Paula Abdul is right: American Idol's fourth judge isn't working
My sudden, scary simpatico with American Idol’s most wigged-out judge came after seeing an interview she supposedly gave to OK! magazine — when it comes to tabloid mainstays like OK!, you always have to say allegedly or supposedly about their quotes — in which she questioned the effectiveness of Idol’s new four-judge format.
“It takes up so much time for each of us to give our opinion that it slows down the pace of the show,” she said in a widely quoted blurb reprinted everywhere from the Huffington Post to the New York Post.
The Los Angeles Times theorized that positive press reviews for DioGuardi may have sparked the comment; seems obvious Abdul's having a tough time disguising her frustration with the show as she finishes the last year of a hefty contract.
I think we're seeing veiled negotiations: Abdul is trying to get a better deal, Idol producers are making it plain they have a replacement waiting in the wings if she doesn't straighten up. But I'm convinced -- and i write this as someone who has had lots of fun lampooning Abdul when she jumps on the crazy train -- if Idol bounces her for the less-compelling dioGuardi, they'll be making their biggest mistake yet.
The comment was quite an about-face from an exchange we had in Los Angeles weeks ago, when Abdul insisted she had never expressed any reservations about newly hired fourth judge Kara DioGuardi or the show. Nevermind that Abdul once accused the show’s producers of putting a woman in an audition who had stalked her, even after she warned them. (The woman late committed suicide in a car in front of Abdul's home.)
Still, I think Abdul is on to something. Next week, DioGuardi and the three other judges will pick three contestants in a “Wild Card” episode to round out the 12 semi-finalists competing in earnest for the Idol crown, so the real competition is about to kick in.
Before it all takes off, here’s my list of Stuff That’s Not Working So Far on American Idol:
The Fourth Judge — Sorry Kara, but your gal pal on the judges’ bench got it right. You don’t know when to speak and your opinions aren’t distinctive enough to make your perspective matter. You’d think an award-winning songwriter would have more insight, but so far, her joke about Simon Cowell wearing the same shirt every day has been the biggest highlight.
The Freakazoids — This year, it’s more obvious than ever which contestants were brought along for good television (yes, Nick “Norman Gentle” Mitchell and Tatiana Del Toro, I’m talking about you). Unfortunately, such tactics leave viewers feeling manipulated and the show looking silly. If the borderline psychotic Del Toro gets popped back into competition by the judges next week — which I predicted around Times Idol Headquarters weeks ago — we will know how desperate they truly are.
The Performers — Doesn’t make much sense to expand the number of singers at this stage to 36 people if so many of them are so bad. My heart melted for 16-year-old Allison Iraheta, who struggled to hold a brief conversation with host Ryan Seacrest; at least her powerful take on Heart’s Alone Wednesday offered the first glimmer of quality, halfway through an interminable, two-hour program.
Exhibit A for me last week was tattooed font designer Megan Joy Corkrey, whose tentative, awkward version of Corinne Bailey Rae’s Put Your Records On was treated like a major achievement — mostly because the judges already liked her from past performances.
This sort of thing led Cowell to champion Michael Johns last year, and it only makes the judges look clueless when America sniffs out the real talent by public vote.