Did ‘American Idol’ Finally Jump the Shark?

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Fox has given up on saving its most popular show, which is too bad.

The most recent season of “American Idol” isn’t just a singing competition. It’s also a photography contest. Between the deluge of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion ballads, the show has been asking viewers to send in selfies of themselves watching the show.

Or should I say #IdolSelfie? That’s the hashtag Ryan Seacrest has been trying to unload on America. But as the series keeps tumbling in the ratings — it now averages about 12 million viewers, less as the season has dragged on — there aren’t many TV screens tuned to “Idol” anymore. When teen heartthrob Austin Mahone stopped by the show, he and Seacrest mugged next to each other, like a pair of Madame Tussauds wax figures.

“American Idol,” the most popular and influential show on TV since 2002, has become a plastic imitation of itself. Even when “Idol” was bad (think Sanjaya, Kara DioGuardi, the time Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey never spoke to each other for an entire season), it still generated plenty of buzz. The latest season is worse than the pitchiest note the series has ever delivered — “American Idol” is now a non-event. On a recent episode, a drowsy Harry Connick Jr. turned to Seacrest and asked, “Are we still on air?”

At its upfronts presentation this week, Fox renewed “Idol” for season 14. The show will be on for fewer hours in 2015, although that won’t fix any of its major problems. Even an hour of the current format of “Idol” is agonizing to watch. The show everybody else used to try to copy is now desperately chasing the latest cultural trends. It’s not just the selfies, but a Facebook scroll of the contestants’ fans, the pre-recorded “Big Brother” dinners with banal conversations and the “Hunger Games”-like sound effects that chime inside the auditorium when a singer gets killed–I mean, goes home.

Under executive producer Per Blankens, who joined this season from the Swedish version of “Idol,” the show has grown even cheesier, if that’s possible. Last season, “Idol” lost its perch as the No. 1 most watched show on television, due to, many believed, all the off-camera bickering between judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. At least Minaj was entertaining to watch, especially when she arrived late to work and blamed L.A. traffic.

The new judging team — Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban — are like your parents, if you grew up in “Pleasantville.” They don’t fight or disagree about anything. Even when the singing is atrocious, their criticism is safely veiled in upbeat messages. “American Idol” has always needed a Paula Adbul, but now the series is stuck with three versions of her. Lopez, who has been a dependable and intelligent judge, deserves an Emmy nomination for acting like she’s still invested in a show that’s been imploding.

“Idol” has been demolished by NBC’s “The Voice,” which is slicker but also produces better stage performances. If you were to ever watch both the shows the same week, “The Voice” stages musical numbers worthy of the Grammys while “Idol” feels like a high school karaoke contest. Especially in season 13, the talent has been seriously lacking on “Idol.” This is turning into a regular gripe about the show, but why don’t the producers start doing something about it? Surely, there are better power ballad crooners than the casts they’ve cobbled together in recent years. “American Idol” is meant to be the world’s shiniest talent contest, and yet the only polished singer on the show is that girl who sounds like Lea Michele.

If there’s any doubt that “Idol” is feeling weary, just ask the remaining survivors. Randy Jackson is still a fixture, although he’s been demoted to from judge to mentor, a role so minimal, it’s hard to understand why he even bothers. (Jackson claimed in a recent interview he spends four days a week with the contestants.) Even Seacrest doesn’t seem as invested either. Why do I say that? He’s stopped shaving.

I might be in the delusional minority, but I still think “Idol” can be rescued. It will need a drastic reboot, but it seems like Fox is more inclined to let the series die quietly. It’s a mystery why all three judges would even be invited back next season. Aren’t they as tired of the bad singing as the rest of us?

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  1. Dale Evans says:

    I think the judges are the best we have ever had on Idol! I still love the show and its format. I tried to watch the Voice too but it seems to be all about the judges. I used to love when they made the kids do certain artists that maybe they had never heard of and was out of their “wheelhouse”. Now they sing songs I’ve never heard of and most “grown ups” haven’t. I work with teens and they don’t watch TV period, so Idol should be reaching out to the people that actually have money in their pockets! I love the show and will watch regardless!

  2. David says:

    “Between the deluge of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion ballads”

    There haven’t been any Whitney Houston or Celine Dion ballads this season. Perhaps you wouldn’t be so sad if you actually watched the show.

  3. It’s American Idol, not the J LO Dances like a Stripper Show….Check out our post on the all time greatest ranking of Idol Winners http://thepopcornwhiskey.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/the-ultimate-ranking-of-american-idol-winners/

  4. mkayo26 says:

    You could not be more wrong! This is the best season in years. The judges are smart, they know music, they behave like responsible artists who actually care about these young performers. Maybe some people like fighting and ugliness, but its about time that there are people with talent AND class on TV.
    This is the first time in years that I am watching every episode and actually DVR-ing if I can’t watch it in real time.

  5. John Miller says:

    I love how companies so desperately want us consumers to do their social media advertising for them by using the hashtags they want us to use. My reaction? #IDon’tFreakingThinkSo

  6. If the performers on The Voice are so great, why do we never hear the winners on the radio?

  7. Mark Winter says:

    I’d like to see an “Idol All Stars” competition, bring back 1 contestant (who didn’t win) from each of the previous seasons to battle it out. At least that would be interesting

  8. So, um, really?. Did this ”writer” even bother to watch the AI season or did he just watch a bunch of last season’s episodes on youtube? Its quite obvious he did not watch THIS YEAR. For starters, exactly WHO has been singing Whitney Houston and Celine Dion songs this season? SMH.. these kids have been bringing renditions of much more current artists. Secondly, which girl sounds like LEA? You cannot mean Jena who has a distinctly unique voice, completely different from Lea. Or even Jessica Meuse? Was it Malaya? Nope, none of them sound like Lea.

    As for the JUDGES, they disagree ALL THE TIME! They just are not unprofessional drama queens like Nicki and Mariah. They offer constructive honest opinions, especially Harry and Keith. As for the talent of the current kids, what has always been great about American Idol is the diverse group of contestants. Some are super great, some have potential and some are just very likable kids who can sometimes give a great performance. The cream rises to the top and most of the time, America gets it right (Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood) and sometimes America gets it terribly wrong ( Taylor Hicks, seriously?). This season, CALEB (who I promise you, has NEVER sung a Whitney or Celine song lol) has delivered some amazing performances, as have Jena (pronounced GINA). In the top 10, there were at least 5 superb singers.

    And yes, AI may not be the #1 Talent Show on TV this season, but Please do not try to argue that a show with 12Million Viewers is indicative of “jumping the shark”. Which by the way, writers STILL using that OLD TIRED phrase are “jumping the shark”.

    Please do better research when submitting your articles. This jumble of catch phrases and innuendoes “cobbled together” from the web, is no where close to an accurate description of this season of AI.

  9. SKDogLover says:

    RE: the headline…..AI jumped the shark YEARS ago.

    And this year I admit I DVR it and watch FastForward when bored. Nonetheless I am so freaking sick of JLo’s constant self promotion be it her uber short skirts or unending selfies. SHE should be paying AI for keeping her career alive – not them paying her $$$$$$. What’s up with that ridiculous Luv ya Papi song anyway?

    Harry and Keith’s careers will always thrive because possess true musical talents.

    • Bella says:

      Could not agree w/you more, I wondered the same about JLO and Ryan Seacrest every episode has to kiss her ass is getting ridiculous, the show is supposed to be about the contestants. Paula never did any of this crap. Bring Simon back please.

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