Hey, 'Idol,' Why Doesn't Ryan Seacrest Want Me Anymore?

Changes Are Afoot, Which May Prompt People Like Me to Vote With Our Feet

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Judann Pollack
Judann Pollack
If "American Idol" fails this season, it will be my fault.

I'm the reason the producers changed the format -- me and others like me, namely viewers over the age of 40. From what I've read, we are preventing the creation of the next Justin Bieber by voting in tepid winners over the past two years -- not to mention separating Fox from all those ad dollars from Clearasil and Axe. Let's face it, Ryan Seacrest doesn't want me anymore.

So to chase me away, the producers are introducing a whole new format. There are new days for airing. New judges in Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler (not our doing; the blame there lies with Simon Cowell for leaving the show and forcing a new slate). And there are a lot of other changes afoot if the blogs are to be believed. Supposedly, there will be fewer competitive rounds until the finalists are chosen, a new set, online voting and more social media (because, of course, people my age don't know how to use the internet).

Those are all improvements, if you ask me -- which, of course, no one did.

But some of the other shifts bantered about on the blogs just might drive me away after all these seasons, as producers Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe seem to so fervently want. One rumor is that the contestants will be housed together in an "Idol" mansion "Big Brother"-style. Or maybe the model is more "Jersey Shore." In any event, it seems no one has been taking to heart Simon's oft-stated lament, "This is a singing competition, not a personality contest."

But it seems to be becoming one after all as the show works to pre-package a pop personality. There has been talk that the contestants will be able to make their own music videos that could incorporate dancing (let's be glad this rule wasn't in effect in Ruben Studdard's season) and that Jimmy Iovine will lead a "dream team" of producers and songwriters who will work with each finalist to custom-fit songs and arrangements to suit their voices.

This is where they lose me. Much of the joy in watching "Idol" was seeing contestants trying to adapt to unfamiliar songs and styles. In many cases, the results were disastrous, but the exercise separated the true talents from the pretenders. If you don't believe me, play back David Cook's "Hello," "Always Be My Baby" or "Billie Jean" on YouTube. Do it now. I'll wait.

Fox's promos for the show reek of the hometown-kid-makes-good storyline, filled with dewy-eyed hopefuls. But with a dream team of seasoned pros feeding them the performance, the whole thing feels as manufactured as the Monkees. I get what Fox is trying to do -- cash in with a tour-ready Katy Perry. But this is more "Superstar Boot Camp" than "American Idol." It's designed to stop the "same kind" of singer from getting to the top (read: Kris Allen), supposedly voted in by me and my ilk. But if that were actually the case, how do you explain runner-up Adam Lambert?

On second thought, don't explain Adam Lambert to me.

The idea is to get younger audiences tuning in -- and it could work. But packing the program with Jonas Brothers clones doesn't just change the "Idol" format, it messes with its substance. And it will probably keep away engaged and loyal viewers like me -- you know, the Coke drinkers, Ford drivers and AT&T subscribers (well, maybe not that last), who have eagerly watched for a decade.

Which, of course, seems to be the idea.

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