Happy 10th birthday “American Idol” – Hope I enjoy the party.

19 01 2011

“American Idol” returns for its 10th season, and while there will be many cosmetic changes, at its heart, the song remains the same. Last year, the runaway hit show began to show its first real signs of age. The show remained the No. 1 show for the 2009-10 season. However, the season finale drew in “only” 24 million viewers, the lowest numbers for the show since 2002. So this year, the producers got out their scalpels and decided to perform a little plastic surgery, hoping to make their show appealing again.

Steven Tyler, left, and Jennifer Lopez, center, join Randy Jackson as judges for season 10 of "American Idol."

Perhaps the biggest noticeable change will be the absence of the Man In Black – Simon Cowell. His often caustic but honest remarks toward the singer wanna-be’s became a huge selling point for the show. While the other judges danced around the reality of a singer’s lack of talent – Randy with his “mmmmm dawg, I don’t know” and Paula with her smiles and pleasant comments – Simon was the one with the guts to call a spade a spade. Some people thought he was mean, but I thought he was just what the show, and the delusional singers, needed. I certainly will miss him.

But he’s not the only judge from last season who you won’t see on Fox tonight. One-year resident Ellen DeGeneres jumped ship and Kara DioGuardi was shown the door after two years, leaving only Randy Jackson out of the three original judges. After many rumors and much Internet speculation, singer/actress Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler were announced to be joining The Dawg. Only time will tell, but I think these two should be good additions to the judge’s panel. They both obviously have tons of experience in the music business, and they both have larger-than-life personalities, so we shouldn’t have to worry about them being boring.

Also, with Simon Cowell gone, the producers brought on Jimmy Iovine as in-house mentor for the contestants. Iovine has nearly 40 years of experience in the music industry and is the chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M, lending a lot of credibility.

Other changes are largely procedural. This year, there will not be a forced even split between guys and girls. It will be the top talent making it through, regardless of gender. There also are unconfirmed rumors that changes will be made in Hollywood Week and how the finalists will be narrowed down. Apparently, the top 60 singers were flown to Las Vegas to perform on the same stage as the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show “Love.” Those 60 will be further whittled down before the semifinal round, when America finally gets to vote on who makes the finals.

No matter what changes the Powers That Be may have made with the judges and the nuts-and-bolts of how the contestants are chosen and advance to the finals, what this show really needs is some really awesome singers who can connect with the audience. Last season, there were no contestants that had the wow factor to make me tune in every week. No Chris Daughtry, no David Cook, no Adam Lambert even. Has anyone bought or downloaded the new CDs by last year’s final two, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersock?

I certainly will be tuning in tonight to see what happens with the new judges and to enjoy the annual line of clowns that get paraded before the judges for us to laugh at. After that, it will depend on the contestants that make it through to the finals. If none of them grab my attention, I may not tune in for the whole season.

So only time will tell if all these changes can give new life to “Idol” or if it is the show “jumping the shark” and just biding time until it dies. But for now, here’s hoping for a great 10th season of  “American Idol.” Happy birthday to you.

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