New Americal Idol judges

So the new look American Idol panel has finally been unveiled… and it turns out there’s nothing new to it after all!

As you’ve doubtless heard by now the latest batch of Idol judges includes Keith Urban from season 12, Jennifer Lopez from seasons 10 and 11 and Harry Connick, Jr a frequent guest mentor from recent years. Could the ‘new’ team be any less exciting?

After a pretty big ratings decline last season Fox promised big changes to their reality champion and numerous ideas were bandied around. We were promised a panel of former Idol contestants. Or an industry panel comprising of producers, writers and execs.

But what we’ve ended up with is probably the blandest, more unimaginative and ultimately ratings sapping team possible.

I liked Keith Urban last season. He was smart and sharp and hugely likeable. But he works best as the nice guy foil to a Simon Cowell like bully. Unfortunately Keith is being paired with J. Lo, who frankly sucked during her last two seasons on Idol, bringing very little to the mix aside from a whole lot of waffle and over-praising. And then there’s Harry Connick, Jr who apparently ‘impressed’ as a mentor last season but hasn’t scored a hit song in decades and whose musical style is so middle of the road it’s essentially roadkill.

Connick was a last minute, desperate fill in for hit producer Dr Luke, who had to drop out due to contractual issues. If Harry hadn’t stepped in production on the show would have been massively delayed. How’s that for a vote of confidence in the new Idol judge – talk about a last resort.

TV-American_Idol-Harry Connick Jr

 Once again Fox has fumbled big time when it comes to casting reality judges. The X Factor is only on season 3 but has already lost 5 judges and 2 hosts! That’s some going. And this Idol mix up is yet another sign of a show that’s clearly lost its way. Fox promised big changes follow an underwhelming season 12. Now it’s clear there’s no such shake up at all on the horizon.

What Idol needed to do this season was something BIG! It needed to make a statement. That’s why the casting of former contestants was such a great idea. But since that plan fell apart (I believe Kelly and Carrie didn’t want to be involved) the next best solution would have been an all industry panel.

Because the fact is audiences don’t give a damn about star names on a panel. Britney Spears and Mariah Carey became reality judges with big paychecks and crashed in their respective ratings (and were awful judges). So Idol should have saved money and found three opinionated, passionate, industry experts who they could groom into stars. Then use the money saved on judges to pay for top notch, A-list mentors on a weekly basis – which is what the show used to do before the addition of the nasty Jimmy Iovine. Of course Jimmy has now gone, replaced by Randy Jackson! Wow – you really couldn’t make it up.

This new plan is ultimately the worst solution possible for Idol. They’re clinging to stars with diminished star wattage when they should have just had a clean sweep and started from scratch. An old format needs a big kick to stay fresh – just look at America’s Next Top Model which has been rejuvenated this season by (finally) adding male contestants to the mix.

Personally I’ll be sitting this next season out. And I have a feeling I won’t be alone. Such a shame – Idol was a great show for so long. But even great shows have to be kept fresh. And there’s nothing fresh about this new panel…