5 Easy Ways to Spruce Up American Idol
You may not have noticed, but American Idol started a new season last week. If you're like most people, you apparently didn't watch, because the ratings are way down.
This could be for any number of reasons. Idol has been on the air for what feels like forever, with pretty much the same formula all these years; it hasn't produced any major stars in some time; and it has now lost most of its original judges' panel. Some critics are even saying it should just be canceled already, and have been since last season.
I might agree with that, but in the interest of entertainment, I think that the show should stay on. All it needs is a little sprucing up. What do most TV shows do when they get old and ratings go down? The best of them go batshit crazy. Remember some of those later-season Seinfeld episodes? The season of Roseanne where the family won the lottery?
Exactly. There is a way to fix American Idol, but the show would need to be willing to take some risks. If anyone from Fox is reading this (and why wouldn't they be?), I have a few good suggestions to save the show.
5. Add a New Asshole Ever since original judge Simon Cowell left the show, there's been a distinct gap of meanness. Cowell was the resident asshole, tearing people's singing voices apart in the rudest ways and getting away with it because Americans are intimidated by people with British accents who speak their minds.
Randy Jackson, the last remaining original judge, has tried to fill this void, but he's just not a big enough asshole. My suggestion? Get Steve Albini. I know it might be hard to get him, but normally he does just about anything anybody asks him to do and is willing to pay him for. As anyone knows, Albini has no internal filter, even criticizing critic-proof bands like the Pixies and Sonic Youth in the past. So stick him in there and watch the sparks fly.
Nicki Minaj shortly before strangling Mariah Carey.
4. Let All the Gossip Hang Out One of the big hooks of American Idol has always been the internal drama, but it's left off the air for the most part. You have to follow tabloids and gossip blogs to really get the dirt on the between-judges strife.
To be fair to the show, some of it is now spilling out between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. But clearly that's not good enough for viewers. They need to let it get really nuts. Just have the two fight bitterly in every episode. Let it come to blows and turn into Jerry Springer if you have to. Take some production cues from Jersey Shore and have the show revolve around a fight. That's a ratings winner.
3. Feature Less Music, More Drama You might call this one into question. Why feature less music? Why have less singing? Isn't that what the show's about? Yes and no. It is about that, ostensibly. But it doesn't have to be. If we've learned anything from MTV over the years, it's that reducing the music and adding more drama, even if music is right there in your name and supposed mission statement, actually makes more people watch.
Most people have pretty varied tastes and don't really want to hear all the vapid pop songs they normally have the contestants sing. We'd be excited to hear something like the Fall featured, but really, all we tune in for is the insults and the drama. Have 30 seconds of singing, five minutes of insult, and then ten minutes of the judges fighting and doing crazy things. That sells, apparently.
That guy on the right could be a stagehand...or an evil genius bent on destroying the entire world!
2. Add Fictional Storylines To some extent, American Idol already has a storyline. You get to hear the stories of the contestants and watch them come from rags to riches, winning each week against all the odds. That's exciting, but clearly that story is getting played out. So now you need to start coming up with better stories.
Unfortunately, contestants' life stories aren't all that interesting, especially after all these years. So grab some of those Fox writers who produced shows like House and 24 and put them to work! Have them come up with some really crazy shit and make the judges stars of their own fictionalized drama, foiling terrorist plots while judging people's singing. Have contestants come from Mars. Anything! When we're just making things up, we can literally go anywhere!
1. Sex, Sex, Sex (and Relationships) One of the biggest things American Idol has been lacking since its inception is a good love story. Sure, they had Kelly and Justin early on. They had that one guy that claimed he was sleeping with Paula Abdul. But the show has never had a couple who fans could get behind. It's never had a Sam and Diane or a Jim and Pam.
It's about time Idol got around to that. After all, every show needs two things: relationship drama and steamy sex scenes. It also needs an inevitable wedding episode and then a baby. These are formulas that have been proved to work with viewers.
I suggest Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban. That's just a recipe for turbulence and the exact kind of soap-opera, ratings-grabbing drama that will spice up American Idol once again for a whole new generation of fans.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.