American Idol Returns Wednesday: Six Ways We'd Improve Season 10!

The premiere of American Idol‘s hotly anticipated/anxiety-inducing tenth season is only a day away, and like a contestant on Bridalplasty, the show will be debuting a radically different face when its veil gets lifted this Wednesday at 8/7c.

It remains to be seen whether or not all the widely reported changes will ultimately reinvigorate or eviscerate Fox’s veteran ratings juggernaut, but regardless, I’ve got a little extra advice that I think will boost the chances that 2011 will be remembered as the year Idol got its groove back. Without further ado…

Keep a vat of Nickelodeon Slime™ perched above Randy Jackson‘s head during all live telecasts | If, after 15 seconds, he fails to start forming a coherent sentence or offer some kind of tangible feedback — and instead of opting for some variation on “Yo, yo, yo, Dawg, what’s goin’ down? Interesting song choice for you…” — pull the cord and douse him in so much green sludge. Seriously! Dude has made millions of dollars over nine seasons and still hasn’t learned how to get to the point. It’s time to replace the carrot with the stick.

Force Jennifer Lopez to spend 30 minutes before every show watching a highlight reel of Simon Cowell’s best critiques (and Ellen DeGeneres’ worst) | Look, early reports indicate J.Lo might be assuming the role of tough-but-caring den mother to the latest crop of contestants, but there’s a tremendous difference between judging the audition rounds (where experienced editors can make you look fantastic) and offering honest, succinct, and funny feedback in front of a live audience. If J.Lo wants to win over the Idol audience and regain pop-culture relevance, she needs to remember it’s her job to sway the public toward the next generation of Jennifer Hudsons and away from anyone resembling John Stevens or Jasmine Trias. That means she has to value brutal honesty above all else — including her ability to be seen as likeable and her desire to distribute gold stars to everyone. Yes, outspoken female celebrities always pay a higher price in the court of public opinion than their male counterparts, but I suspect Lopez will be able to brush off a few “rhymes with witch” criticisms if her own brand of tough love makes her the most popular judge on the nation’s most popular show. Heck, that sure sounds like a better fate than spending the next 10 months coming up with dishonest variations on the word “great” to describe Andrew Garcia-level performances, no?

Let Steven Tyler be the wacky one, but for the love of Katie Stevens, not the dirty one | Look, I’m no prude, but with Idol lowering the minimum contestant age this season to 15, I think it’s safe to say we can do without sexually charged banter behind the judges’ table — especially if it’s coming from an aging rock star with a penchant for floppy hats. (Shudder.) As far as I’m concerned, what happens at an Aerosmith concert stays at an Aerosmith concert, but a little discretion during TV’s family hour wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Give Ryan Seacrest a remedial course in conducting contestant interviews | No disrespect intended: Watch five minutes of Skating With the Stars or Live to Dance, and it’s obvious Seacrest is one of the best in the business at keeping a live telecast chugging right along. But in season 9, Ryan’s results-night interview segments with the Idol finalists were absolutely brutal. I mean, it was uncomfortable seeing Casey James sheepishly address the “cougar Kara” question once, but having him do it for 10 straight weeks was just downright sadistic.

Nigel Lythgoe, remember there’s a big difference between contestants’ life stories and contestants’ sob stories | In other words, if the judges discover an adorable Oklahoma farm girl with killer pipes, or a shy pharmacy clerk with unbelievable soul, we’re more than happy if your cameras follow them home and help us get to know ’em better. But Idol‘s audition rounds shouldn’t resemble a highlight reel for Oprah’s Angel Network — or worse yet, a disaster relief telethon.

Cécile Frot-Coutaz, get started on a Banned Songs List | I know, I know…the show is reportedly enlisting A-list music producers to occasionally guide the contestants through the perilous waters of choosing and arranging their numbers, but as long as singers like Paige Miles are drawn to songs like “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now),” nothing should be left to chance.

Are you excited about tomorrow night’s Idol premiere? Do you give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to my proposed changes? And what tweaks would you make to the show if you ran the universe Fox? Sound off below, and to get up-to-the-minute alerts of all my Idol recaps, interviews, and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Michael Sacal says:

    Due, what about Idolatry? That makes watching Idol fun. Is that coming here now?

