Put away the Kibbles ‘n Bits, because the Dawg has officially left the building. Longtime judge/canine Randy Jackson announced last week he is leaving American Idol after 12 seasons of “Yo! Yo! Yo!” One can only pray the rest of the judges’ panel will shortly follow. The judging has been a major problem for this show ever since Simon Cowell packed up his scary collection of V-neck T-shirts three years ago. Sure, Idol tried to keep viewers interested by bringing in Jennifer Lopez to look gorgeous and Steven Tyler to hit on contestants roughly a third his age, but that never really worked. And the less said about this year’s panel the better.
But Idol has issues that extend far beyond the people sitting behind the red Coca-Cola cups. While it remains the only singing contest on TV that can still launch viable recording stars (as the recent success of the awkwardly named Phillip Phillips proves), the onetime television phenomenon has now become just another show, with recent episodes pulling in a paltry 11.3 million viewers. Fox should do the right thing and cancel Idol before it devolves further into irrelevance, but of course that scenario is about as likely as Mariah Carey offering any sort of useful critique whatsoever. So seeing as we’re stuck with each other, here are a few suggestions to pump some life back into the franchise.
CANCEL THE X FACTOR IMMEDIATELY
Fox had no choice but to put The X Factor on the air back in 2011 or else Cowell would have taken it to another network. But the problem is that while Fox used to take a seven-month break to build anticipation for its lone singing competition, now viewers are already exhausted by the time Idol comes along due to the bloated mess that is The X Factor. Add in all the crooning on The Voice, America’s Got Talent, and even the resurrected Sing-Off, and there are simply too many perky, pretty people belting out Adele songs. Getting rid of The X Factor would force Fox to fully recommit to one show and allow the audience a much-needed breather. As a superspecial bonus, we would no longer have to hear about The X Factor.
DITCH THE RESULTS SHOW
Is there a bigger waste of time in the entire world than hour-long results shows? So You Think You Can Dance made the bold move last year of abandoning these all-filler farces and announcing the latest eliminated contestants at the top of the following week’s performance show. Idol should do the same thing. You want the audience to care? Then knock it off with the cheesy group numbers and make every single episode count.
AMERICAN IDOL: FANS VS. FAVORITES
Looking for contestants viewers will actually root for? Why not bring back some folks from the glory days? Who wouldn’t want to see Melinda Doolittle, Tamyra Gray, Constantine Maroulis, and David Archuleta give it another go? But here’s the catch: Because Fox needs all those audition episodes, you still seek out the six best new contestants, and then shock them later with the news that they will be performing against past finalists. The fans-vs.-favorites concept has worked twice already for Survivor (which just wrapped its 26th cycle) and is the perfect balance of fresh and familiar. I know it would keep me watching. And at this point, every viewer counts.
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