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.


The week in review – Bud Selig, speeding tickets without radar, Idol winner’s debut

4 06 2010

Today, I’m going to try something different. There has been so much going on, I’m going to comment on a few of the news items that have popped up in the last few days.

1) Bud Selig refuses to overturn ump’s call that cost pitcher a perfect game.

For those of you who aren’t big sports fans, here’s the situation. With two outs in the ninth inning of a game Wednesday night between the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers, Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga was throwing a perfect game. That means no batter for the Indians had reached base by getting a hit, walk or error. The 27th and what should-have-been-final batter for the Indians was Jason Arnold. Arnold hit a grounder to the right side of the infield that was fielded by first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who tossed to Galarraga covering first base. At first glance, it appeared that the throw had easily beaten Arnold to the base, giving Galarraga a perfect game. But seconds later, first base umpire Jim Joyce emphatically signaled that Arnold was safe. Galarraga proceeded to retire the next batter, finishing the game with an unofficial 28-out perfect game, and an official one-hit shutout. Immediately after the game, Joyce admitted that he had blown the call and the game should have ended with Galarraga having a perfect game.

Some have called for Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to overturn Joyce’s call and officially give Galarraga a perfect game. As much as I feel Galarraga’s pain at being robbed of his place in history, I don’t think Selig should step in at this point and change the end of the game. Baseball does not have instant replay for those type of plays, so the umpire’s call is all they have to go on. For the commissioner to step in now would detract from the game. The game is based on thousands of human judgement calls. Balls and strikes. Safe or out. If baseball wants to change the rules to allow instant replay for similar plays in the future, then they should do that. But nothing can change how the game ended now.

I applaud Joyce for coming forward and apologizing. He has been a class act all the way. Galarraga also has been very classy in his handling. And while Selig’s decision may not be popular, I think he has done the best he could given the circumstances.

2) Supreme Court ruling allows Ohio officers to guess your speed.

 According to a recent Supreme Court ruling, police officers in Ohio can now use their own educated guesses to issue speeding tickets. Even more surprising, those guesses will hold up in court. The Supreme Court’s ruling allows an officer’s speed estimate only if the officer is trained by the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy (or a similar academy) and has experience gauging speeds.

This seems ludicrous. In the past, officers could stop based on a guess, most courts required more proof than that if the ticket was challenged. Now, no radar reading or comparing speeds is necessary. Just a guess.

How can you argue with a guess? What if I have my cruise control set on 60 in a 55 mph zone, and a cop stops me for speeding? In the past, at least if you were given a ticket based on a radar gun reading, you felt like you probably deserved it. But now, a cop can stop anyone and all the courts can do is trust that he is accurate in his guess. And honest. What if, let’s just say for an example, I have a personal disagreement with a police officer. Then a week or so later, he sees me drive past him while he is on duty and he decides to pull me over and give me a speeding ticket. How could I possibly fight that?

I’m not saying all police officers are dishonest, untrustworthy individuals. But in any occupation, you will find people who are. So statistically speaking, it stands to reason that there are some officers who would hold a grudge and abuse their authority in such a manner as I described above.

Our courts are supposed to protect us, from each other but also from the government overstepping its bounds. Speed limits are in place to keep the roads safer. Lower speeds usually equate to safer roads. So letting police enforce those laws is a good thing. However, our system of justice is also based on evidence and due process. How can there be any due process when the only evidence is a subjective ruling made in the mind of an individual police officer? This is “evidence” that cannot be examined by a defense attorney or subjected to further tests.

This ruling seems to go against everything our country is supposed to stand for. I guess it’s just one more step down the slippery slope of eroding freedom.

3) Latest American Idol debuts to less than stellar numbers.

Last week, Lee DeWyze was named the 9th winner of  “American Idol,” much to the surprise of most of America. Ohio native Crystal Bowersox was the odds-on favorite to take the crown. However, the former paint salesman from Illinois apparently received more votes and is the current American Idol. But the glitter already is starting to fade off his crown.

According to numbers released Thursday by SoundScan, his debut single  (a cover of U2’s “Beautiful Day”) had only 95,000 downloads, good for 12th place on this week’s digital charts. Compare this with the numbers from the last two “Idol” winners.