  2. Jenny says:

    Oh yes! Please bring Idolotry here. Sometimes I would just skip the whole week of Idol and only watch Idolotry. Please, please, please.

    Also: yes to the slime.

  3. Sebastian says:

    Tweaks that I would make if I ran Fox… Cancel Kitchen Nightmares or some other reality show and bring back Firefly!

    • Tvfanatically says:

      @Sebastian, I totally agree! Get rid of the stupid shows nobody watches and bring back great shows like Firefly . . . But wait until Nathan Fillion is done with Castle. Firefly wouldn’t be the same without him.

  4. Sabrina says:

    Soooo, happy to see you again Michael!! I would one up the slime and say that they should fine any judge $1000 for every use of “dawg”, “great”, “pitchy” or anything resembling an un-necessary wardrobe critique.

  5. Dave says:

    I have one good way to improve American Idol – cancel it.

  6. Isaac says:

    I will be very distraught if there is no Idoltry anymore. Hands down the best thing about AI last season. I eagerly awaited Michael and Co.’s thrashings every week.

  7. J says:

    I only wish you DID control the universe…er I mean Fox. Brilliant.

  8. GusRandall says:

    I believe it very likely that I will not finish this year of Idol. While the last few years have found a couple amazing artists (Cook, Lambert, Bowersox), the majority of the contestants have not been close to watchable. I don’t have hopes for the new judges. I don’t believe that the producers can make the show relevant once again. I would, however, watch Idolotry or Idol-lines or whatever you call it here if it is as much fun a the old one.

  9. Bobbi says:

    Most definitely looking forward to Idol coming back. It will be fun just because there are changes. We’re not sure what to expect and that adds excitement.

    Most definitely agree with you about your suggestions, although I’d prefer another way of keeping Randy on track. I particularly want the sexual banter between the judges/host or with the contestants to vanish. That has no place on this show, which is one of the few legitimate family viewing experiences left on TV.

    Hoping for Idol to really come back and capture some of what it has lost.

    • Babblonia says:

      The big problem was the fake-gay bantering between Ryan and Simon. I am NOT anti-gay AT ALL, but that stuff was getting really old.

  10. WildCat says:

    Love ya Michael, but you missed the most important item of all. Put through only contestants with genuine talent … absolutely no fodder (see Garcia, Andrew or any other # of contestants from S9). Contestants who have no business being there, shouldn’t be.

  11. Rita says:

    There you are Michael S.? I wondered where you had gone as your absentia on was noticed by moi..although I am not sure about AI,we shall see I am just hoping that we see more performers like David Cook, Adam Lambert etc.

  12. Stacy says:

    I’m an idol addict, so I’ll be watching. but Idolaty won’t be the same without Kristen Baldwin and Jason’s hilarious edits. SAVE THE rOCKEr!

  13. Brock says:

    I SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO agree with that comment about Randy. It’s sad he had a year left on his contract, otherwise, I’d have booted him and kept Kara!

  14. Stacie( says:

    I hate when they show us a sob story and then show us the contestants at their home life because that ultimatley means that they were chosen to move on, At least 95-99% of the time. I can guess nearly everytime who is going to make it and who won’t based on their tape package, so I really hope that this changes.

    I agree that Ryan Seacrest has to learn to be less awkward with the contestants. Like, don’t make them cry(ala Didi Benami last season). Also he needs to step back into the host role and not let himself get carried away. Last season he was way to much into the show. He needs to take a page from Tom Bergeron. He adds a little something but knows his role is to get the contestants on and off the stage promptly.

    I hope this season rebounds, because I really believe it still hasn’t recovered since the Sanjaya season. Steven Tyler could be fun and I think J-LO is opinionated so maybe it will be a good combination. Only time will tell I guess.

  15. SDTim says:

    Don’t care as long as I’ve got Sleazak to read during the AI season! Glad you’re somewhere. I was SERIOUSLY bummed when I heard you’d left EW.

  16. ARKANGEL says:

    Until AI can figure out how to fix the voting process, the show will never be anything more than a popularity contest driven by tweenage girls. I’m over it.

