Scott D. Pierce: 'Idol' judges' feud overshadows contestants
Pasadena, Calif. •
The feud between new "American Idol" judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj is genuine. It's clear the two don't like each other. A joint appearance before television critics turned into a series of digs at each other, accompanied by so much eye-rolling it's a wonder they didn't get vertigo.
The Big Lie that came out of that appearance is that, heading into its 12th season, "Idol" is about the contestants and not about the judges.
When Carey protests that her battle with Minaj is "a distraction from the show," it's completely disingenuous. Their feud is the show this season, which begins Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. on Channel 13.
Maybe Carey actually believed it when she said, "I think it shouldn't be about any of us sitting up here. It should be about the contestants." But that's not the show Fox is selling us.
Do you think it's coincidence that the first glimpse we got of Season 12 was Carey and Minaj fighting? That Carey is giving interviews about it and Minaj is responding?
Of course not.
What isn't believable is Carey's contention that the show is "bigger than some stupid, trumped-up thing. I think it's about the next huge talent, superstar, that will come from this show."
Oh, really? If that were the case, wouldn't the judges be unknown talent scouts? People no one had ever heard of, like Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest were, back when the show started?
Carey is reportedly being paid $18 million to judge this season of "American Idol." Minaj is reportedly making something in the neighborhood of $8 million to $12 million. (Maybe that's part of the reason behind their feud.)
The sole returning judge, Jackson, is reported to be making about $8 million. The third new judge, Keith Urban, will struggle along on $3 million to $5 million.
And you expect us to believe that "American Idol" isn't about the people who are getting paid a total of $40 million or more? Really?
"I know it's really going to create a superstar," Minaj said, "and I wanted to have a part in that."
Really? When was the last time "Idol" created a superstar? Or just a regular star?
Can you name last year's winner? Can you name last year's judges?
I'm betting a lot more people remember judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez than remember winner Phillip Phillips.
Hey, I'm not saying there's no entertainment value in watching Minaj and Carey fussin,' fightin' and feudin.' It's fascinating to watch two wealthy, successful entertainers take shots at each other and to see poor Urban have to serve as a demilitarized zone by sitting between them.
That's what you can expect from Season 12 of "American Idol."
Just don't expect this to be about the contestants. They're props in the Mariah vs. Nicki Show. And the false humility in pretending otherwise is completely unconvincing.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.
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