Editorials and Articles Archive
Can the cycle of madness on American Idol be broken?
7 December 2014
Happy December, everyone. Your loyal staff here at WhatNotToSing.com is tidying up the office and getting ready for next month's season premiere of American Idol. As usual, our online presence won't be terribly high until at least Hollywood week, but we wanted to let everyone know that, yes, our doctors have given us clearance to catalog another year of this life-draining but weirdly compelling nuthouse of a show. They've increased our dosages accordingly.
We're very much looking forward to Season 14. No, seriously, we are. It's Year Two of the current three-year epoch, and that alone suggests that it will be worthwhile. But, AI14 has quite a lot of other promising factors working in its favor.
First and foremost, Season 13 firmly established this epoch as emphasizing artistry and musical chops, so AI14 contestants know exactly what's expected of them. The fact that original songs were not only permitted during the Finals, but also enormously well-received by viewers, should coax out a few singer-songwriter types who otherwise would not dream of auditioning.
Second, the judging panel is stable. In the aftermath of Season 12, you may interpret "stable" however you please. We expect S14 to be cast very well and judged reasonably well; there've been no shortage of seasons in which we've had neither. Other than asking for fewer hijinks and more focus during the live shows, the judges are, for once, the least of our concerns.
Third, AI13's new creative staff headed by executive producer Per Blankens has a year of experience. This is something of a wild card. Blankens had an inconsistent rookie season, to put it mildly. We won't rehash it here -- every analyst across the Idolsphere, ourselves included, let him know about it last May. How his team responds to the pointed criticism is, you'll pardon the expression, the x-factor of Season 14.
Finally, and ironically, Idol's shrinking ratings may finally work in its favor. The show's runtime has been cut back severely for 2015, reflecting the reality that it's no longer a Nielsen juggernaut. The series needs tightening up in the worst way, and if this is how it has to be accomplished, so be it. Furthermore, judging by recent comments from Fox's programming execs, there is no longer any delusion that AI can recapture its lost audience. The network seems finally to have worked their way through the Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression phases. With Acceptance comes the ability to move forward; we hope this means that everyone involved with American Idol will recognize that their only true goals are to entertain (and not aggravate) their remaining core audience while unearthing some quality unsigned talent from across the U.S. They'll cut the crap, in other words. How can that be bad?
Owing to some looming personal commitments, we closed up shop very abruptly last July. As we prep for the new season, let's take care of a few loose items.
There are over 200 unread emails in our inbox. If you wrote us between the end of last summer's Camp Should-A-Been and now, please be assured that weren't just ignoring you. We were ignoring everybody. We'll get caught up shortly.
We're also aware that, after 13 up-and-down seasons on American Idol, Randy Jackson is finally moving on. While the Dawg's tenure as a judge speaks for itself – mostly in clichés, unfortunately – we're still not inclined to assign him too much blame for his mentorship last season. Many of the AI13 contestants seemed thoroughly unmentorable. Scott Borchetta will take over the mentor's role this year; we wish him the best but hope that Adam Lambert and David Cook, who were rumored to have expressed interest in the job, will be given a guest opportunity at some point.
Nope, haven't seen even 30 seconds of the latest season of The Voice. Yep, we're still thinking about cataloging (and retroactively grading) all of its performances. We hope and fully expect this foolishness to subside once the new meds kick in. If it hasn't by February, we'll let you know.
We'll finish this editorial with one of our seemingly pointless and irrelevant, but in reality pointless but slightly relevant, literary allusions. In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's classic 1974 "hard" science fiction novel The Mote In God's Eye, an alien race is afflicted with a biological time-bomb, one that results in a cyclical near-extinction of its species via civil war. Each civilization attempts to pass down as much information as it can to the next civilization, in the hope that the cycle of madness can someday be broken. This invariably proves futile, and the "Moties", as humans call them, even have a name for those who believe that a solution is even possible. The nearest English translation is "Crazy Eddie."
This is relevant to American Idol because we have it on good authority that Caleb Johnson is actually a Motie. Kidding. It's relevant because Idol seems trapped in its own cycle of madness. Every three years, like clockwork, a new epoch is born in Year One, matures and thrives in Year Two, and implodes in madness in Year Three.
Every. Single. Stinking. Time.
So while we're sincerely optimistic about Season Fourteen, we're already dreading what Season Fifteen will bring, assuming Idol even makes it that far. Perhaps the shorter, tighter, less fluff-filled schedule in 2015 will finally break the cycle, by leaving fewer opportunities for the powers-that-be to shoot themselves in whatever bodily appendages are handy. Perhaps the acknowledgement that the series cannot beat Father Time will allow for less contrived drama and a more sustainable approach. Or perhaps we're all Crazy Eddies.
Well, if we are, so be it. We will say this, however: if the American Idol epoch cycle is truly unbreakable...if the choice is between a strong 2015 being AI's final season on the air, or another descent into Season Three / Six / Nine / Twelve-vintage madness...then our vote is for the former. Our hunch is that the series couldn't survive another Year Three ordeal anyway, thus we'd just as soon have the best reality talent competition in U.S. television history go out on a relative high note. Your opinion may differ.
Enjoy the new season, and have a happy holiday season and a great new year!
- The WNTS.com Team