Yes, I know it's the off season for my Idol ramblings, so those of you who dread reading my comments on the juggernaut that is/was Idol, just click away and ignore this post. I could not, however, let today's announcement of the new judging panel happen without some sort of comment.
For those of you who missed the news, Fox today announced that the judges for the ninth season of American Idol would be Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler.
This news only compounds my worries about the future of the show I have loved so dearly. Last May, you remember I voiced my concerns that the show seems intent on rewarding mediocrity over talent. After watching a plethora of talent be shown the door while middle of the road "real" people, I talked about how the blame for this can be equally shared between the judges who select pretty over interesting and then pimp the better "stories" and the voting public that floods the phone lines in favor of their favorite favor of vanilla.
The saving grace of all this nonsense was, to me, Simon Cowell. Simon provided a much needed voice of reason time and time again. Not that Simon was perfect (oh, God, no!), but he wasn't afraid to hurt feelings and bruise egos that needed to be reigned in. When more worthy contestants like Tamyra Grey, Chris Daughtry, Melinda Doolittle, and others were shown the door, you felt Simon's disappointment as acutely as you felt your own. Simon was the kindred spirit of the discerning viewer, and those of us who consider Idol a true talent contest and not a personality contest valued his presence as our voice.
But now who do we have?
Will Jennifer Lopez let her diva flag fly high enough to become the voice of wisdom and sanity? Will she be willing to crush egos and dash dreams with the wit and wisdom employed by Cowell? Or will her own self-image drive her to take the Ellen highway and dish out critiques about how cute people are rather than how tuneless their performances were?
Can Steven Tyler be trusted to be sober and coherent enough to give an honest, helpful critique? Yes, we lived through the loopy Paula years, but we had Simon there to temper the effects of whatever was lurking in Paula's Coke cup. Paula provided that cashmere glove before Cowell bitch slap brought tears to the eyes. Watching her lucidity get further and further away was entertaining, but there were also times when it was counterproductive to the show's mission.
And Jesus Christ, Randy is still there. Without a doubt, he has been the most useless member of the panel in recent years. Seriously, I think the dude is an automaton who is programmed with roughly five set critiques -- "You could sing the phone book, dawg, "For me for you, that wasn't your best performance, dawg," "It was a little pitchy, dawg," "You worked it out, dawg," and "It was just a'ight, dawg." When was the last time you heard Randy give a critique that didn't include one of those comments? He is a waste of space, and yet he lives on. At least Kara last year made a real effort to up her game and give pretty solid, thoughtful, useful critiques. Randy was too busy booing his co-worker to actually pay attention to the task at hand. Shameful.
So now here we are with an idiot, a diva, and a train wreck who sit in judgement of kids who just want a glimmer of success. Will any of them have the cojones to tell it like it is? Or will we be subjected to a season full of Haley Scarnatos and Mike Lynche's just "doing their thing, dawg"? And really, how much help can a washed-up diva, an aging rocker, and a bass player really be?
Well, look on the bright side . . . it'll probably make my blog more entertaining come January.