Open Mic

Why 'Idol' Is in Trouble

Chuck Ross Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:35 AM

Now that "American Idol" is down to its final 24 contestants it seems more clear than ever that the show could be headed into big trouble after this season.

Sarah Silverman recently said, as a viewer and fan of "Idol," what she's primarily interested in is hearing the contestants sing and then hearing what Simon Cowell has to say about them.

Watching last night's show (Tuesday, Feb. 23) only made one realize how right Silverman is with her observation.

I can whittle it down to one contestant's performance last night, and the judges reaction to it.

The contestant was Haeley Vaughn, an effervescent, bubbly, enthusiastic 16-year-old  who sang the early Beatle's classic "I Want To Hold Your Hand," accompanied by her own guitar playing.

After the performance, Kara went first, saying that Vaughn was all over the place musically, but that she likes the girl. Randy agreed, in mild criticism mixed with much praise.

Then came Ellen. She said she didn't know anything technically about music--referring to the critiques of Kara and Randy--and that as "Someone who just loves music, I enjoyed it."

Next came the truth-teller, Simon: "If I'm honest with you, I thought it was verging on terrible." As the boos mounted in the audience,  he continued, "It was a complete, utter mess. It wasn't very good." As the crescendo of boos peaked, Simon then said, "I'm only saying what you're thinking."

And, of course, as most times, he was indeed saying what we were thinking.

Up until last night, for much of 'Idol" this season, Simon appeared to have been disinterested and distant, seemingly already done with the show, knowing that this is his last season.

But last night he was back on his A-game.

Seeing that, along with the pronouncements of Miss "Gee, I don't know music, but I liked that," you can clearly see the huge challenges "Idol" has moving forward. 

First there was the choice of picking Ellen to join the weak Kara (she's just basically a clone of Randy without his wit, charm or smarts) on the judging panel. 

Yes, Ellen can deliver a good joke, as we've seen. And last night, after Simon's dose of truth about Haeley's performance she quipped, "If it was a mess, it was a hot mess," but her humorous quips don't generally add anything to the enjoyment of the show and just serve as a distraction. 

Ellen as a talk-show host? Absolutely! Ellen as the judge of a show trying to pick the next best comic? Stupendous! Ellen as a judge on 'Idol"? Stupefying.

So what it will come down to after this season is who replaces Simon. I cannot think of a more difficult casting decision.

For those of us who love 'Idol," as well as for those responsible for keeping the program going as the cash cow it is on the business side, there is no bigger decision the producers of the show and those at Fox will have to make regarding this show.

So far, with their choices of having Kara and Ellen join the judges table, I'd say they have two strikes against them. I'm hoping that they don't strike out.#