Thursday, January 20, 2011

The debut of American Idol: Season 10


Losing Simon Cowell from American Idol was like losing Alan Alda from MASH.

AfterIDOL premiered last night on Fox. Randy Jackson is the only holdover from the original series. Reminds me of the final episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show where everyone was fired but Ted. So now you have Randy and the two new judges – Jennifer Lopez and Carly Simon.

Jennifer looked great. The years have not been kind to Carly.

AfterIDOL began the way its predecessor, American Idol, did – with open auditions. 10,000 delusional lost souls willing to travel thousands of miles and camp out for two nights just to be one of the select few humiliated on national television. At least before you had Simon to provide a voice of reason and sanity. Now you have a vacuous former movie star/former recording star and a walking cautionary tale to not do drugs/alcohol/glue/mushrooms/tobacco/cannabis/electric bananas/sleep deprivation for five weeks in a row.

Between the three there wasn’t one insightful comment. A worldwide search for new judges and these are who they chose??? I fear AfterIDOL will struggle in the ratings this year.

As opposed to the original American Idol, AfterIDOL apparently is a singing competition of 16-year-olds. I bet they all had Algebra 2 homework due. It was basically just the usual freak show but with braces. Insane girls, buffoons trying to dance, caterwaulers, pathetic grovelers, and foreigners who can hardly speak English were all served up for our ghoulish entertainment. They even had one poor guy who looked borderline Elephant Man, and he too was played for laughs.

But there were also tears; at least a desperate attempt to elicit them. AfterIDOL featured the obligatory cancer survivor story, homeless family story, and war refugee story. And lots and lots of crying. It didn’t matter whether people failed, succeeded, went to the vending machine for a Kit Kat – everyone wailed. The only home viewers I can see being moved by any of this schmaltz are the ones that cry over Olive Garden commercials.

There were some good singers. A few. We didn’t see many. Instead AfterIDOL introduced us to a guy who burped. There was one girl who is a singing waitress at Ellen’s Stardust Diner in Times Square. This is a very cool ‘50s-themed diner where all the waiters and waitresses take turns singing “Suddenly Seymour” while your order sits at the counter getting cold. She had talent as did the 16-year-old who videotapes everything she does and probably thinks she’s a cast member on Good Luck, Charlie on the Disney Channel.

American Idol used to be a rousing show. It was refreshing seeing young people try to realize their dreams. It was novel hearing a judge so completely candid. And it was….it was new. I’m not sure how often I’m going to review AfterIDOL. It’s no fun to sit through something that’s bad and repetitive. I hope it gets better. I know it’s not fair to write off a show based on one episode. I’ll check back in occasionally. But sequels are tough. Carly Simon deserves better.

29 comments:

Tom said...

Totally agree. Losing Simon was huge. He really was the show.

I guess I understand trying to replace him by going in a completely different direction. But the two replacements offered no direction at all. They actually made Ellen D. look like a good judge.

Had to turn it off about 30 minutes in. Can't imagine I'll have much interest in watching again.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you and would like to add, the judging seemed mean spirited. Simon was the star of the show and I waited to hear what he had to say. Now I don't care and I cringe when the trio opens its mouth. Reminded me of that alien that sucked the salt out of people on Star Trek and left circles.

Anonymous said...

At this point, is anyone moved to laughter by the bad singers, most of whom clearly know they are bad? Is anyone really thrilled by the site of seeing a technically gifted singer slaughter a song when they clearly have no idea what it is about?

My wife an I ditched idol several seasons ago because we found the audition process a snooze and the "talent" to be increasingly terrible.

Cameron Yarde said...

Ken, I think The X Factor will become your new guilty pleasure. Especially if it's like the UK version. Lots of judges fighting each other and using tactical voting to get their respective acts through. And it has Simon who whether people like him or not, is a huge presence on the show.

But others seemed to like it and it'll be interesting to see its ratings.

Kurt said...

Unfortunately you're falling for Simon's plan. He knew the show wouldn't do as well without him.

