Ah, January! Another bright new morning dawns for American Idol. And, like every morning, we all share the same communal instinct: to hit the snooze button and go back to bed.
Yes, your humble WNTS staff is back for Season Nine. So much has happened between last summer and now that we hardly know where to begin. Before we get down to business,however, we should explain to our readers the reason for our long hiatus. Not long after Camp Should-A-Been closed last summer, one of our co-founders suffered an out-of-the-blue series of fainting spells, seizures, and other rather unpleasant neurological episodes he would prefer to forget. To make a long story short, the local doctors and pharmacists did a bang-up job, and our team is back at full strength.
However, the big plans we had for WhatNotToSing.com this off-season were a casualty not only of his illness, but by other life changes as well. Once upon a time, all three of us gathered eagerly around our TVs each week to watch American Idol "together" (the quotation marks being because Senior Editor Brian lived 30 miles away from Senior Editor Nick and Junior Editor Amy, so we usually employed a speakerphone.) Afterwards, we'd tally the approval ratings, have a midnight conference call to discuss the performances and the Idol controversy-du-jour, and update the site.
Today, we are much more far-flung: Amy is off at college, Nick has a new job, and Brian is back in his native Canada working in a remote hamlet in which the two major forms of entertainment are beer and frostbite (and where the townsfolk, when they want to enjoy some balmy weather for a change, take a holiday in Edmonton. Seriously.) We depend on YouTube, DVRs, and the Idolsphere to catch up on what we often miss on Tuesday nights. Skype and texting helps us keep in touch, but it's not the same as watching the show live and making one snarky quip after another, many of which would make their way verbatim into the following weekend's editorial.
But there's a larger reason you haven't heard much from Project WNTS lately. Quite honestly, AI8 was so irritating and unenjoyable that none of us were motivated to work on the site. We won't rehash our grievances here; if you're masochistic enough to want to relive all the gory outrages of 2009, see our editorial library. (We will reiterate, however, that when future television historians look back at the Idol era, we think they'll agree on the exact evening that the series jumped the proverbial shark.)
Although they haven't said so directly, the producers seem to have gotten the message from the Idolsphere that a repeat of Season Eight wouldn't be tolerated. The unpopular 36-person semifinalist field has been mercifully restored to 24. Replacing Paula Abdul with Ellen Degeneres seems almost too good to be true. The initial audition shows have been promising, featuring a little less nonsense and a little more talent. By announcing up front that this will be his last year, Simon Cowell has removed one key area of uncertainty, and it might even allow him to flash some signs of life that the show has sorely missed lately. So far, so good.
Still, there's a long way to go. The rubber won't really hit the road until February, when the semifinals get underway. That's when control of the proceedings is nominally turned over to we viewers, and we learn exactly how heavy a hand the producers intend to use this year to get the outcome they desire. The WNTS Team can assure our friends across Idol Nation that we'll be open for business as usual during Season Nine, at least when it comes to calculating approval ratings and keeping our database up-to-date. How much time we spend on our trademark statistical analyses and editorials will be, putting it bluntly, inversely proportional to how pissed off the show makes us as the season rolls along.
Whether AI (or WNTS) will be back for Season Ten is anyone's guess. For now, we simply wait, watch, and hope, like everyone else, that our once-favorite TV show gets its groove back.
- The WNTS.com Team