Five ways to fix “American Idol”

American Idol is not only close to jumping the shark, it is getting dangerously close to getting eaten by it. And with the show changing judges quicker than Simon Cowell can put away a carton of cigarettes, it would be wise for FOX to revamp the competition immediately.

FOX had a good thing going back in the day when the only three judges were Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. Fearing that viewers were getting tired of the trio, executives made the ill-fated decision to replace Abdul with Kara DioGuardi and then add Ellen DeGeneres to the mix. The four-panel thing failed miserably, and Cowell decided he had had enough. Needing to make a huge splash to remain relevant, FOX brought in mega-stars Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.

Those expensive casting coups brought some legitimacy back to the show, but it also dramatically altered the tone. Neither Lopez nor Tyler wanted to come across as overly critical, which left Jackson as the only judge who was actually willing to judge. Flash forward to this year, and American Idol is idling like never before. Tyler and Lopez have called it quits, Mariah Carey has been added, Randy Jackson is in limbo, and everybody from Nicki Minaj to Sean “Diddy” Combs have been rumored to be coming on board.

Seriously, can we call a time out to regroup? FOX needs to realize that it is only sticking very expensive Band-Aids on a wound that is hemorrhaging badly. This show is in desperate need of an overhaul, and we think we have some solutions. So, without further adieu, here are Channel Guide Magazine‘s “5 Ways to Fix American Idol“:

1. Eliminate the judging system. Simply put, it’s not working. Celebrities don’t want to come across as picking on wannabe stars, and Idol has no choice at this point but to hire celebrities to salvage ratings. So instead of pretending like they are actually offering critical advice, let’s do away with it altogether. Rather than making comments after a performance, the panelists (my new name for them) would mentor the contestants on a week-to-week basis. Unlike The X Factor and The Voice, though, there would be no teams. The panelists would rotate among the singers to ensure they all get quality time and have no bias toward an individual performer (perhaps a weekly drawing would determine who mentors who).

2. Do away with theme nights. These are cheesy, boring and unfair. It’s ridiculous to make a contemporary singer do disco, and it’s even worse to make a country crooner attempt R&B. Viewers tune in to watch aspiring singers do what they do best, not to see if they can sing a style of song they would never attempt to record. Why would I care to to hear someone do a song from the year they were born? Answer: I don’t.

3. Make it more of a reality show. American Idol teases us with the giant Hollywood mansion it houses the finalists in, but we rarely if ever get to see what goes on there on a daily basis. Producers need to implement some of the elements from The Real World and Big Brother, so we can learn more about each singer and how they are adapting to the competition and their new surroundings. This could also be where the panelists — remember, they are no longer judges — would visit to do their mentoring.

4. Redefine Ryan Seacrest’s role. I know he isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I think Seacrest is very underappreciated. Look no further than The X Factor having to find a new host or the horribly boring job Carson Daly is doing on The Voice. If my plan to revolve the show more around the mansion is implemented, Seacrest would be the ideal candidate to bring us in-depth features and interviews.

5. Overhaul the voting process. The show has become entirely too obsessed with the number of votes, as evidenced by Seacrest’s non-stop bragging about new records being shattered every week. All this means to us is that viewers are finding more ways to cast their votes non-stop. If we are really trying to crown a true future star — which the show hasn’t done in ages — it’s time to focus on quality instead of quantity. From here on out, limit each viewer to one phone call and one text. This would eliminate ballot-stuffing and would ensure that the show is no longer a popularity contest.

I’m not saying these five tips will save American Idol, but they could go a long way toward making sure the show at least clears the shark.


Photo: Barry Brecheisen/FOX