  17. Babblonia says:

    SO GLAD TO SEE YOU back somewhere and looking forward to your commentary this spring.

  18. mcshame says:

    YAY!! Slezak is back! His writing is what got me to watch AI in the first place. All of your critiques are spot on and I, too, will sorely miss Idolatry.

  19. astral_monkey says:

    I second the Idolatry comments! I’m not a huge fan of idol, but I kept watching last season for two things – MamaSox and Idolatry.

    I also agree with ArkAngel, a mediocre male, eye-candy, artist will almost always win thanks to the tweenagers.

  20. CarolLeslie says:

    It’s a good list of improvements. Please add my name to the bring back Idolatry petition. I was completely addicted to it, having a very hard time trying to comtemplate Idol without a good Idolatry chaser.

  21. Daniel says:

    Woo Slez! Welcome to Ausholeville! Glad my 2 favorite former EW bloggers are together again. And yes … Idolotry. NAOW!

  22. Amy says:

    So glad I found you, Michael. I had a momentary panic attack when I read the announcement over at EW. Now you just need to hire Kristen Baldwin to reunite the Idolatry dream team!

  23. Anna says:

    Amen to every single point.

    And, oh no! What about Idolatry?!!

  24. Robyn says:

    a season of idol without idolatry is not worth watching!

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Right on, Arkangel. Until the voting process is changed, this show, and its contestants, will never gain any true validity. It is only a popularity contest decided by VOTERS, not VOTES. Why can’t the producers see this!!!

  26. Ellen says:

    The disastrous Season 9 spawned a winner and runner-up who are two of the most boring, under-talented, individuals ever to appear on Idol. No stage or performance personality whatsoever. If Season 10 can overcome this, and rejuvenate the show, kudos to the producers.

  27. IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

    Yay! Slezak’s back! With a new website! And to be honest, I’m really looking forward to the new season. I don’t care how good or bad the judges are, as long as there are people each week who come from nothing and sing and make (some of) us happy.
    And yes, I agree, we need Idolatry here!

  28. Katie says:

    Count me in among those who support the return of Idolatry! Last season, the only reason I kept watching Idol was so I could have some context for Idolatry webisodes.

  29. Carlito says:

    Slezak so glad I found you!!! You’re the best!!! Can’t wait to read your Idol recaps.

  30. Ghost of Kelly Clarkson says:

    Michael, your points are excellent, particularly the Steven Tyler and underaged girls comment. Will be interesting to see whether Randy can pull togehter a coherent sentence this season, and whether the producers can move away from the dead wife/homeless grandma/dad in prison stories and focus on TALENT in season 10. I’ll be watching tomorrow night and anxiously awaiting your Thursday morning recap. Love ya, Ghost

  31. Ladyhelix says:

    Ryan was also painfully awkward/embarrassing during season 8. It’s a problem for us and a bigger problem for the contestants. Re-watching SYTYCD eps this weekend made me realize how lucky those kids are to have Kat.

    Fingers crossed on backstory: remember – it wasn’t until the Top 10 week that we learned Legacy’s “You got served” back story and met his dad. I have high expectations Nigel.

  32. Bobby says:

    I’m giving it a chance this year, but the first sob story that comes along, I’m out. I hate that crap. Just let ’em sing and judge ’em. I don’t care if they’ve had to eat worms all their lives.

  33. Musicfan5 says:

    Please bring Idolatry back. Without Idolatry I won’t be watching American Idol.

  34. sbwm says:

    SO glad to find you! Did Jason Avanett (sp?) come with you? We need Idolatry and we need Jason!

  35. Malia says:

    Idolatry, please. Please sir, I am begging you. Idolatry.

