American Idol 2010 Preview

American Idol‘s ninth outing is a shake up season. They’ve completely messed with the chemistry by allowing Paula Abdul to walk. With the recent news that Simon Cowell will be splitting the series to become part of the American version of The X Factor, this is shaping up to be an interesting time for the judges. Can that translate to exciting talent on the stage?

Normally a member change is the beginning of the end like when Randy Jackson joined Journey. However the series won’t be wearing spandex to look sexy. American Idol should remain a ratings juggernaut simply because it is so huge. It can’t completely fall to earth and end up like Last Comic Standing or Bears Stern. A big issue is the average viewing age has soared to 44. The series audience is overlapping with folks who watch Lawrence Welk repeats on PBS. Last year’s final two shows were off nearly 4 million viewers from 2008. Will Simon Cowell and Simon Fuller lure back those 4 million or will there be further decay for their pop concoction? Is Ellen DeGeneres really a sugary treat that will bring back the youth appeal?

Ellen DeGeneres might be a high profile choice, but she’s not what’s needed on the judges panel. This season the kids will be rated by three music industry insiders and a fan. Paula might have come off as a complete ditz during the critiques, but she related to the kids. She understood what it’s like to get sucked up into a musical whirlwind. She also knew what it’s like to be spit out by the music industry after they decided she’s finished as an active act. She was a success story and a price of fame warning soaked the mystery liquid inside her big Coke cup. She was adorable when she got extra goofy.

Ellen’s big reason to be on the panel is that she’s seen every episode. Wow. That makes her even with at least 15 million other people. She swears she’ll be a different kind of judge. “I’m not looking at it in a critical way from the producer’s mind. I’m looking at it as a person who is going to buy the music and is going to relate to that person,” Ellen said after taking the gig. The problem with her statement is that there’s 25 million other people in America already doing this job. The people who call in the 1-888 numbers are relating to the person on the stage. They also go on iTunes and buy that night’s song if they like it. Ellen is bringing nothing to the table that you’re not already doing at home. She’s not going to elevate the game as if they’d booked Martika, a forgotten Destiny’s Child member or Vanilla Ice. She doesn’t get the grind of having to hit the notes every time. Ellen’s voice gets raspy at the Chucklehut, she doesn’t pay the price. No heckler yells, “You’re pitchy!” When do people complain about a comic losing an octave? She also goes against the whole youth appeal directive. How exactly is casting a 52 year old woman going to bring in teen eyeballs? She’s 8 years older than the median age of the viewers. This is like Abe Vigoda being the hot new hunk on Jersey Shore 2.

Paula getting the shaft has established the extreme pecking order. It’s hard to imagine there will be any real tension between Randy, Kara and Ellen with Simon. As we learned last season, no judge can over rule Simon’s choice. He makes it seem like the other other three matter, but they’re just seat fillers. Nobody crosses his threadbare t-shirt. Although with the news that Simon is splitting the scene at the end of this season, should give incentive for Randy or Kara to assume the alpha dog throne instead of waiting to see what bitter English Queen replaces Simon. Ellen won’t be a threat to anything except Ryan Seacrest’s wardrobe.

The series is losing heat with America’s wallet. Kris Allen’s debut record has proven to be a major fizzle. It didn’t crack the Top 10. Merely debuted at 11 and dropped like a rock. The record has so far sold under 300,000 copies. None of his singles broke the Top 10. Tens of millions of people calling up his number, but they won’t break out $10 for the CD. Adam Lambert’s debut album opened at #3, but is still inching its way to gold. His hedonistic performance on the American Music Awards got people more disturbed than excited. Is he the new Elvis or a one man Rocky Horror tribute? Either way, the blue hairs in Iowa weren’t getting into the guy. He’ll always have Broadway. Although American Idol doesn’t want the ratings of the Tony Awards. Perhaps they were completely over shadowed by Simon’s other creation: Susan Boyle? The frumpy spinster has sold three million cds in America. After her first internet sensation, she went downhill and lost to a bunch of dancers. Yet she’s the big winner with sales in America. Maybe the Simons need to take a hint from her success and realize that older isn’t worth dreading. Embrace the elderly cause they still have cash to spend.

Tune in Tuesday, February 12 to see if American Idol can really survive the absence of Paula. Will its viewership shrink and get older or will Ellen make it hit record highs and resemble a Taylor Swift concert? My bet is we’re going to miss Paula more than MC Skat Kat. Maybe they’ll bring her back as a rating’s stunt when Simon has left the building?

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