Wednesday, January 19, 2011

'American Idol 10' starts tonight

Steven Tyler joins the 'Idol' judging panel
The tenth season of 'American Idol' kicks off at 8 p.m. tonight, so I suppose it's time to dust off this blog and begin pontificating about all things 'Idol.' Problem is, I am having trouble mustering up a whole lot of enthusiasm about the upcoming season. Sad, but true.

If you've been following me at all, you know that I've been watching 'Idol' since the middle of Season 1 and am pretty sure I've never missed an episode. I started writing about the show during Season 2 and have contributed to a number of different sites over the years. I've written five books about the show, been interviewed by various media outlets, and appeared on a Syracuse radio station during Season 3 as an 'Idol' commentator. I've met dozens of contestants and count a few as friends. In short, I've invested a lot of time and energy into this show over the past nine seasons.

So why am I so blase about this season? Maybe it's because Season 9 was such a huge flop. The performance shows lacked energy, the outcome was totally unsatisfying (Lee DeWyze? Really?), and the tour was such a fiasco they chopped nearly three weeks off it, canceling dates. They didn't even stop in Syracuse this year. Ultimately, the winner wasn't even able to sell 40K copies of his debut in the first week. Boring.

Don't expect the same old show this time around. Simon, Ellen, and Kara are gone, and in their place, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler (why?) and singer/dancer/actress/mother of twins, Jennifer Lopez. Simon they ain't. I'm not as worried about Lopez - I think she'll be a cross between Paula's ditziness and Kara's industry knowledge. Tyler is a different story. I'm expecting a lot of "Dudes" and nonsensical remarks. I have a hard time believing Steven Tyler is going to be able to relate to some scrawny 15-year-old boy.

Which leads to the next change. The age has been lowered to 15 this year, possibly in an attempt to discover another Justin Bieber-esque phenomenon. Yawn. Young teens normally don't do so well on this show (Jordin Sparks and David Archuleta being the exceptions). Remember Kevin Covais? John Stevens? Case made. Kids aren't ready for this level of competition. In addition, they have to attend school along with all their other 'Idol' duties. I just don't see the point.

What else? Nigel Lythgoe has returned and promise less artistry (e.g. people "hiding" behind guitars) and more diversity and variety. The show's music director,  Rickey Minor, left the show at the end of last season and according to what I've read, the new band, led by Ray Chew, won't be on the stage, but rather, hidden behind a screen or something. Not sure how that will play out.

Jimmy Iovine, chairman of the Interscope Geffen A&M Records group, will be the in-house mentor, which means no weekly celebrity mentor for the first time in several seasons. 

The finalists will be chosen in one semifinal performance show, whittling down from 20 to 12, or perhaps 14, or maybe 10. No one is entirely sure how that's going to work. I'll miss the semifinal performance shows. This also means more audition shows and more Hollywood.

And then there's the move to Wednesday/Thursday from the customary Tuesday/Wednesday spot. 'Idol' has always been Tuesday/Wednesday and I can't fathom why they moved it. I think they'll lose a lot of viewers Thursday with competition from strong network lineups. Tuesday was sort of a boring night and 'Idol' spiked it up a bit.

It all starts tonight with a two-hour audition show (8 p.m. on Fox). I'll watch, but don't expect much in the line of commentary! 

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