  36. put the go in gokey says:

    I didnt read the article yet, but slezak, I’m sad. You had such a fun clique at the other place, I always pretended I was part of your group- annie, kristen, dawnie, jessica, missy, and the all important Jason…. WHAT WOULD ANOOP SAY? more importantly what would THE ROCKER SAY!?!?!?! As Jack once said—- We have to go back, Slezak, we have to go back!!! Something tells me the power of fantasia combined with Melinda wont even bring you back to EW……… now I’m on to bargaining, Ill get them to duet!! PLEASE JUST COME BACK!!!!! I will wander past Amalia restaurant until the end of eternity, and in the words of the Word Nerd–I’m looking for the magic rainbow on the horizon I couldn’t see it. Until I let go, gave in to love, watch all the bitterness burnnn, good luck slezak. We love you

    • put the go in gokey says:

      So i just looked around the site and realized that like you and ausillio like created this website, so I love it! less pain, just get Jason and baldwin and make some crazy good idolatry and we’ll be back on track….. I kinda cried while reading this article just because of nostalgia for a simpler time when all that worried us was Matt’s mole thing, and the pink in Alexis’s hair and Miss stank attitude herself. I love your random references it makes idol seem as imporatnt as whatever is on the front page of the times. ;) Id rather a world where idol is bigger than that stuff. anyways you make idol for me, so do as much reporting in all forms as you can, please!!

  37. BlingedUp says:

    Okay, Michael Slezak, I’ll follow wherever you go.

    I’m a little worried about this next season of Idol, but so happy to see that you’ll still be covering it.

    Will they be able to produce another season that sucks me in? Fingers crossed….

  38. Teresa says:

    Hi, Michael.

    So glad you are writing about Idol, but I have to join with everyone else in hoping some form of Idolatry will show up on this website.

    Is it even possible, or is it one of those Conan O’Brien things where you have to change it around to avoid getting sued? Would EW even bother if you did a video with Japanese Monster robots? Maybe Kristen-with-Glasses could become Kristen-with-Monocle?

    Can we bribe you with a replacement Paula Abdul record?

  39. Vivian says:

    I also had a panic attack when I went to EW and saw that you left…. Fortunate for me as I found you here. Yes, I am with the “bring back the Idolatry” train! It was the sole reason why I was watching American Idol last year. While you at it, please consider bring Realite back to life as well.

  40. Trish says:

    I was just over on your old site Michael and I am so happy to see you here. Now like everyone else, will you bring Idolatry here? Say it is so!!!!!!!!!

  41. Mel says:

    I think any changes or improvements is just re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic, for once Cowell’s X-Factor is aired –which has a
    far livelier format than Idol — Idol will probably become swiftly irrelevant.

  42. Jen says:


  43. Lisa says:

    I also was so sad to hear that you left EW. I was so disappointed to have to call my dad and tell him- since I used to watch Idolatry with him every week and made Idol so much more fun to watch! Please bring back a version of Idolatry! I will definitely be reading your recaps on this website! I’m so glad that I found you again!

  44. ThatBob says:

    The best thing they could do is limit voting so the singers’ fate wouldn’t be totally in the hands of texting tweens and jealous powerdialing middle aged women. Until they limit voting the winner will inevitably be another bland cuteish white boy whose first album bombs yet again like the last two winners. Unlimited text plans and DialIdol are killing the competition for any voter who isn’t willing to spend hours and hours voting.

  45. Monte says:

    I hope something/anything makes it better this year. Last season was just too hard. I made it ’til the bitter end when a guy who can’t sing on tune won. Just the worst year, ever. Two things got me through it: my unfounded belief that it had to get better and Slezak. Please hire Jason and get us some Idolatry (or whatever you can call it–if EW owns that name), especially if AI has another bad year. Always a JOY to read you, Slezak.

  46. carosgram says:

    Came here just because of you, Michael! I will not be watching AI this season and did not last either – can’t since Adam didn’t win. However, I love your commentary so I’ll be back to this site. Hope we get to see Kristen and Kristen with glasses at some point during this season.

  47. Ivana says:

    Please do some kind of video commentary here. I’m from Croatia. Whole world is waiting for new Idolatry. Do it!

  48. Amelia says:

    Slezak, please do a video recap (like Idolatry)! Your video recaps were 50% of what makes Idol worth watching for me – so much more entertaining than just a written recap.

  49. Yo Dude, That latest post was a little pitchy. Definitely not your best effort. As you know I am one of your biggest fans, but now you got to bring it every single time. America wants to see the real you…