I’m sure hundreds of thousands of people are offering their suggestions on how to resurrect AMERICAN IDOL. So why listen to me? Simple. I produced AfterMASH.
IDOL is very much at a crossroads. Last year was a disaster and you’ve lost the only real reason to watch the show, Simon Cowell. Trust me, people don’t tune in to see the 30th heavily tatted boring belter from Arkansas with a baby out of wedlock and a dad in prison attempt to sing the theme from ALADIN.
First off, I applaud you. You’ve already taken two very bold but necessary steps – firing Kara Dioguardi (every guy’s ultimate nightmare blind date) and firing Ellen DeGeneres (Oh, right, she “resigned” because IDOL was occupying “too much of her time” – three whole hours a week). I’m not worried about either of them. Ellen can go back to hosting her daytime show (which she does with considerable charm and ease) and Kara can return to writing inspired song lyrics like this:
Ooh, ooh baby
Touch me and I come alive
I can feel you on my lips
I can feel you deep inside
Ooh, ooh baby
In your arm's I finally breathe
Wrap me up in all your love
That's the oxygen I need, yeah
So what you’re left with is Randy Jackson, and that’s like going off to do the MASH sequel with Father Mulcahy.
You can change the set, the format, lower the age requirement to 10, revise the voting procedure, have the kids do Kia commercials instead of Ford, order Ryan to come out of the closet, whatever you want – it’s not going to make a difference.
Who you hire as judges – THOSE are the most important decisions you will ever have to make. Everything else you can fix. But if you hire the wrong people, you’re dead. The audience will tune in initially out of curiosity. But it’s not like before where they’d stick around for half a season or more until you finally drive 'em away with Sinatra Week. If the new arrangement isn’t clicking, they’re gone. Jewel as guest mentor isn’t going to keep them.
You need real personalities. You need distinctive characters. Not just names. Not just celebrities. Number of number ones don't mean anything. Neither is having your own line of perfume. Be a star on MTV or QVC, not Fox.
The names I hear you’re interested in are Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. Now I’m willing to give them both a chance but honestly, I’m skeptical.
J-Lo? What exactly does she bring? Other than the fact that she’s a Scientologist so she’s a certified loon. Is she funny? Opinionated? Outrageous? What? From what I understand she’s the richest person of Latin American descent in Hollywood. That makes her qualified to judge THE APPRENTICE not AMERICAN IDOL. Yes, she’s versatile. She’s an actress and a singer. She’s slept with Puff Daddy and Ben Affleck. But the only time I’ve ever heard her speak is on red carpet arrival shows and when Sam Rubin and Kathy Ireland come off with more personality you reeeeeally gotta wonder.
And Steven Tyler from Aerosmith? Isn’t this just Ozzie Osbourne with slightly better diction?
Obviously I’m not on the inside. I don’t know who you’ve contacted and who has passed other than Howard Stern (I’d enjoy that but I worry he’d send ever tweener screaming back to the Disney Channel) and Elton John (who I think would be Captain FANTASTIC). I’m sure a lot of qualified candidates realize it’s a suicide mission. Good luck being prepared to Simon. Personally, I would consider Neil Patrick Harris and Harry Connick, Jr. Both were sensational as guest judges. But for all I know you did consider them and neither was interested. Oscar Levant would be another great choice but unfortunately he has a conflict. He’s dead.
I may be wrong and I hope I am because I loved AMERICAN IDOL when it was good. But I get the feeling with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler that you’re settling. And you can’t afford to. Not now. Not anymore. You can no longer survive missteps like Ellen and Kara. As Simon would say, “you have to nail it.” Otherwise, this year America is going to vote off YOU.