Why does American Idol feel so slow these days? It's too nice
How quickly they forget.
That's my feeling watching some critics grouse about the slow pace of American Idol's audition process, which wraps up this week as the Top 24 semi finalists are announced tonight and tomorrow night.
American Idol has always been three shows in one -- the initial cattle call audition shows, the Hollywood round episodes cutting hundreds of hopefuls to a couple dozen and the live performance episodes where viewers finally choose their winner.
When tart British judge Simon Cowell was on the panel, the cattlecall and semi-finalist audition shows gained energy by humiliating the worst contestants. Particularly in the cattle call shows, viewers were distracted by a freakshow of deliberately awful auditioners, passed through rounds of producer-led tryouts just to serve as cannon fodder for Cowell's eviscerating wit.
But now that a kinder, gentler Idol is in place with new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, these audition episodes have de-emphasized the mean and focused on human interest stories, not-quite-there talent and quick montages of losing singers.
Which, for dedicated reality TV fans, adds up to one thing: boredom.
Especially now, as the contest boils down to the incredibly talented versus the relatively talented, audition shows can feel like a cavalcade of pretty decent performances, minus the comic relief of horrendously bad auditioners.
It has also been interesting to watch the focus on Tampa Bay area contestants Shannon Magrane, who got a standing ovation for her take on "What a Wonderful World," and Jeremy Rosado, who last week was shown excelling in his Las Vegas group performance.
Nice as it is to see them do well -- and the spoiler site Idol Pad has them listed among the Top 24 -- the struggle of fourth-place finisher and St. Petersburg native Michael Lynche taught me that getting exposed too often, too early in the contest can sometimes lead to viewers tiring of you before the end (Lynche's wife was shown having a baby during Hollywood rounds).
The trend toward niceness stretches across all the music-oriented competition shows airing right now -- NBC's rival The Voice also treats losers with kid gloves, mostly showing failures in quick montages. Not that I disagree with nice -- the exploitive nature of the mean Idol days always got on my nerves -- but perhaps the audition process should be trimmed a bit to compensate.
As it is, too much of the auditions feel like steak with no sizzle. Good thing Idol starts the live shows next week.