Tuesday, March 15, 2011

American Idol 10: Why It's Working (Even Though It Shouldn't)

This really shouldn't have worked. Why is it working?!
America is currently experiencing the closest thing to a television miracle. A ten year-old reality show that saw its ratings hemorrhage in its last season is healing itself by making changes and running a tight ship. It overhauled its judging panel and got great talent to fill the ranks of the final rounds. It reinstated its former executive producer and its host suddenly learned how to host a reality show.

This... is the new American Idol!

Honestly, I left the show for dead after the last season. I didn't particularly care that Simon Cowell was leaving--he had appeared bored for the past two seasons. What I cared about was how the show couldn't end on time ever, the contestants were boring, they hid behind their instruments and none of them could seem to create watercooler moments. (The closest one contestant came was Siobhan Magnus with her lung capacity-defying scream on such songs as "Think" and the masterful "Paint It Black"--the fantastic Crystal Bowersox couldn't seem to create any buzz off of her run of fantastic performances.)

This summer, Idol chose to rehire formerly ejected executive producer Nigel Lythgoe (who, despite his penchant for big power ballads instead of musical ingenuity, runs a damn good show) and clear out the judging panel (with the exception of Randy Jackson, a bit of a stalwart on the panel). They hired Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler to fill out the panel and the show has been running swimmingly ever since. The auditions were good, the middle rounds were solid, and then the Top 24 week had three of the best-run episodes Idol has ever experienced. Not only that, but they uncovered some major talent: the old-fashioned belter Pia Toscano, the diva Jacob Lusk, the surprisingly sexy Casey Abrams and the Adam Lambert 2.0 James Durbin, among others.

In other words, the show got damn lucky.

Frankly, the show should be floundering right now. A whole new judging panel? An old executive producer who managed to tank his own show (So You Think You Can Dance) in the meantime? Drive-by semifinals that eliminated 11 contestants in one week? It all spells disaster, but when read aloud, it apparently sounds more like success. (It's like Raymond Luxury Yacht in Monty Python lore.)

The show will probably teeter on the line of success versus failure for a while, but if it can stay on the right side of the line, I think we're in for a really great season.

Are you guys watching the new season? What do you make of the new judges? This year's talent? Take it to the comments!

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