An Open Letter to the Producers of American Idol

Posted on May 21st, 2009 in American Idol,Commentary,Television by EngineerBoy

Dear American Idol Producers,

American Idol...Reborn?

American Idol...Reborn?

Sigh.  Another season has ended, albeit with a surprise ending (Kris Allen defeating Adam Lambert), but the finale wasn’t watched in my household.  Again.  We didn’t watch last year, either.  And although we watched most of the episodes this season, we still watched many fewer than last season.

Over the years there have been several consistent issues we have with the show which continue to drain our enthusiasm.  If you care to know them, here they are:

Issue #1: Obvious no-talents singing before the judges during tryouts
I can see you all huddled in your planning meetings, hoping to strike some more William Hung-like ratings gold by putting through idiots, freaks, sad losers, and people whose singing talent is measured in the negative range.  However, that schtick is old and played out and should be retired.  As the judges are so fond of saying, and what keeps me watching, is that this is a singing competition.  Having your screeners put through some croaking clown to sing before the judges is a ludicrous and transparent ploy, please stop it.

Issue #2: The endless, manufactured backstories
During tryouts, you pick supposedly interesting/appealing contestants and provide us with behind-the-scenes looks at their lives, toils, challenges, and troubles.  However, at this early stage these are anonymous singers, so the program would be much more interesting and lively, in our opinion, if you would simply stage the singing competition.  Now, when you get to Hollywood and start paring down the contestants to an identifiable bunch, we might like to learn a *little* something about them…but just a little.  The endless biographing and attempts to manufacture pathos and drama are irksome.

Issue #3: Kara DioGuardi
Who?  Why?  The best way to describe her is to paraphrase Shakespeare thusly:  “Kara is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets her hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.  Her’s is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  Kara did not have one moment that we saw this season that wasn’t useless, irritating, or both, or somewhere in between.  And don’t get us started on her “song”, which is addressed further down in this article.

Issue #4: Country week
Do you have to kowtow to that demographic?  Have you even stopped to consider how many viewers it drives away (like us) compared to how many it attracts for that one, single episode?  Country music is not what American Idol is about, period, so don’t try to put a pig behind the lipstick – it insults the fans of both kinds of music.

Issue #5: Golden Idol awards
Really?  Just shorten the damn show by 15 minutes.  Please?  Even 15 minutes of dead air would be preferable.

Issue #6: An even number of judges
This puts too much power in the hands of Lord Cowell.  Have three judges…or five judges…but not four.  Having Simon deciding ties also renders the new “Judge’s Save” useless, and makes it “Simon’s Save”.

Issue #7: Lip-synching
This is a singing competition.  If the guests can’t sing live, or the group can’t learn to sing together live, then skip it.  It taints the rest of the program to see such obvious lip-synching by the guests and during the group songs.  It would be like having a slam-dunk competition in basketball, and inviting revered, retired players to perform, but then having to lower the backboard and/or provide them with a springboard in order to actually dunk.  It’s demeaning to the performers and insulting to the viewers, so please stop it.

Issue #8: The horrible finale song
This is the worst issue of all.  When each new season starts, we already start dreading having to sit through the inevitably atrocious, amateurish, pathetic, soulless, empty, fawning, shallow, superficial song that is written for the last show.  There hasn’t been a single one that wasn’t a horrific affront to all things musical.  And it is the absolute wrong note to strike at the end of American Idol.  Over the course of the season, contestants improve.  The bar gets raised each show.  The songs and themes get better and better.  Tension builds.  Over the last two or three weeks each contestant has proven their worthiness, and each is a valid potential star.  They swing for the fences, and we all get swept along with them, big voices and big talents tackling big songs, the skill and expertise are awe-inspiring, the artistry is soul-enriching.  Until…like the giant, wet fart of an incontinent walrus….bbrrrppfppfppptttthhhh…that lame-ass final song.  *That’s* what we’ve been building up to?  A crappy and trite slice of pabulum not even fit for the discount bin?  Please, in the name of all humanity, please stop torturing us with this horrific ending.  Please.

I see today that the finale had all-time low ratings, and I can’t say that I’m surprised.  Listen, Idol Producers, your show is still solid.  You don’t need to do more non-singing-related bullshit, you need to do less.  Strip it down to a singing competition.  If you want to add something to it, make it about the singing and performing.  How about a jury night in Hollywood?  Bring in nine additional musical noteworthies/legends, make Simon the foreman, and have the jury decide on the final 24, or something like that? 

Make sure that the entire focus of the show is on the quality of the singers and of the songs.  Go back to the original three judges: Simon Cowell, Paul Abdul, and Randy Jackson.  If you end up having to make changes, please pick people who will be interesting and relevant, unlike Kara, who is neither.  And keep Ryan Seacrest, he continues to be an affable and unflappable host, the circus master who always seems to strike the correct note.

You have a great product, but it’s like you’ve taken a classic Rolls-Royce and tricked it out with fiberglass effects, tinted windows, neon running lights, and subwoofer in the trunk.  Strip away the cheap bling and flashy trash, and be what you are – a pure and classic singing competition.

3 Responses to 'An Open Letter to the Producers of American Idol'

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  1. Dan said,

    on May 21st, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Being from London, i hope i can be impartial in this matter.

    I dont normally watch these kind of shows but …. the finale was the best thing ive seen for a long time.

  2. EngineerBoy said,

    on May 21st, 2009 at 10:39 pm


    I’ve heard good things about the finale, but haven’t yet watched it. We have it saved and may watch it later. The combination of The Black-Eyed Peas, Santana, KISS, Steve Martin, Jason Mraz, Queen Latifah, Rod Stewart, Cyndi Lauper and more sounds intruiging, to say the least!

    Note that the blog post above wasn’t intended to be about the quality of the finale, it was intended to convey that our household of loyal Idol watchers couldn’t bring ourselves to watch the finale after the disappointments of this season, and particularly after the terrible new “song” that they both had to sing Tuesday night. It wasn’t exactly a conscious boycott, more like us admitting that the negatives of Idol are finally outweighing the positives for us.

    However, my guess is that we’ll watch the finale in the next few days, it sounds too good to pass up – thanks for the feedback!


  3. EngineerBoy said,

    on May 23rd, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Okay, we finally watched the finale, and it was pretty damn good. That execrable “song” (No Boundaries) was again sung to end the show – and it rang even hollow-er after the string of great music that preceded it. However, all things considered, the finale was really, really good.

    I think Queen may have found their new lead singer in Adam Lambert – he fits their ouvre to a T, and has one of the few voices that can do justice to the exquisite standard set by the late Freddie Mercury.

    And how refreshing to have a simple, beautiful Bluegrass song performed on the show, with Steve Martin (yes, *that* Steve Martin) on the banjo. Every time I think I have the Idol producers pegged as completely soul-less, they do something like this.

    I’ll tell you, if you remove the Golden Idols and the horrible “song” (No Boundaries), this finale approched transcendent greatness. Almost…but not quite…but very, very close.

    Nevertheless, staging an enjoyable finale does *not* give the Idol producers a reprieve from the overall tepidity of this season, in my opinion. The things that were enjoyable about the finale were the parts that had to do with great songs, great singers, and great performances. Do that, or at least strive for it, during the regular season. Great talent makes great shows, not “great” gimmicks.

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