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So here we are again – the end of another season of American Idol!

This time last year I was bemoaning Idol’s Season 9 – nicknamed the Season of Suck – and suggesting how the show could be improved next time around.

Well here we are and unfortunately Idol didn’t get better this year. In fact it got WORSE! A lot worse. And with competition from The Voice and Fox’s own X Factor in the Fall I think the Idol production team have dug themselves a big old hole this season…

So here’s my take of what went wrong…

1) STEVEN TYLER: Two words that spell fear into the heart of anyone who ever worshipped at the altar of Simon Cowell. I had my suspicions that the Aerosmith front man wouldn’t be up to the job of delivering clever, concise and constructive critiques but even my worst fears were better than the pitiful effort Tyler’s put in all season. Nothing of ANY value has escaped Steven’s lips in weeks. His performance has been pitiful – rambling, creepy and pandering. Please pray Tyler’s only signed to a one-year deal!

2) THE SHRINKING TALENT POOL: There was a point – around Hollywood Week – where it really looked like this was going to be a vintage year for American Idol, with an abundance of vocal talent. And then we hit the live shows and it’s been steadily downhill ever since. Stefano, Thia, and the insanely over-hyped Jacob – how did these guys get into the Top 12? Then there were the early front-runners like Paul McDonald who faded fast. By the mid-way point I essentially stopped caring who was destined for a confetti shower at the end of May. I suspect I’m not alone…

3) PIA’S EARLY ELIMINATION: I’ll be honest, of all the contestants on this year’s Idol, Pia Toscano was the singer who I thought had the most star potential.  Admittedly Pia played too safe and over-relied on ballads. Plus she needed to work on her on stage persona and performance. But the girl could SING! Really sing. And she was beautiful and confident and likeable. If ever a contestant was destined to follow in the footsteps of Carrie and Kelly it was her.

So seeing Toscano finish in a lowly 9th place (behind Stefano and Jacob!) was not just bad for Pia – but also for the Idol franchise as a whole. Idol needed to find a star this year and frankly they’ve failed. You think Scotty McCreery’s going to sell millions of records? Have you been smoking from Steven Tyler’s stash?

4) DULL SHOW THEMES: I’ve mentioned this point so many times now it’s become almost as repetitive as Idol itself. Seriously – who the heck is choosing these show themes? Not only are the Idol themes hopelessly old fashioned – this season we’ve had Elton John Week, Carole King Week, Lieber and Stoller Week and Motown Week – but they also hurt the Idols themselves. The show’s contestants aren’t going out into the world to compete with The Beatles and Diana Ross. They’re going to be up against Ke$ha, Katy Perry and Eminem. It’s setting the whole cast up for failure…

5) RANDY JACKSON – AMERICA’S LEAST WANTED: Okay, maybe we all thought Steven Tyler was going to be better than he turned out. But seriously – everyone knows that Randy Jackson is terrible on Idol. So why the heck is he still around?

Jackson relies on clichés – I’ve lost count of how many contestants are ‘in to win it’ this season, insane hyperbole – telling Jacob Lusk he’s delivered the single best Idol performance ever (um, no that title will ALWAYS remain with Fantasia) and generally wallowing in lazy criticism, blatant pimping and lame comedy. Jackson will never be a worthy replacement to Simon, so please stop trying to make it happen…

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6) THE FALL OF CASEY ABRAMS: At the start of Idol Season 10 I thought the show might have found it’s winner – picking out Casey Abrams as the show’s breakout star Casey was original, insanely talented and full of personality – exhibiting a jazzy style we hadn’t seen on Idol before.

But as the series progressed Casey stopped progressing himself. There were the vocal tics, the crazy faces and some seriously strange performances. Here’s where some constructive criticism from the judges would have come in handy – but of course serious judging was off the table this season (J.Lo tried and then gave up mid-season). The result – Casey became a one trick pony whose departure in 6th place (after an 11th place Judges Save) felt like a merciful relief rather than a shocker. With guidance he could have gone all the way…

7) FEEBLE PRODUCTION: You would have thought that with The X Factor breathing down American Idol’s neck the show’s producers might have upped the ante this year on the staging front. But no – it’s been business as usual all season long. And since none of the competitors has the flair or artistry of an Adam Lambert, they’ve been content to settle for the usual backing singers and stage lighting.

But if the US X Factor follows its Brit counterpart, Idol is going to be looking pretty one-dimensional next season. Just look what UK star Cher Lloyd did with a simple ballad last season…

8-  NO MENTORS: Okay – hands up, whose dunderhead decision was it to eliminate the celebrity mentors this season? Because seriously – it was a really dumb idea.

Having contestants coached by the likes of Gwen Stefani, Shania Twain and Elton John often provided some of the show’s best moments and a real A-list thrill. Clearly the Idol team have been trying to push record producer Jimmy Iovine’s role (check out the desperate Results Show commentary from Iovine – a pale attempt to give the contestants SOME form of critique). But Jimmy isn’t a star and never will be. Check out how the show clicked again when Lady Gaga came to offer some much needed guidance….

9) SCOTTY AND LAUREN: So here we are – down to a final two – and it’s Scotty versus Lauren. Both are teens, both are country and neither is destined to sell records the way Idol needs them to. Scotty is country pure and has zero crossover appeal beyond the CMT crowd. Lauren has talent but has no sense of who she is as an artist. If she wins she’s the new Jordin Sparks – a pretty teen cast adrift in a cutthroat business. But whoever wins – Idol loses.

10) NO SIMON COWELL: As Joni Mitchell once sang ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’. How true. Even an indifferent Simon Cowell – as he was in Season 9 – is better than this year’s hopeless judging line-up. Oh what I would have given for just one of Cowell’s razor sharp critiques this season…

But what do you think? Am I being too harsh? Who do you think will win Idol – and do you even care? And what do you think the show needs to do to get back on track for next season?