Last year’s “American Idol” winner, Kris Allen, sold 134,00 digital downloads of the original song “No Boundaries” in its first week, entering at No.4. The 2008 champion, David Cook, moved 236,000 downloads and grabbed the No.1 digital spot with his single “The Time of My Life”, Billboard said. 

This dismal news follows the lowest-rated season finale for “Idol” since 2002. Nielsen data showed 24.2 million people tuned in for the finale. For the season, “Idol” lost 9 percent of its audience from 2009, but it remained the most-watched show on TV.

A few weeks ago, I said in my blog that the powers-that-be at “American Idol” should consider putting the show to sleep. This is just more evidence that the show is fading in its influence and its ability to create stars.

RIP “American Idol” 2002-2010

6 05 2010

Friends, Romans, countrymen. Lend me your ears. I come to bury “American Idol,” not to praise it.

While “American Idol” technically is still alive, the “parents” of the show would be wise to think long and hard about how much longer the show should live. Its heartbeat is slowing and its luster is fading.

Last night’s episode (May 5) was the lowest rated episode of the show since its inaugural season in 2002. The Fox reality competition show was viewed by “only” 17.1 million viewers, the lowest number since Aug. 27, 2002. Most shows would kill to get 17.1 million viewers. But for one of the benchmark shows for the Fox network, that number was just one sign that the show is on its way out. The powers-that-be should let the show die with dignity, rather than trying to milk it for all its worth until it is left as nothing but a shell of its once great self.

Personally, I am so apathetic about this season, I can barely muster up enough interest to even write this blog post encouraging the end of the show. Most years, there are 4 or 5 contestants who I am excited to hear what their CD sounds like. This year, front-runner Crystal Bowersox (from Ohio) is the only one who seems like a real artist. No matter what genre of song they have thrown at her, she has found a way to stand out with her performances.

And with Simon Cowell on his way out to start the American version of “X Factor,”there will be even one less reason to tune in next season. His honest, to-the-point assessments of each wide-eyed, starstruck hopeful contestant make him the object of many “boos” from the audience. But he is just being direct and telling the contestants what they need to hear, not holding their hands and stroking their egos. Without him, the show will lose its heart and soul.

But before “Idol” breathes its last breath, let’s remember the show as it was.

“American Idol” was brought into this world on June 11, 2002 by Simon Fuller. From the beginning, “American Idol”  tapped into something in the American psyche like no other show currently on TV. Millions of Americans dream of being the next Michael Jackson, the next Madonna or the next Shania Twain, and this show gave the average American the chance to literally have their voices heard.

I didn’t start watching “Idol” until Season 3 in 2004. But for the next six seasons, it was “must-see” TV for me. When I was working nights at the newspaper, I would tape (yes, tape. Remember VCRs? LOL) the episodes and watch them the next day. I was invested in the contestants and had to see who’s dream of superstardom was going to come to an abrupt end based on the whims of the viewing and voting public. Two of my favorite artists had their start on “Idol”: Chris Daughtry and David Cook.

While some have accused the show of ruining the music business, you have to admit that at least a few of the contestants have certainly been deserving of the stardom “Idol” has brought them. Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry certainly have proven they have star power and just needed the right platform to put them over the top. Other contestants, such as Sanjaya Malakar, have inexplicably made it much farther than they should have because Americans are easily swayed by a cute face and personality. This is supposed to be a singing competition, after all. But too often appearance and personality have won out over actual talent. Nonetheless, there is quite a legacy left behind by “Idol.”

“American Idol” is survived by winners Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Carrie Underwood, Fantasia Barrino, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and Kris Allen; other famous show alumnus, Chris Daughtry, Clay Aiken, Kellie Pickler, David Archuleta, Adam Lambert and Jennifer Hudson. Also surviving are judges Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson and Ellen DeGeneres; former judge, Paula Abdul; and host, Ryan Seacrest.

“Idol” was preceded in death by the scores of talentless finalists who have since faded back into the obscurity from which they came and former host, Brian Dunkleman, who decided to leave the show after Season 1. What was he thinking? Have any of you actually heard of him? He could be as big as Ryan Seacrest but instead he is nothing but the answer to a trivia question.

Funeral services will be held at a later date once the show is officially declared dead.

Fox asks that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Former American Idol Contestant Charity Fund.

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