This just in: People are running wild in the streets, a chorus of hideous sobs and sirens as their cacophonous soundtrack. Okay, not really. But today’s newsbomb that Simon Cowell will not return to American Idol for its tenth season in 2011 has created tsunami-level waves in the pop-culture watercooler. I mean, heck, even if you’re not an Idoloonie, the fact that the Perennial Ratings Behemoth (TM) is losing its most famous, most polarizing, and most viewer-drawing judge is a big frakin deal, no? But hey, before we all officially declare Jan. 11, 2010 as the day the Idol died, let’s take a big, collective breath because I believe deep in my heart that the show can survive without the V-neck-loving Brit at its table. Consider my top three reasons:
1) Simon’s exit could lead to revamped and reinvigorated audition rounds. Let’s face it: Simon’s role on Idol is never more crucial than during the auditions — when audiences haven’t had time to get attached to any particular contestant(s), and the judges are the true stars of the show. Without Mr. Cranky, these particular episodes would need a drastic reboot — but then again, don’t they need a reboot already? Heading into season 9, is anyone excited about watching/listening to folks with delusions of being the next Kelly Clarkson as they warble their way through the Diane Warren songbook? Imagine this tweak to the formula: For three weeks (down from the typical four), Idol’s Tuesday-Wednesday audition shows could focus only on good-to-great vocalists, and give us a better understanding about which ones get Golden Tickets to Hollywood, and which get express passes to anonymity. Then, Fox runs a trio of special Friday-night episodes devoted to blood-curdlingly awful “singers” dressed in feathers, lycra, and statue-of-liberty crowns. After that, the show expands its always riveting “Hollywood Week” coverage from four episodes to six. That move would reduce the amount of “Which freakin’ holding room contains Leneshe Young!?” confusion. Plus, imagine if it all culminated in a live broadcast during which the judges revealed the season’s top 24 (excruciating live sing-offs included). Yeah, we’d miss us some Simon, but with all that drama and focus on future Carries and ‘Tasias and Cookies, not quite as much, right?
2) Idol‘s producers have never had a better excuse for some wholesale housecleaning behind the judges’ table! Seriously, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, is it possible you don’t believe there are at least a half-dozen smart, funny, telegenic music-label execs/record producers/A&R folks who’d be happy to steal Simon’s chair — and offer up critical, coherent, verbally sparkling feedback to the season 10 contestants? Such persons exist! I believe it as much as I believe there is a unicorn named Kradison with the magical power to make me feel like I’ve hit the MegaMillions every day of my life! (This unicorn, FYI, exists in my iPod under the labels “Kris Allen’s self-titled debut,” “For Your Entertainment,” and “Just Like You.“) And while the Idol Machine is shopping for Ellen DeGeneres’ chair-neighbor, wouldn’t it be great if it found new and improved substitutes for Randy “for me for you” Jackson and Kara “my God she’s getting a second season!” DioGuardi? Hey, as I’ve said in the past, it’s pure fiction that the American Idol judges’ table has room for only one person who doesn’t inspire nationwide DVR fast-forwarding. On Project Runway, I hang on every word that comes from Nina Garcia, Michael Kors, Heidi Klum, and (usually) the weekly guest judge. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the same type of insight from the regular cast members of the No. 1 show on television.
3) If Idol is going to keep churning out radio-ready pop stars, it needs a tastemaker with modern tastes. I mean, in all seriousness, Simon’s unfiltered commentary and your-vocalizing-is-my-personal-hell stares make for great television, but it’s no secret his musical tendencies veer more toward the Righteous Brothers and Lulu than Lady Gaga and Owl City. As Idol approaches its teenage years, would it be the worst thing in the world to swap in a Pharrell Williams or a Linda Perry in place of the man who thinks Celine Dion’s diva showboating is the best possible form of song interpretation? I say, probably not!
What about you, Idol fans? Do you see any silver lining in today’s storm cloud of “Simon is LEAVING!” news? Can the show go on without its most famous face? Is it really about Mr. Cranky, or does Idol live and die by its contestants? And finally, are you following me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak? If not, what are you waiting for! The season 9 premiere of Idol is only…a day…awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy!
Image Credit: Michael Becker/Fox