ABC executives insist there is a groundswell of excitement for its “American Idol” revival. That people just can’t wait for “America’s network” to air a reboot of the singing competition that completed its “final season” on Fox not quite two years ago.
Really? If people are clamoring for the show, I haven’t heard it. Well, except for all the ABC commercials touting the show’s return on Sunday (7 p.m., Channel 4).
If the experience here in Utah is any indication, “Idol” is a pop-culture phenomenon that has largely flamed out. Open auditions in Provo back in August drew about 1,000 hopefuls — a fraction of the number who turned out for Salt Lake auditions in 2013. And they were a fraction of the thousands who auditioned in SLC in 2008, when “American Idol” was a huge hit and a genuine pop-culture sensation.
(There are no identifiable Utahns among the hopefuls in Sunday’s premiere; that’ll come later.)
I’m not saying nobody will watch, but — as a cultural phenomenon — “American Idol” is over. And the reason the show was created has become a joke. Does anyone really believe that, Disneyfied advertisements aside, the show will actually produce a star?
When was the last time “American Idol” produced an American idol? When was the last time it produced a winner whose name you might recognize?
Maybe Phillip Phillips in 2012.
You can argue that, in 15 seasons, the show delivered an American Idol twice — Kelly Clarkson in 2002 and Carrie Underood in 2005. But, c’mon, a lot of winners were has-beens as the season-finale credits rolled. Can you name any of the last four?
(Candice Glover, Caleb Johnson, Nick Fradiani and Trent Harmon, by the way.)
The new judging panel — Katy Perry (who’s reportedly making $25 million), Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan (both reportedly making much, much less) — were asked to name any of the last three winners; none of them could.
(Ryan Seacrest returns as the host. And, given that he’s been accused of and denied charges of sexual harassment, I honestly don’t know what to say about that.)
Bryan admitted that “there are a few years … where you don’t really remember those contestants. We don’t want it to go that way. We want it to be right back to where ‘American Idol’ is known for, building those American idols.”
But was it? This was a show that made judge Simon Cowell a star, revived Paula Abdul’s career, made Randy Jackson famous and became all about the star judges who cycled through — Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Harry Connick Jr.
Love Katy Perry, but she’s saying things she’s going to wish she hadn’t. Like: “Literally, we are wasting our time if we do not find a star.”
Good luck with that.
Perry insisted that the judges are “secondary. It’s about finding an actual idol.”
Yeah, that’s not the way this works. “The Voice” has long since supplanted “Idol” in the genre, and it has yet to produce an actual star among its 13 winners.
That show has embraced the fact it’s about the judges — currently Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Alicia Keys and, ahem, Kelly Clarkson — and it works.
It’s no surprise that the judges are the best part of the two-hour “American Idol” season premiere on Sunday. Perry, in particularly, is energetic and entertaining. The single best moment in the premiere is when she kisses a boy and he likes it.
Hey, ABC isn’t paying her all that money to fade behind the contestants.
But the show is the same familiar/tired format we’ve seen 16 times since 2002. It’s a kinder, gentler, more precious version than when Cowell was insulting people, but it’s nothing new.
“American Idol” won’t win back the the 30 million viewers it averaged in 2006 and 2007. If it burns up Twitter or Instagram, that’ll be a shock.
Yes, there are some truly heart-warming stories. But this still looks like what it devolved to in its later seasons — a show that tween and teen girls watched with the moms and grandmas.