Chuck Ross

Guest Blog: A Long Time ‘Idol’ Watcher Says that Show is Broken and Needs to be Fixed

May 27, 2010

This is a guest essay from one of the biggest fans of ‘American Idol" that I know; Judy Pollack, the managing editor at our sibling publication, Advertising Age, where I used to work once upon a time. For as long as I can recall, Judy has had a passion for "Idol."  Judy is based in New York City.

Memo to American Idol Producers:

Even 3,000 miles away, I can hear the gnashing of teeth over “American Idol” losing the vast viewership that Coke, Ford and others so covet. There’s fretting that those still watching are older and that the Idol voter base has bifurcated into two rabid factions that are skewing the results – teens and so-called cougars.

Given that, why in the world would you trot out a bunch of oldies-radio refugees for the all-important finale? There’s something seriously wrong when Bret Michaels commands the freshest, most-exciting moment of the program. Alice Cooper, Hall and Oates and Chicago all sounded as if they were out on leave from the rest home (Cooper at least still looked the part, I’ll give him that). And it’s downright sad when Michael Lynche out-sings Michael McDonald.

Now, I’m of the age to have appreciated these acts in their prime – hell, I even saw “Saturday Night Fever” in a movie theater. But if the idea is to revive “Idol,” bringing back the Bee Gees is not the way.

There were moments – Janet Jackson, Alanis Morissette and Christina Aguilera did the show proud. During their performances I almost regretted pulling my living room shades for fear of being seen watching. But for the most part, the show made we wonder if this is some sort of conspiracy to bury Idol post-Simon.

And speaking of Simon, what was with that I’ve-been-on-this-show-nine-years-and-all-I-got-was-this T-shirt sendoff? With Cowell being the best part of Idol all these years a far better farewell could have been devised – I mean, you had a whole season to put it together. Seeing Paula again was great and parading the former winners out was very touching, but it seemed oddly unfulfilling. Much of the blog chatter, in fact, isn’t about what was in the tribute but who wasn’t — David Cook and Adam Lambert.

What’s more, it seems like you aren’t even trying anymore. In past finales, there were some exciting matchups for the two last contestants. Pairing Glambert with Kiss was pure genius. And though I will bow to your decision this season to have Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze match their gravely tones with Joe Cocker, saddling Lee with Chicago – ‘cause he’s from the Windy City suburbs, get it? — was just plain insanity.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that there isn’t a lot of surprise anymore in who will win. I don’t want to take away from Lee’s talent – because he has it in spades – but as the years roll on it’s predictably the cute guy left standing in the confetti shower. Not that I have anything against cute guys, but it seems to me there’s less incentive for talented women to give Idol a shot.

And you wonder why last night’s preliminary rating is coming in the lowest since season one. Producers, I plead with you as an Idol fan: Please find a way to fix this. I really don’t want to have to watch ‘X Factor.’


  1. First thing that must be done is go to one vote per person and eliminate ballot box stuffing. Interesting poll of more than 3,000 Idol fans today showed that Crystal would have won handily with more than 60 percent of the vote under a one person one vote system. Obviously, she should have won. She was and is the much bigger talent.

  2. Amen

  3. It’s not a good show. That’s why the ratings suck.

  4. They didn’t ask Lambert, according to him, and Aiken and Hudson and Daughtry are probably too smart to appear in the line of losers. You are so right about the finale – and the themes were beyond lame this year. I love Ellen but thought she was a minus addition to the panel and Kara has been a total negative factor from day one. Too bad Piers Morgan is already taken…. They need somebody who is willing to go totally negative. I used to live in Britain – there are a lot of people like that there. Hint, hint……..

  5. Right on the money!!

  6. Lee was good. Crystal was better!

  7. The show needs to return to the 3 judge format. It has been a downhill ride since they added Kara as a 4th judge last year. When Paula left, there was no need to replace her. Instead, they added Ellen, another 4th judge. This just drags out and most of the critiques are repetitive – Kara repeats Ellen (and throws in that they were emotionally connected to the song of course), Ellen then repeats Randy.
    There is no need for so many judges. It just makes it more boring to watch.

  8. I wondered too about the “oldies” on the finale, and to me what it reinforced is that much of music today is just not that melodious – to find songs with great melodies you generally have to look back to the 1980’s. It’s sad what’s happened to music. Some singers and groups stay “young” by keeping making records, e.g. Rolling Stones. Re Lee vs Crystal – granted she’s more polished, etc., however, I’ve never liked her voice and I absolutely love Lee’s. I can’t wait for him to finish getting his confidence together, avoid singing flat, and he’ll be great! As for Simon’s replacement, I think the producers need to think who will make valid remarks and give us GOOD TV first and foremost. Who has a colorful personality and a music background?

  9. This journalist states “There’s fretting that those still watching are older”
    Well when Idol has weekly themes devoted to Frank Sinatra, Elvis, The Rolling Stone, and the Beatles, it is no wonder why viewership is skewing older.
    My favorite is when the judges tell the contestant that they didn’t make the song current when they are singing a song from 1940 by Sinatra. Unless Coke and Ford are targeting my grandparents, they might want to bail on Idol

  10. Yes.. Thanks.

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)