American Idol, we truly love you, and always will, no matter how many young copycat series pass in front of us in a pair of flashy pumps. We will willingly walk beside you into your 12th season, despite your dreaded Rule of Three Curse. (Translation: Every third season of Idol, the ghost of Brian Dunkleman curses the series with a group of finalists as boring as they are shriek-y. Fact.) But you are as in need of a makeover as a Season 2 Ryan Seacrest.
So I’m ecstatic to hear Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly announce that Idol is looking to instill “some creative tweaking” next season. Still, if Season 9 and the Ellen debacle™ has proven anything, it’s that we need to intervene to ensure good Idol TV. Without further ado, in order for Season 12 to avoid the Curse, here are six suggestions for how Idol, complete with a few creative tweaks, can continue to be our own TV idol.
1. Judges’ Panel Mix-up
It’s time, Idol. Steven Tyler is nearing the end of his two-year deal, there’s no word whether Jennifer Lopez still needs to hitch a ride on the Idol train to industry relevance, and Randy Jackson should have left the series faster than Jermaine Jones. If Jimmy Iovine has proved anything during Season 11 of Idol, it’s that our panel of three is as useful as SPF 50 sunscreen in Ryan Seacrest’s bathroom. So, as we’ve been demanding for months now, it’s time for a full switch-up. For more on what we desire for a switch-up, see No. 6.
2. Better Theme Nights
So far, during the course of Season 11, we’ve been forced to watch our talented finalists take on Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder (hello Season 1!), Billy Joel (why, hello to you too, Season 2!), Queen (it’s been too long since we’ve seen you, Season 5!), songs from the year they were born (I didn’t make nearly enough cake for all of you, Seasons 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10), and many more recycled genres. There’s simply no excuse for this laziness when you consider how many great themes Idol could enforce to switch up the competition: Where’s Songs From the Year You Were 16, which would enable singers to showcase a connection to music much stronger than Songs From The Year You Were Born? Or TV Theme Song Night, since only a true artist could make magic out of a song that reminds viewers of schlocky opening credits? Or Original Song Night, which would give viewers a taste of an Idol’s post-TV career? Or perhaps Idol could truly make it a fair fight, and ask its contestants to all perform their own version of the same song? (So long as it’s not “Against All Odds,” for the love that is Corey Clark, George Huff, Jessica Sierra, Scott Savol, Katharine McPhee, Ramiele Malubay, and Paige Miles.)
3. No More Judges’ Save!
I’ve already aired my grievances about the dreaded Judges’ Save, which has only managed to rid the reality series of all its intrigue. (Why bother voting for a favorite if you know the panel is bound to save them? And does it mean anything if Jennifer Lopez wanted to use it every single week?) Instead, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe should learn from his beloved So You Think You Can Dance: To ensure a non-Season 9-esque cast, allow the judges to choose which bottom three dweller should go home until the Top 6. Or, if the judges are going to refuse to support anyone whose name doesn’t rhyme with Noshua Bedet, the live studio audience. Now, that would lead to a TV moment worth rewinding.
NEXT: The most important rule: Don’t be The Voice.
4. Let us See Creative Process
Sure, contestants’ talking heads in pre-packaged segments might tell us why they chose to sing certain songs from week-to-week, but, 11 seasons in, we still don’t know how. Give us full access, Idol! Don’t we deserve it for sticking with you this long?! We want to see what happens when two Idols choose the same song, when one Idol can’t get rights to his desired choice, and when one Idol decides to sing a song they’ve already performed earlier in the season. We want to see how much the Idols rehearse, how much musical director input the Idols listen to, how difficult it is for them to navigate the elaborate stage set during rehearsals, how many times they roll their eyes during group performance choreography, and how producers decide who goes first. (Perhaps Idol should even showcase a live draw to see who goes last on the elimination show each week?) We want to know who’s rooming with who, who’s hanging with who, and who’s flirting with Phillip enough to make us fans at home seethe. Anything and everything, Idol… besides an inside look at the Ford Music Video. Which, strangely enough, is the only access you give us.
5. Change of Scenery
As much as we love the very literal backdrops at CBS Television City, why not give live studio audiences elsewhere in the country the opportunity to watch their favorite Idols? Wouldn’t you be more likely to see them in an outdoor venue if you know how they perform in an outdoor venue?
6. Don’t Be The Voice
I know it’s tempting, Idol. The Voice is like your younger, prettier, more popular cousin. She’s the flashy one that gets all the attention, while the viewing audience constantly tells you you’re the comfortable choice. But while you do indeed need to switch things up, Idol, you’ll just look silly in your cousin’s clothes. So please, whatever you do, don’t try to amp up the star power of your panel — if Seasons 10 and 11 have proved anything, it’s that celebrity voices like Tyler’s and Lopez’s fade into the bowels of CBS Television City where even Simon Cowell’s lazy Season 9 barbs roll over in their graves. Don’t let the pretty faces distract you — a pre-Season 10 Idol proved it’s the home for the most passionate, the most discerning, and the most critical of musical judges. And, really, there’s no place like home. You can pay millions to the most famous, the richest, the most powerful people in the biz, asking them to sit on your panel, but all it takes is an unknown, watchable Greek Chorus like Simon Cowell to make a splash. So don’t be afraid to test the unknown waters and avoid an influx of celebrity mentors. Remember: The Voice might be all about the A-list panel, but Idol will forever be about the contestant. And folks like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are better for your image than any angle of Christina Aguilera’s sideboob.
What am I missing? What other creative changes should Idol adopt?
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard
[Image Credit: FOX]