feels compelled to skip. That’s… that’s not really much of a recommendation of an artist, I guess.
When it comes down to it, about the only thing I do care about is the fact that I’m so, so, so sick of every journalist trying to figure out if this season is going to “save” Idol.
I’m bothered by this because Idol doesn’t actually need to be saved.
The argument goes, if you haven’t heard it, that the ratings are down. But the truth is, the ratings are down everywhere.
There are probably ten, maybe twenty big hits left on the various networks now, and most of them are bleeding off fans, season by season.
Idol is on season 13 now, and last Thursday, up against The Big Bang Theory, one of a handful of sure things, Idol had eleven and a half million viewers.
On Wednesday, up against weaker competition, the show does even better.
Now, there are other complications in there, I suppose. The judges are pulling in millions, I’m sure there are licensing fees, and this, that, and the other thing, but…
As I noted last year, we’re talking about 50 hours of programming. They’d have to produce four sitcoms, or two dramas, to fill the hole if Idol went away.
Considering the fact that Fox is now experimenting with skipping pilot season AND is slowly moving to the cable method of 13 episode seasons, I am 99.9% sure that Idol will make it to year 14, and roughly 90% sure it’ll hit year 15.
(Heck, I’ll take 75% sure on year 20. Fifty hours of programming is a MASSIVE amount of programming.)
Okay, moving on.
With all that said, it’s clear that the producers have been listening (To me? Sure. Why not?) and they have been making an effort to make the entire show suck less.
By this I mean: They got rid of the judges who seem incapable of judging. Mostly. J-Lo seems to have some kind of an issue with letting people who might be okay go through to Hollywood. I guess making people happy also makes for more fun TV, but all of those people are, inevitably, scrap-heaped the minute they get to Hollywood.
It would be much better to have 100 really great auditions move on than have 220 great-to-meh people move on.
(Of course, then they might have trouble filling those 50 hours…)
But the number of terrible auditions has been cut way down, which saves on most (though not all) of the auditions designed to mock actual people with feelings.
And the judges are also giving really good, honest advice. People aren’t always listening, granted, but the judges are trying, instead of talking in fake British accents and pointing and laughing.
And as I said on Twitter a few times, I would love to see Harry Connick Jr. and Ben Folds come together and produce a talk/music show.
What do I think of the talent?
Well, here’s my final issue with all these types of shows: I just don’t care about backstory.
I was about to type that this wasn’t entirely true, but you know what? It is!
Every year we spend HOURS hashing and rehashing the history of these people. They show film clips week after week detailing the heartbreaking/interesting folks we’re looking at, but really, who cares?
It’s supposed to be a singing competition. You know what I want to see? Singing! Instead, over the course of two hours, I get at most 2 minutes of 12 songs. That’s 24 minutes. Meanwhile, I’m also skipping over 36 minutes of commercials. There are 12 more minutes of Coke ads than there are of songs.
And that’s an at best scenario.
Of course, we haven’t gotten to the performances yet, so maybe they’ll cut out some of backstory and give us more music.
To follow the narrative of the journalists who follow this kind of thing, I don’t think there’s any saving of Idol.
I don’t think there’s any way to go back to the big-ratings heyday. I think this next year will find a few less Idol concerts.
What I think is possible at this point is maintaining what they’ve got, which is a hit show that fills 50 hours a week. And as long as they keep pleasant people in the seats and keep things fun, Idol will be around for a long time to come.
Oh, and one minor aside: When the singers come in with songs they wrote? And those songs are good? Why is NO ONE bringing them down to the studio, cutting those songs during Hollywood week, and getting them up on iTunes? Every year I hear at least two originals I really want to own, but can’t and never will because these people vanish into obscurity.
Do these people not like making money?