An Open Letter to Simon Cowell: 'American Idol' Needs You Back

You Kept 'Idol' a Talent Contest, Not a Popularity Contest -- or Worse

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Judann Pollack
Judann Pollack

Dear Simon,

We know you just told Piers Morgan that "American Idol" is a "better show than last year." But we've got something to say too: Come back. Please?

Sure, the show's ratings still top the charts among 18-to-49-year-old viewers, even if they're not what they once were.

And we admit we've been infatuated with Steven Tyler, with his hot-pink shirts, bleeped-out outbursts and quirky critiques -- like this one to the contestant who's a dockworker by day: "Holy shipbuilder!"

But he and the rest of this year's panel utterly lack your unique gift for honest appraisal. Season 10 is a gentler, kinder "Idol," all about politeness and misplaced encouragement that would never have been tolerated under your watch.

How we long for one "appalling karaoke performance" or "cruise ship from hell" assessment. It is a sad statement when the most caustic on the panel is now Randy Jackson, whose most damning insult was "You didn't shine beyond belief."

Let's face it: Most of the fun in watching was judging each performance in our own minds and then waiting to see if we got it right based upon your take. You validated us.

Simon Cowell in better days for 'Idol'
Simon Cowell in better days for 'Idol'

Then there's the question of what you would make of this season's brand makeover. Would you, like us, roll your eyes at pregnant pauses longer than J Lo's hair extensions? How about the fact that three of the folks we viewers voted off were reinstated by the judges as if our opinion didn't matter? And don't get us started on the product placement -- never subtle -- which has been supercharged to the point where we were dismayed to briefly spot the Coca-Cola logo hovering over Ryan Seacrest's nether regions.

How would you, the man who so often said "this is a talent contest, not a popularity contest," address our fears that Jimmy Iovine and his team of pros are so intent on sprinkling Interscope fairy dust on the contestants that it's nearly impossible to judge their natural abilities? One performer copped to wanting to do a song a certain way, but was dissuaded by a music producer with "a whole new vision."

And then there are the whispered contentions on Twitter and some blogs that the producers are playing puppeteer by not having the entire show run live. "We are pre-taping for 2 weeks as we have a new Director & new judges," producer Nigel Lythgoe, who also produces "So You Think You Can Dance" tweeted under his handle @dizzyfeet. "It has nothing to do with manipulation you morons."

Now there's a comment worthy of you, Simon. In the same spirit of honestly, let's be clear: There are changes we do like -- we love that nearly everyone connected with the show is now using social media to keep us in the loop, for example. But for all that transparency, it's still hard to shake the feeling that some agenda is being forced on our beloved brand. As @dizzyfeet himself tweeted later, "I love getting all of you riled up."

And you know the show isn't what it once was. After you told Piers Morgan how much better "Idol" is than it was last year, you admitted your real fondness for the seasons when Paula Abdul was still around. "I always think of 'Idol' really as me Paula and Randy," you said. "And I think when other people were brought in and Paula wasn't there, it was to me like being on a different show."

We'll say it again: Simon, come back.

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