American Idol is back starting Tuesday, January 15. Randy Jackson has a new, tougher look (note the sideburns and goatee), Paula Abdul looks tame (her emotions seem in proportion to her hair) after draining her tear ducts on her reality series “Hey Paula,” and Simon is…well, thank goodness for Simon Cowell.
We loved him during season one and we rely on him now that the show is returning for its seventh incarnation. On screen and off, he doesn’t care what he says, and what he says is usually on the mark. (By the way, he also drives a gorgeous Bentley around Beverly Hills, allowing him to look the super rich Brit heis.) When you pare American Idol to its basics, you don’t talk about Kelly, Ruben, or Taylor. No, you talk about Simon. Viewers know he’s the most crucial element of the show. Idol is expertly produced. The opening audition shows are the most entertaining episodes of the entire season. But it’s Simon who provides the unpredictability and wit that makes for entertaining television. Except for when Paula is in one of her special states, you know, hovering between tears, meltdown and call-the-paramedics.
Following last year’s tame, okay boring season, we think the Idol producers could have injected new and must-see-type excitement into the show by firing both Abdul and Jackson and hiring in their place Britney Spears and…someone oddly endearing but weird, say a Scott Storch or Dianne Warren…oh, oh, got it. They should’ve hired Britney Spears and songwriter and producer Linda Perry.
They didn’t, but in a recent conference call interview Cowell said the show has done a bit of needed tweaking this season. Not that last season, in his opinion, was bad. “Well, 90%, I think, of what happened on the show last year was very good,” he offered. “I’ve always said it’s a very well produced show. But as I said earlier on, I mean we are completely and utterly reliant on who walks in the door in terms of the quality of the contestants. So, most of our focus this year was to make sure that we got a better top 12 and a more interesting top 12 than what we got last year. I’m pretty certain that we have that this year. So, that’s the most important thing.
“Cosmetic changes. There will be a new set, which will be good. They tried a couple of bits and pieces in the Hollywood rounds of having people play instruments, which wasn’t particularly a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t think it made too much difference because we were lucky enough that the contestants were better, and that was the most important thing.
“On a show like Idol, I don’t think you necessarily want to make change for the sake of change. I think you have to evolve the process, and that’s what I think you’re going to see this year. You’re going to see an improved show with much, much better singers and more interesting contestants.”
Television’s biggest event, AMERICAN IDOL, returns for its seventh season in a special two-night, four-hour season premiere Tuesday, Jan. 15 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) and Wednesday, Jan. 16 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. This is Seacrest, er, Fancast — out.