Now America will tune into the joke of a show that is The X Factor, even though 80% of it is faked/mimed/rigged. Unfortunately most of America are dumb, so they won't notice any of it.

The X Factor will be a success. You have no choice in the matter.

Cameron Yarde said...

This is exactly what will happen. The US will lap up The X Factor, personally I can't stand it and slap my forehead in disbelief each year at the general public that follow this programme.

But it will be a hit and become Fox's most popular show. You'll see.

Ron said...

Are you being deliberately facetious referring to Steven Tyler as Carly Simon?

Don said...

@Ron:

Yes.

Best stealth joke of the new year.

Jen said...

I kept flipping channels, Idol couldn't hold my interest.

Too many sob stories (I want to see good singing!) and I can't even laugh at the trainwreck bad singers anymore - they just make me sad. I see mental illness in some of these contestants, and pseudo-celebrities making fun of them, and it's just not entertaining.

I found Jennifer Lopez especially grating putting through mediocre singers just because she didn't want to be mean. Saying no is not meaning. Making them thinking they're half decent and sending them along with people who are, so they'll be let down even harder - that's mean.

Stupid show.

Jen said...

*Saying no is not MEAN.

That is what I meant. I'll blame early morning and only one cup of tea for that one.

Nathan said...

You've gone too far now, Ken! I happen to find Olive Garden Commercials extremely moving!

I demand a retraction!

Anonymous said...

I liked the show. Ellen was too stiff - Kara got on my last nerve so last year sucked monkey balls in my estimation. I expected a train wreck with Steven Tyler (who I like in Aerosmith) but he was entertaining. I'm not a J-lo fan but she wasn't making it all about her as much as I expected.

And - Simon Cowell is no Alan Alda.

Anonymous said...

I suspect if Simon was REALLY that great, the show would not have felt so compelled to 'frame' him with such lame-asses (although I've wondered if Randy might not actually be pretty sharp if the producers let him go off-character).

I think its probably a good thing the show hired actual pop/rock stars - although as I don't watch the show till the competition part starts, I don't really have an opinion yet.

Maryanne said...

have never seen american idol.

but am still laughing about the carly quip.
wouldn't it have been fitting to have had a contestant sing
'you're so vain?'

what is an interesting dynamic and this ties into your post about plastic surgery in hollywood:

jlo for the past two years has been campaigning to let the industry know that she's ready to work again.
everyone loves a good comeback story.
But the industry has changed so drastically, that
celebrities are cycled out faster today than ever before..is it the internet and media stauration 24/7?

while her movies were never academy award nominated...
there's something sad about a once been star trying to acheive the level they once held.
and it makes one wonder is it work or ego related?

sadder still when stars re-invent themselves with obvious botox etc..to stay employed.

maybe the new casting couches are to be found in the plastic surgeon's office.

Len said...

As a former Idol fan, I was skeptical. I DVRed the show so I could fast forward through the boring parts. In reality, I don't think I hit "play" more than twice. And, at a very fast speed, Steven Tyler looked amazingly like Melissa Rivers.

Diragor said...

I didn't watch much of it, I prefer to wait until later in the season when the talent ratio is a bit higher, but I thought Steven was kind of funny in the few bits I saw. It might be interesting to see if he really starts talking to the kids in the later rounds.

WizarDru said...

Ken,

found Idol boring. But that's not actually what I wanted to mention. I actually wanted to reference your post a few weeks back about 'The Last of Shiela'. Thanks to Netflix, I got a chance to watch it...and it was as good as you said it would be. Compelling, tight mystery that reminded me a lot of Agatha Christie, but with the biting satire of Hollywood mixed in for good measure.

Thanks for the heads-up on that one. What an under-appreciated gem.

Anonymous said...

I bet you think that Simon / Tyler gag was about you, Ken. What a high school-ish bit of humor. Bad blood, bud?

VP81955 said...

To me, the big TV news last night was the debut of season 2 of "Hot In Cleveland." Won't spoil the beginning for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, but it involves an old chum of Betty White's...playing a character Ken probably wishes he'd created for her.

Mike said...

