American Idol switched up its format for season eight, hoping to attract more viewers.
The show wound up with more contestants in the finals than ever thanks to the judges’ wild card indecision; then wound up with the season’s best singer finishing second.
Along the way, we got guest appearances from artists ranging from Lady Gaga to Kiss. One judge struck a bikini pose on stage. Another said farewell to the show after being part of Idol since its inception.
And now there’s talk of Simon Cowell leaving at the end of season nine. So, apparently, more drama is in store in 2010.
Meanwhile, here are my picks for the best and worst of American Idol in 2009. Most are directly related to season eight. But I couldn’t help straying away to Idol-related news in a couple of instances.
Tomorrow, my look back at Idol 2009 ends with a look at some must-hear songs from season eight semifinalists. Previous blogs in the series include:
As usual, feel free to chime in if you disagree with the selections below.
5. A waste of airtime
One looked great in a bikini. One was sometimes a little bit funny, for a comedian. But Idol wasted way too much camera time on Katrina Darrell and Nick
Mitchell in season eight. At least Katrina wanted to sing; she even posted songs on her MySpace after the show. Nick didn’t sing a serious note on the
show. So what was he doing there? Huh, Simon? You always remind us this is a singing competition.
4. Adam Lambert’s AMA performance
ABC gets part of the blame, for giving a rookie slow-closing honors, then hyping his performance as “the one everyone will be talking about tomorrow.” Adam made sure ABC was right with a few unrehearsed moves that had everyone talking about him for weeks. But not about his singing, which was a shame, because he had dazzled audiences throughout season eight as one of the best singers ever to grace the Idol stage.
3. Kara DioGuardi joins the show
She lost me after teenager Taylor Vaifanua turned in a pitch perfect semifinal performance. Kara’s reaction: She wanted to know what it would be like to go shopping with Taylor. Good grief. You’d think we were watching “The Price Is Right.” I’d suggest Kara stick to writing songs and leave the judging to others. Except she helped write “No Boundaries,” the coronation song that pretty much ruined the season finale. Can’t we dump Kara and go back to three judges? Please?
2. Idol producers wing it
For such a successful show, season eight had a ridiculously fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants feel to it. One show ran so long, the Tivo/DVR crowd missed Adam Lambert’s brilliant performance of “Mad World.” So the next week, only two judges weighed in one each performance, meaning half the contestants missed out on a Simon Cowell tongue lashing. That was fair?
1. Semifinal format change
In season eight, Idol advanced 36 contestants to the semifinals instead of 24, then gave most of them just once chance to sing for their Idol life. Nine of the 13 finalists qualified on the basis of just one performance. The result: Viewers were robbed of a chance to get to know the contestants before the finals.
The result: Too many talented performers were quickly cast by the wayside. The result: Any pretense of fairness was tossed out the window, lending credence to complaints that producers were casting the show by showcasing certain contestants with more airtime.
5. The duets
Most of Idol’s format changes for season eight were losers. This one worked, at least when Adam Lambert and Allison Iraheta took the stage together.
Their “Slow Ride” was one of Idol’s season eight highlights. And, from what I understand, a fan favorite during the summer tour.
4. The judges’ save
Another format change that worked. This one breathed new life into those tired old result shows, adding a touch of suspense. Except of course, when it was Megan Joy’s turn to be eliminated.
3. The presence of Adam Lambert
Say what you will about what he’s done since the show ended. Adam Lambert breathed life into a season eight when the rest of the cast (Allison Iraheta excluded) was mostly interchangeable. It all started in the semifinals, with his over-the-top performance of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Season eight would have been a whole lot less satisfying without Adam.
2. More trophies for Carrie
In February, Carrie Underwood won her third straight Grammy Award for Best Female Country Performance. It marked her fourth Grammy overall. Two months later, she was named Entertainer of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards, only the seventh female to win the honor in 44 years and the first since 2000. And she’s been nominated for two more Grammys in 2010. Oh, she collected an engagement ring and released another number one album in 2009, too. Some year, huh?
1. Ellen DeGeneres becomes a judge
After it became clear Paula Abdul wouldn’t be back for season nine, there was all sorts of speculation about who would replace her. Victoria Beckham (aka Posh Spice)? Shania Twain? Well, how about Avril Lavigne? The Ellen announcement came out of nowhere in early September. She’ll bring compassion and humor to the show, without resorting to crayons. Coherence, too. Shame we probably won’t see her until Hollywood Week.