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Dear ABC: Ten Things We Want (or Don’t Want) on American Idol

It was announced on May 9th that ABC will indeed be reviving American Idol for a possible 2018 debut against Sunday Night Football and The Walking Dead.  If this schedule holds, that is a tall order for a show that was drowning on a Tuesday.  I do think with a few tweaks and the following helpful guidelines, it can be the darling it once was. Just maybe.

1-Kelly Clarkson. Permanent Judge. The End.

2-Get Ryan because he is the only part of American Idol that stayed good to the end.

3-Please for the love of all that is holy, get new songs cleared. If I hear the same playbook over and over again, I’ll scream. No more Celine Dion or Mariah Carey. Enough.

4-Tone down the production and the background singers and keep it real. I loved the early days when we just got to hear people sing. Now it seems like I hear background vocals more than the contestants. Just bring it down a little.

5-Make the judges useful. I tuned out judges’ comments most of the time because honestly, who cares? They just sway the votes one way or the other and cause turmoil. Half the time they weren’t honest and the rest of the time I wasn’t even sure if we were listening to the same performance. At least on The Voice the judges have some skin in the game, even though nary a negative comment passes through their lips.

6-Give us a little back story on the contestants. Not too much–don’t ram it down our throats–but enough to make us care about them a little. My mom never remembers anybody by name, but if I say the girl who lived in a trailer in New Orleans she remembers that! I don’t need to follow them home to Idol House or see any fighting or drama, I just want to know who they are and where they come from.

7-Don’t piss me off like The Voice and only let one half of the country vote for things. I don’t care if I have to wait a week to find out who goes home. None of this instant save business where one coast gets to decide the trajectory of the show. It makes the west coast feel small and unloved. Well, it makes me feel small and unloved. Just don’t do it.

8-Don’t make fun of the outlandish contestants. I can get just as mad at the judges for not picking a reasonably good singer as I can the eccentrics who waste their time thinking they are really good when they aren’t. I’m over making fun of them. Just give us a few “gasp, how could you not pick that person” moments and throw in a few older people making one last run at it and I’m good.

9-Keep the age limit for contestants over 18 so I can judge them honestly. I hate when these 12 and 13 year old kids get put through and aren’t ready for the spotlight. I don’t want Toddlers and Tiaras or any derivative thereof. I want to judge real, hardworking singers who have put in the time and deserve a grown-up shot at a record deal, for a record I might actually listen to.

10-Make the show about the singers not the judges. The last few years felt more like a parade of “look how big the celebrities on our panel are!” or how J-Lo looked while she watched the performances. See item #5 for how that made me feel. Bring back Idol Alum as much as possible because we love the feels and nostalgia. Otherwise, you’re reviving an old concept that, quite frankly, is almost played out.

I’m happy to see Idol get another shot, but the bar is going to be exceptionally high. I don’t think the faithful will put up with the same old shenanigans we did after Simon left. Keep it real, keep it nostalgic and bring in industry people that don’t creep us out (I won’t mention any names). Create another star like Kelly Clarkson, who we’ll never forget, not a temporary star like…uh, let’s say whoever won season 12?

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  1. Couldn’t agree more with point #5. After the initial rounds, the judges served no purpose beyond star appeal/banter. And once Simon left, the banter part went way, way downhill. Great list overall!

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