The fourteenth season of American Idol starts in about three weeks. We have been promised more seasoned contestants, more involved judges and (best thing from my perspective) fill-in judging from Adam Lambert for the New York auditions, since Keith Urban had to be with his family after his father-in-law died.
We also know that they had a “club” concert with the top 48 to see how they perform in front of an audience. That seems a huge number to me, so perhaps I read it wrong. But those aren’t the truly big changes. That’s the one of the basic tweaks they do every year. There are bigger changes.
The biggest one, the one that’s grabbed all the headlines, is that they have eliminated Results Night. After they whittle the contestants down to the top 10, they will only broadcast one night a week. Two other talent type shows have done this already – Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.
I don’t watch either but the impression I get is that the elimination from the previous week’s show/vote happens at the end of the episode, after everyone prepares and performs. This strikes me as the best way to do something essentially cruel. It would be much harder for the remaining people to perform well after losing someone. Meanwhile, they’d have the incentive to perform as well as possible to leave a good impression if it’s their last chance. If they retain the judges’ save, it might even keep them on the show.
In some ways, I’m looking forward to this. Even half hour result shows with performances are full of padding that make them boring to watch. This would be entirely eliminated. I also find the group performances occasionally hard to watch (although S8 tried very hard) and this will also be a relief.
On the other hand, I will miss the one saving grace of the result shows – the guest performances, especially from favorites of other seasons. For many fans, this could be their only chance to see people who, while doing fine, have not reached the superstar level. Or to see those who DID make the superstar level.
I missed that very much last year, when only three past contestants performed – Phillip Phillips, Candice Glover (previous year’s winner) and Chris Daughtry, who was also one of two non-winners to do a two-day workshop with the contestants. The other two former contestants who took part were Adam Lambert, who joined Chris in the workshop, but spent most of the season recording in Sweden, and season 7 winner David Cook, who came in as a very effective mentor, but also did not perform.
Instead, they had previously unknown performers, as chosen by the judges, plus the judges themselves. And Janelle Monae. And it didn’t feel right to me.
However, we also heard that, as has been standard since at least 2011, the performance show is a constant two hours. If they do things right (that is, as I want them to do it), they can manage SOME performances. Not the first two weeks of the live competition – ten and nine performances will fill the time, plus top 9 will have the elimination. But. Top 8 and Top 7 would have room for one guest, and Top 6 and Top 5 might even have room for two. If they use past Idols as mentors, as they have kinda hinted, this could even be fun. Top 4 should have two performances each by the contestants, which would leave room for one guest again. Top 3 would probably include the hometown visits plus two performances each. No time for guests, and Top 2 needs to focus on the remaining contestants. The next show, whether (as I hope) it’s the next night or the following week, would be the finale anyway.
For reasons I will get to soon, though, I hope it’s a blow out of a show.
Because there was another change, and this one HURTS.
American Idol has lost one of their biggest sponsors – Coca-Cola. AT&T is already gone, leaving Ford as their remaining sponsor. This is not going to make the network happy. This, plus steadily decline ratings, and the loss of the results show, seem to indicate that this will be the final season of American Idol. I’ve thought this before, and was wrong, but I’m going to predict that this will probably be the last season. Fourteen years is a good run. That their last two winners have done very poorly, that there were no break-out non-winners (such as Daughtry and Adam) and that their tour is doing increasingly worse – these are things to consider as well.
So, if this is the case, their final results show could be their series finale. If so, they need to celebrate fourteen years, the creation of dozens of careers in music and the arts and the discovery of several real stars, including some who could be described as superstars. Not to mention ruling television even today, with at least one child of Idol going strong.
They need to get their superstars, if possible, and their stars, and the ones who are earning livings on stages all over the world, back. They need to get Simon, Paula and, yes, Randy, back again, and Stephen Tyler. And Kara DioGuardi, and Ellen Degeneres. Maybe not a couple of divas I shall not name. 🙂 They need to make it spectacular. Idol deserves such an send-off.