I’m on vacation this week so I’m posting evergreen items for you to ponder.
Here are my top 10 biggest “Idol” stories of this past year. I did this off the top of my head so I may have missed something so feel free to add your own:
1. Simon Cowell leaving. No duh! He was the key to the success of the show when it launched in 2002. He didn’t mince words, shocked the public and the contestants with his honesty and turned smugness into a lucrative $35 million a year contract. His departure is huge – and not in a good way for “Idol.” Lurking in the fall of 2011: his “X Factor,” U.S. edition. And NBC is even considering a rival in the form of “Voice of America.”
2. Ellen DeGeneres/ Kara DioGuardi out. After one season, Ellen DeGeneres left, never feeling comfortable playing judge and jury. Kara DioGuardi was cut, too. She had her moments as a judge (Casey James’ obsession notwithstanding), but the powers that be obviously were seeking someone bigger.
3. Jennifer Lopez/ Steven Tyler in. So the producers opted for big names in hopes of making people forget Simon Cowell. It’s too soon to say if a kinder, gentler judges’ panel will work but I’m skeptical of these additions. Then again, I can’t stand the mealy-mouthed “Sing-Off” judges’ panel, but I like the singing enough to stick around.
4. Lackluster ninth season. That’s right! We had an actual season of “American Idol” this year which featured, um, lots of people we have already forgotten. This was arguably the dullest top 12 in the history of the show and easily the weakest winner. Everybody seemed like a paler version of a better or more interesting previous “Idol” singer. Lee DeWyze was a weak facsimile of David Cook and Kris Allen. Katie Stevens, meet Kat McPhee. Tim Urban – Sanjaya was far more fun. Michael Lynch – Ruben already had your number. The only person with the most distinctive personality was Crystal Bowersox but her style is distinctly non-commercial in this day and age. And she didn’t really improve much over time and became somewhat predictable. Simon couldn’t have left at a better time.
5. Carrie Underwood has an incredible year. A third, hugely successful album with “Play On.” A monstrously successful tour. A wedding of her dreams right here in Georgia. Yet more awards thrown at her, including a virtual sweep of the new American Country Awards. She definitely has earned a vacation!
6. Fantasia has a strange year. She began the year with a new reality show “Fantasia For Real,” to get herself back on the radar. It worked. The show did well and a second season was quickly commissioned and aired. It got out that she was dating a married man. She then tried to commit suicide. Oh, and she had a new album, too, that has generated a couple of hits. And she’s been touring to decent-sized crowds. So it’s definitely been a roller coaster year.
7. Nigel Lythgoe returns as a producer. Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone. And that’s the case with Nigel, who left after season seven to focus on “So You Think You Can Dance.” The show seemed to lose its bearing a bit without him. First, they began using four judges, which he would never accept. Then they started having trouble keeping the live show on time (the four judges didn’t help!). And this past season, as we know, the entire show seemed less interesting and ratings dropped about eight percent. Would Nigel staying have made any difference? Who knows! Maybe he just needed time away to appreciate what he missed. He is now back and in control and making some serious changes, as we know. We’ll also know soon if he can keep “Idol” vibrant season 10.
8. Adam Lambert tours the world. Lambert may not have won “American Idol” in 2009 but who cares? He is now an established artist with hit singles and a big tour that is selling out in multiple countries. And he managed to keep himself out of negative controversy.
9. Ryan Seacrest starts dating! Yes, Ryan created a life outside of work this year, dating his new squeeze Julianne Hough. Not that this means he’s kicking back with a sweet tea and watching re-runs of “Intervention” all day. He recently signed a $60 million, three year deal with Clear Channel for his radio show. Plus, he makes another $15 million a year from “Idol” and millions more producing shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” on E!, where he does red-carpet and celebrity news.
10. “Pants on the Ground.” Atlantan General Larry Platt is far too old to be on the show, but the producers sniffed a novelty hit and let him into the judges’ room. Nobody anticipated the crazy reaction he generated with his tune about sagging pants and the increasing coarseness of society. He rode the wave to many download sales and TV appearances. Sure, it’s unlikely he’ll see another hit, but he is now firmly entrenched in our brains forever.Thanks Larry!