American Idol, Season 10, debuted last night.  What a dudfest.  Jennifer Lopez didn’t want to send anyone home or make any sort of interesting criticism or correction.  Steven Tyler leered at the women and made inappropriate comments to an — admittedly annoying and cloying — 16-year-old female contestant.  Randy Jackson was as dull as ever.  This is how American Idol begins its end.

What was missing most last night was, of course, The Simon Cowell Magic.  Yes, Simon stayed a year too long, but with him now gone, we certainly — and painfully — feel the hole he left behind that can never be filled.

Cowell could be mean and maddeningly British, but he was always spot-on in his criticism of what was wrong with each contestant.  If you listed to Simon’s criticism and appreciated his advice, he could actually make you a better singer.

Last night, we were fed a parade of talentless dullards and rehashed past contestants.

American Idol is now all about filling niches and finding very specific, but nutty, people to root for based solely on demographics, geography and appearance — without a single whit of real singing talent to be found anywhere.

Two examples from last night — the first and last contestants — made it clear where American Idol 10 plans to take us this year.

The first contestant was a woman who had been on the show before and was canned the first week in Hollywood.  She had zero personality then and now.  Her annoying voice was indistinguishable and unremarkable — yet she was pushed through in a “feel good moment” because of who she used to be and not because of who she is now.  It was shocking.  Simon Cowell never would’ve let melancholia shade the vision and purpose of finding the right talent for the program.

The second contestant ended the show.  He was from the Bronx.  He claimed to have lived in a homeless shelter with his family, but when they “revisited” his shelter it was just a public housing apartment complex — not in any way a homeless shelter.  His performance was so awful that Steven Tyler immediately asked him to sing another song — that was a clever move because when you mess up the melody for “Elanor Rigby” you really shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the room, let alone continue to to sing — but sing again he did.

The expressions on Randy’s and Jennifer’s faces during the second song attempt were stunning — because they were clearly sickened by the second song as much as they were by the first — but you could tell they’d been told by the producers that this kid was getting sent through because of his backstory, and not his talent, and they had to find something nice to say to give him the “show votes” to send him to Hollywood.

After two hours of watching Jennifer Lopez’s plastic face reflect the lights in her glittery eyeshadow and overpainted, varnished, lips, you could actually see, for a moment, her thinking to herself, “What sort of crapfest have I stepped myself into…” and then she came out of her human reality and fell back into a faux talent search and voted “yes” by acclamation — and American Idol 10 had its phony, feel-good, ending for episode one — while the rest of us feel just a little bit dirtier for wasting two hours of our lives watching a dudfest quickly gather the dust of what used to be.


  1. I couldn’t watch more than half an hour. I kept on waiting for them to step up and start rejecting the mediocre but it didn’t happen. I couldn’t believe they let that sobbing girl through.

  2. UPDATE:

    It looks like American Idol is still strong, but trending downward:

    The 10th season of American Idol premiered down 18% among adults 18-49, drawing a 9.7 rating compared to the 11.8 rating for last year’s Tuesday premiere. Idol’s 26.1 million average viewers was down 13% from last year’s premiere 29.945 million. That’s more than the 10-15% seasonal ratings decline that has been typical in recent seasons.

  3. Linda Holmes on the NPR blog Monkey See makes an excellent point :

    the biggest problem the show seems to have as it adds Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler to the panel (to replace Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi) is that what it has wound up lacks personality. It’s just a three-headed Randy Jackson with better hair and more hits.

    You might expect Tyler to be crazy, but he mostly emerges as a soft touch who tries to do a little “tell it like it is,” but not in a way that would make him seem genuinely mean. You might expect Lopez to be very glam or very chilly, but guess what? Soft touch. A little straight talk. Nothing that seems mean.

    That’s what I mean. They are all Randy Jackson.

    1. That’s a great quote.

      The producers were planning on dumping Randy, too, but then at the last moment they decided to keep him for continuity and transition. They should’ve started fresh over this year and recast the entire judging panel and sink or swim in the now and not what once was.

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