The New York Times has reported Ellen DeGeneres will be leaving American Idol. Ellen simply stated she didn’t feel like the show was a good fit. I have to agree. I followed the show last season and I was not happy with her as a judge. The viewership was down about 9% over the season and I don’t think it was entirely due to Ellen, but her awkwardness on the show certainly contributed.
This competition is serious to each of the contestants. Their career is on the line each week and each one has worked hard to deliver a sterling performance. The three other judges gave their honest opinion of the performance, the clothing, the talent. Week after week Ellen began each critique with a joke showcasing her wit, looking for the laugh, bringing the attention away from the performer and focusing it on herself. The jokes were funny, there is no doubt, but the show wasn’t about her. It was only when the laughter died down she give her real opinion. Her talent is amazing but this wasn’t the forum to showcase it. Since it was acknowledged she wasn’t an expert musically, she needed the wit but it just didn’t work.
The big question now is, as Ryan Seacrest would say: WHO WILL BE THE NEXT AMERICAN IDOL…Judge?
Simon Cowell also left the show, with great fanfare. He had been the show since the beginning and had announced his departure before the season started. It was not a surprise. That was the first vacancy. He was the knowledgeable judge, the one who really has a good instinct for talent and wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is. He was crisp and to the point with his judging, sometimes to the point of rudeness. He wasn’t afraid to be unpopular. He had nerves of steel. He was the man you loved to hate. He was the judge whose opinion meant everything.
With Ellen’s departure there are now two spots to fill. But do we really need two more judges? The show ran for seven seasons with three judges. In addition to Simon Cowell there was Randy Jackson, the trendy dude, the “with it” guy who colored the show with his slang and enthusiasm. Paula Abdul was the softie who made all the contestants feel warm and fuzzy when they didn’t do well and pointed out the good parts of their performance. Her ditsy personality and beauty contrasted with the two men and when Simon made fun of her, Randy jumped to her support and made it all better. It was a magic combination, the banter was a big part of the show. Then Paula started going all crazy and appearing drugged, she became unstable. Everyone held their breath as she meandered with her remarks, wondering if she could pull it together. Often she didn’t.
Kara Dioguardi, a fourth judge, was brought in for season 8. In my opinion, she was brought in because Paula was unstable. She had Simon’s toughness, Paula’s beauty and a good knowledge of music. She also added a new element of tension. After one season with the four judges, Paula was out, and Kara was in and Ellen was added. Ellen replaced Paula but contributed nothing except her layman’s opinion and her wit.
Season 10 is about to start and Paula is gone, Simon is gone and now Ellen is leaving. We are left with Kara, the female Simon and Randy, who is the same good ‘ol boy he has been all along. Both have good instincts and a great knowledge of music. The problem is, Kara still hasn’t won over the audience. She is not beloved like Paula.
It’s my opinion they should go back to three full time judges. Kara, Randy and hey, let’s bring back Paula. Tension between the two women could make The Housewives of New Jersey look like Romper Room. Randy would be Paula’s protector. Kara can hold her own, thank you.
Then each week, a guest judge could join them. A guest judge?
It’s not a new idea. While waiting for Ellen to be free to join the show in season nine, they brought in a guest judge for a few weeks. It was a great idea. It was fresh, it was different and it was fun. Part of the reason it was fun was because the portion of the show dealt with choosing the original contestants and so the guest judges were overwhelmed with really bad talent to judge. It was fun because we didn’t get tired of them. One week and they were out.
A guest judge for the regular season would have a different role. Instead of reacting to the outrageous, a guest judge would need to be knowledgeable and serious. I think former contestants could be brought back to fill this spot. Nostalgia coupled with absolute knowledge of how a contestant feels would give them an edge and make their opinion worthy.
Who can wait? The suspense is growing. The season premier will not be until winter of 2011 but the auditions are about to start. It will be fun to see how it all plays out.
So…good bye Ellen! So long and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
copyright Jeanne Baney, July 30, 2010