American Idol: 10 Bold, Completely Original, Randy Jackson-Free Fixes to Revive Season 13
Turn “The Green Mile” Episode into a Live Judges’ Draft Pick
Picture this: Instead of a pre-taped episode — the results of which will inevitably get spoiled weeks in advance — amp up the drama, and make the judges get truly invested in the process. Start with a pool of, say, 60 or 80 singers, then have each judge take a turn and — one at a time — choose their favorites to advance to the Top 40 live semifinals (accompanied by “best of” footage). I’d even advocate having a producer at the table, who could voice very real concerns during the draft process (i.e. “We don’t have enough country contenders!” or “Where are the hot guys?”) Viewers already know there’s interesting stuff happening behind the curtain, so why not throw the curtain away entirely?
Turn the Results Show into an Idol Thursday Concert Special
(With Roundtable Debate)
Let’s be real: No one enjoys watching Ryan Seacrest drag out a 60-second announcement over the course of 60 minutes. Which makes it unfathomable that the show doesn’t use its secret weapons — 12 seasons’ worth of fantastically talented alumni — to turn the Thursday telecast into must-see TV. By packing in five or six performances into the show — maybe two tracks from a “headliner” (i.e. Kelly or Carrie), one each from a pair of beloved indies (i.e. Allison or Melinda), and a surprise duet (how about Kris and Brooke?) — Idol could remind its audience of the show’s real-life stakes and genuine success in producing hitmakers. And in the midst of the music, why not plug in a roundtable discussion with label heads, Idol bloggers and former contestants who can debate the highs and lows of the previous night’s performances (and judging)?
Engage Viewers on Social Media With Full Disclosure About Weekly Themes and Song Choices
Instead of shrouding weekly themes in secrecy, why not announce them early — perhaps even weeks in advance — so contestants have plenty of time to research and discuss options with their fans? Bonus to the increased transparency: When producers announce the umpteenth edition of “Motown Night” and the Idolspehere responds with a collective groan, there’d even be time for a course correction.
Hire Melinda Doolittle and Adam Lambert as Mentors
Please, for the love of all that’s holy, NO ONE WANTS RANDY JACKSON BACK FOR SEASON 13! (Sorry for the all caps, but the idea of the Dawg’s return makes me feel like there’s an anvil on my chest.) Instead, why not hire Season 6 grad Melinda Doolittle (a master of pitch, phrasing and emotional connection) and Season 8’s Adam Lambert (a legendary risk taker and song selector), then show us candid footage — think Tim Gunn’s critiques on Project Runway — as the duo debates and cajoles and encourages the next generation of Angies and Candices and Lazaros through song selection, arrangement and staging. Bonus: Melinda and Adam are candid, charming and hilarious — something that Randy Jackson and Jimmy Iovine have never been (and never will be).
Designate Top 12 and Top 5 Weeks for Contestants’ Original Songs/Undiscovered Songs Selected by Contestants
In a post-Idol world, contestants will live or die (chart-wise) based on their ability to write, co-write or at a bare minimum carefully select great songs that bring out the best in their voices. Instead of making us all wait months after the competition to see which singers possess said skills, why not designate two weeks of the competition devoted to that exact process. And before anyone chimes in that America’s not interested in a week of uncharted, untested material, how do you explain the million-plus views of Angie Miller’s Hollywood Week performance of the self-penned “You Set Me Free”?
Ban Any Song That’s Ever Been Performed During Voting Rounds
Can you think of a more effective way to communicate to the viewing audience that Season 13 won’t just be a retread of the same threadbare themes and lazy interpretations? Plus: Guaranteeing our ears won’t ever again be subjected “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” is simply one more reason to tune in.
Lose the Cheesy Performance Backdrops
Little known fact: A baby bird is fed to a housecat every time a white dove flies across a screen while an Idol contestant sings “I Believe I Can Fly” or “Wind Beneath My Wings.” OK, I made that up. But someone somewhere somehow has to be able to improve on the chintzy, painfully literal, eye-repelling screens that have framed musical performances in recent seasons, right?
Require Total Honesty From the Judges’ Panel (and Be Ready to Cut ‘Em Loose if They Fail)
Instead of Fox executives barfing up some meaningless drivel about “chemistry” or “camaraderie” or “star power” when they eventually announce the Season 13 panel, I’d like chairman Kevin Reilly to say something like this: “Yes, we’re shelling out big bucks for big names, but more importantly, we’re shelling out big bucks because we expect the judges to pay close attention to performances, get really invested in the competition, and provide honest, succinct feedback each and every week. We’re not going to insult them by handing them scripts or overruling their taste and expertise. But on the flip side, we have designed our contracts so that we can promptly fire and replace any judge who falls into a pattern of offering meaningless drivel or attempts to be outrageous for the sole purpose of pulling focus to him- or herself.” Ultimately, wouldn’t that kind of candor be a bigger draw for Season 13 than any individual name the producers can cook up?
Eliminate “Bad” Auditions
Because this nonsense stopped being amusing about six years ago.
Get These Kids Some Real Fashion Help!
No more skin tight pants on the curvy chicks! No more pageant gowns! No more “palm-tree pattern” shirts with gold bowties! No more jeans with holes so big that a golden retriever could jump through ’em! Seriously, I’m not sure when the Idol wardrobe department shifted from improving contestants’ style to outright sabotaging it, but let’s hope a change is gonna come in Season 13.