I made that Carly Simon joke to my boyfriend watching Idol commercials a couple of weeks ago. (I said "Carly Simon looks horrible"; the funniest thing is that he didn't realize I was joking at first.) I say this only because it makes me proud that I'm making jokes like a professional. (Also, as a reminder that I should blog/Twitter my insights rather than sharing them just at home so I actually have proof of my minds thinking like a great one.)

I haven't watched Idol since the first season but I look forward to your recaps -- let's me feel like I'm in tune with pop culture by knowing about the #1 rated show without having to actually do it.

Janet T said...

Someone needs to tell Steven Tyler he's not the one auditioning so he can stop singing along, drumming, harmonizing etc.... Maybe he needs a little something to bring him down before show time. And this is all taped. Can you imagine what it will be like to try to reign him in on a live show?

BOB said...

It's definitely not the same show, but I watched because I was curious to see how they handled it.

Jennifer Lopez was a lot less of a diva than I expected. Actually came across as sincere, at times. Steven...ah, I mean Carly...seemed to be pushing the auditioning singers a bit, which was a change. Both need to broaden their vocabulary for constructive criticism and stop sending the mediocre to slaughter in Hollywood.

I probably won't watch again, but it was easier to stomach than Ellen and Karen...and J-Lo is a lot easier on the eyes. Carly, not so much.

emily said...

Wow - you can't slip anything past Ron.

sephim said...

Whichever "Anonymous" said Simon Cowell is no Alan Alda.

That maybe so, but it would still be interesting to watch Simon wail "IT WAS A BABY!"

Anonymous said...

Ken,

It's easy and a little cynical to jump on the hater bandwagon. Yes, after 10 seasons, we've seen variations on most of this, and often better. But an Idol that's less than it's peak is still far more entertaining than most TV these days. While I do miss Simon, I thought Jennifer and Steven were both pretty good and hopefully will get better as they figure out how this new gig works. Looking forward to tonight.

dirtywater22 said...

Although I'm not a fan of the show, I think it jumped the shark when Ellen was on as a judge. American Idol is dying a slow death. Hopefully a slip in the ratings will encourage the producers and the Fox network to let this be the final season.

Nancy said...

This is the first time in 10 seasons that I've been able to sit through ANY audition night - and I watched 2 nights in a row.
I HATED Simon Cowell. He became such a cartoon character after 3 seasons I had to give up. I'm so thankful he's gone.

Jaquandor said...

I have to disagree. The last couple of seasons, Simon might as well have been wearing a t-shirt that said "I'm just playin' out the string" on it. He was so disengaged, so bored-looking, that I was glad to see him go. I like Simon, but especially last year he just didn't seem to care (that's the only explanation I can see for his bizarre handling of Lee DeWyze with kid gloves). These judges are actually engaged, and Steven Tyler's got a funny way with words that's all his own.

The Milner Coupe said...

It seems we watched two different shows Ken. I was prepared to hate it without Simon but I went in with an open mind.

I'm not a fan of Jennifer Lopez mostly because I hate the whole diva/celebrity bullshit. But she surprised me with her polite demeanor. I think some of the 'cuteness' will settle down when she settles in.

I have been a huge Aerosmith fan since their beginning. I was all set to be embarrassed and pissed off at Steven Tyler for selling out. Again, I was surprised and relieved at the way he approached the show with his sincerity and honest opinions. He is still the height of cool and I'm pretty sure none of the previous fatty commentators will be or are in as good of shape in their sixties.

Randy was the same but I don't think he should sit in the lead chair. In my opinion he doesn't have the personality for it. They may think about shuffling the seating order.

Overall I think the Idol producers made the right choice not to continue down the 'snarky' lane, left empty by Simon. He was good at it and any attempt to replace him would have been a mistake.

I like the overall pleasantness and lack of mean spirit of the first couple of shows. I was also pleased to see less of the clown/trainwreck auditions this year.

It's an old show now and obviously doesn't carry the 'new & exciting' banner it once did. But I don't think it's half as bad as you describe and I'd be willing to bet that you had most of your review written before it aired. Give the new kids a chance I say.