Why a Reworked American Idol Won’t Work
The judges panel in turmoil, a shrinking talent pool, the music industry in flux: all are potential reasons for American Idol to rethink and retool its television franchise. There are signficant incentives for designing a fix to the Idol woes. Big money and bigger egos are at stake. Yet even if the judging troika found common ground, and a young Britney Spears presented herself at auditions, would that be enough to guarantee a future for the television show?
I contend that it would not be enough, and in support of that contention, I offer you Mr. Simon Cowell. Yes, I do mean that Simon Cowell, the ascerbic British judge with the limited wardrobe and bad haircut. His interest in music leans more to commercial potential than artistic merit, but Mr. Cowell understands business, and he understands human nature.
Simon cited boredom as one of his reasons for departing Idol, and frankly, we’re bored too. Every popular television show from Seinfeld to Friends to The Sopranos has a limited lifespan as the concept becomes too familiar and the characters predictable. Take for example the talent show Star Search. Star Search enjoyed a long run in syndication, generating winners and also rans from 1983 to 1995. The show introduced talent that still works the music industry today, including Mickey Mouse Club members Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. Yet despite the success of its alumni, the show ended, and a shortlived relaunch on CBS lasted only from 2003 to 2004. Enough is enough.
We share a national ennui, fueled by the ready availability of digital entertainment and our ever shortening attention spans. We are tweeters, not writers. We scan; we don’t read. To quote Jeff Goldblum’s character in The Big Chill, “Any article for People can be no longer than the average person can read while taking a crap.” We expect, even demand, myriad entertainment options, and we want those options now, albeit briefly.
That American Idol has held our attention this long is a testament to the original construct and staffing of the show. Waning interest is an expected outcome associated with longevity. While his taste in both clothing and music may be suspect, Simon Cowell has shown an uncanny ability to predict public sentiment and follow the money. His departure from the show signals an inevitable, although gradual decline to the end.
This essay is solely the opinion of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the view of the entire Taylorhicksnews on tap editorial staff.
Tomorrow on the blog: American Idol afterlife: a historical perspective
Thursday on the blog: Taylor Hicks National Tour: A Photo Essay