It was just two weeks ago that Candice Glover was crowned the winner of American Idol‘s Season 12, but even before the announcement was made, the Idol powers that be were already looking ahead to Season 13 to figure out what could be done to salvage the ailing series.
Overshadowing the finale were the tongue-wagging reports that churned out in the weeks leading up to it about who’s staying and who’s going on the judges’ panel. (As of May 30, Randy Jackson, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey are definitely out, with Keith Urban, probably also not returning.) At Fox’s upfront presentation three days before the last episode, network president Kevin Reilly teased major “twists” to the format of American Idol for Season 13, likely including a return to the three-judge format.
Once a ratings powerhouse for Fox, Idol limped along this season, concluding with a May 16 finale that was 40 percent down in viewership (that’s about 7 million people) from last season’s. One thing is certain: the network needs to either put Idol out of its misery, or make major revisions if it intends to keep it on the air and position it as a viable competitor to similar shows like NBC’s The Voice.
VIDEO: Angie Miller on her shocking American Idol elimination
Here are the five biggest revisions we’d like to see in Season 13:
1. New judges (and by new, we mean good): Clearly, this is a top priority for Fox executives as well, who have reportedly been courting Idol alums including Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert and Clay Aiken to join the panel. The new spin on an old format is promising, with Idol alums having not only musical credibility, but also a deeper understanding of what the contestants actually go through than any run-of-the-mill musician or producer. But will they know how to critique? As was evident with Mariah Carey’s frequent babbling this season, demonstrated artistry and chart success alone do not a good Idol judge make.
2. New theme nights: Burt Bacharach’s songbook. Beatles night. Motown Music from the Motor City (read: Motown plus Madonna) week. Yawn. Idol needs to get some new theme nights going, stat — and preferably with some more modern music thrown into the mix, so that viewers don’t have to listen to wince-worthy admissions by the (mostly teen) contestants that they’re unfamiliar with songs like “Let It Be.” How about a “My First Favorite Song” theme? At least those would be from the ’90s. Or Top 40 night? If the show wants to attract a younger audience, it needs to move away from the hotel lounge standards and towards something that fans will actually be excited to tune in for every week.
3. More original music: True, not every American Idol contestant comes into the show armed with a “You Set Me Free”-esque secret weapon like Angie Miller did this season, but the ones who do should have more of an opportunity to show off their individual musical styles through original songs. As it stands, the singers who want to showcase their own material have to use one of precious few “Contestant’s Choice” themes to do so. Why not have an all-original night? Or a standing rule that contestants can swap in original songs for, say, two of the themes throughout the season? It would certainly liven things up a bit, and would also make song choice a more significant criterion for the judges.
4. Nix the results episode: Idol needs to take a cue from Dancing with the Stars and cut back to only one night a week, with the person who was eliminated the previous week revealed at the start of each episode. Sending someone home doesn’t take more than two minutes, but the process now is stretched out to fill an hour of airtime every Thursday. And so, we get all kinds of fluff like Ford Fiesta challenges, performances from any Idol alum that can be summoned from the vault, and cutesy packages about the contestants that can easily be packaged into the Wednesday night show. An added bonus? Once a contestant finds out they’ve been sent home at the start of the show, they’ll have a full two hours to compose themselves for their farewell songs, which tend to be awkward, tearful messes in the current format.
5. More song options: Even on the most seemingly wide-ranging theme nights (i.e. “Divas,” “Rock,”), the Idol contestants only have a short list of songs they can perform that have been cleared by the producers — hence tired retreads of “Feeling Good,” “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Hallelujah.” There should be a team of Fox summer interns whose sole job is to get dozens and dozens of other songs cleared for the show. In addition, how about a policy that once a song’s been performed on the show five times, it gets retired?
What changes would you like to see in Season 13 of American Idol? Weigh in below!
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