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The Conversation: Idol After Simon


Earlier this week, it was announced Fox will not name Simon Cowell’s replacement until the end of the current American Idol season. Amid plummeting ratings, the departure of the show’s most recognizable figure and competition from The X Factor next year, what does it need to do to stay relevant? This week’s panel of judges are Press writer Jaclyn Gallucci, editor Brad Pareso and Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Nelson.

Brad


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AI without Simon? I think nine seasons of quoting the man sums that idea up: Rubbish, some ghastly nightmare, karaoke. In truth, AI without Simon is karaoke—imitation of the real thing that pales in comparison.

Jaclyn

I totally agree. Trying to replace Simon is not possible, so it shouldn’t even be attempted. The only chance AI has of surviving that loss is not by finding someone to take his place, but by finding someone outrageous and entertaining in their own right—most importantly, someone who is actually qualified.

Michael

It feels hypothetical to me—like it can’t actually happen—but of course it will, and soon. Jaclyn, I agree, the producers have to find someone qualified. The show won’t benefit from another Ellen, or Randy, or Paula. But it also has to be someone charismatic, because while Kara is qualified, she can’t assume the role of total authority Simon has right now, and which he has had since the very first episode of Idol. Who can? I dunno—but I keep coming back to Adam Lambert as the optimum choice. He’s got a great musical vocabulary, he’s a proven Idol commodity, he’s funny, quick-witted and well-spoken, and as we saw when he acted as a mentor earlier this season, he’s not afraid of being critical.

Brad

There’s a lot of ways the show can go, but I think the better solution than replacing Simon is to restructure the entire panel. And I think that starts with scrapping everyone currently sitting on it. Randy’s tenure has never even been (*puts on cardigan, pastel-colored glasses and bizarre neckwear*) “aiiiiite,” Kara’s been boring since the Bikini Girl feud and Ellen tries too hard to compliment everyone like Paula did, but does nowhere near enough psychotropic drugs to have her appeal.

Jaclyn

I’d like to suggest—TV execs take note—America’s Got Talent nixed, The Hoff thrown in rehab, Howie Mandel sent back to Bobby’s World, Ellen back to daytime TV and Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan (AGT’s equivalent of Simon Cowell—accent, brutal honesty, charm and all) moved to the AI stage. Randy, Sharon, Kara, Piers. Bam.

Brad

When I read “Bam” I thought you were going to suggest Emeril Lagasse. Then that got me thinking: Look at the critique panels for cooking shows like Top Chef. It’s a hodgepodge of people that constantly circulates. One week I saw The Bravery (a band) reviewing grilled Slim Jims. I’m not saying we should get Padma Lakshmi to offer her assessment during ’60s week, and maybe for the massive Idol stage a concrete panel is necessary, but with the biggest change to the show happening in a matter of weeks, maybe that’s the shake-up it needs.

Michael

I like the idea of a total reboot. Frankly, the show is stale as it is, even with Simon. Of course, that presents two significant problems: (1) Idol is a monstrous earner for Fox, and while we might be comfortable suggesting aesthetic risks, to attempt them in reality could lead to viewers feeling disoriented, and thus leaving (“Well, I was tired of devoting two to three nights to Idol anyway…”), which would be tantamount to kamikaze-ing the golden goose. Also, (2) What will Simon’s new show, The X Factor, look like? The worst fate for Idol would be to immediately fall in the shadow of it, because that would pretty much cement the perception Idol was all about Simon, which would again lead to viewers fleeing, etc.

Brad

Well you’ve gotta think the minds behind The X Factor are trying to differentiate from Idol, and whatever that ends up manifesting itself as, it’s going to be not Idol. I think a huge improvement is hiding in your first point: Idol’s frequency. The show is a MASSIVE time sink; if you add up all the hours a season of AI, you’re looking at the equivalent of three seasons of any other show. Aside from Two and a Half Men (please don’t renew Charlie and spare us all) there isn’t a show on TV AI is three times better than.

Jaclyn

Yeah, the Idol time slot is getting excessive—and yet they still go over time almost every week, royally pissing off Glee fans who rely on DVR. Pretty soon Gleeks across America are going to organize, and Idol will be the least of our worries.

Michael

Well, structurally, it has to be at least two nights a week during the competition portion, right? Performances and results? I mean, if So You Think You Can Dance airs twice a week, you can rest assured Idol will continue to do the same. Unless, of course, ratings fall precipitously, and Fox can reap greater profits airing something else—in which case, anything can happen. But to restructure so substantially between now and January would be to admit defeat, I think, so whatever the new face of Idol looks like, you’ll see it two (or three) nights a week in 2011. Whether you’ll choose to watch it is another story entirely.

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