My Top Five Reasons American Idol's Ratings Are The Lowest Since Season One

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It started a few weeks ago, when Dancing with the Stars was the number-one show of the week. What the what? That's not normal in an American Idol-dominated landscape.

Now, the numbers have gotten even more surprising: Tuesday night's Top Five episode sported Idol's lowest ratings since Season One.

Or as Daniel Frankel from The Wrap put it:

The last time "American Idol" endured ratings so low, Brian Dunkleman was the co-host, George W. Bush was president, and Simon Cowell was just some jerk from Britain.

So, without further ado, here is my Letter to the Producers of American Idol with my Top Five Reasons for the decline (and my unsolicited advice on how to fix it).

Dear American Idol Producers:

#5: Four Judges = Too Many


Image courtesy Fox

Not only are you regularly pissing off your audience by running overtime (thus leading to people either missing the end of AI, or if they record Glee too, missing the ending of Glee) you are delivering way more talk than music. I know you think everyone watches for Simon's acerbic critiques and the homoerotic/homophobic interplay between Ryan and Simon, but actually, I'm guessing most of us actually like seeing these young performers, um, perform. In previous years, the show would already be allotting each remaining contestant two songs at this point in the competition. Similarly, it wouldn't take until the finale to hear each contestant three times. But in Tuesday night's show, we had to listen to approximately 30 minutes of judging, bantering and staged "packages", 20 minutes of commercials, and only 10 minutes of singing. That ratio is off. Can one of the judges and fix it, just like that.

#4: Please, God, Help the Contestants, Not for Their Sake, but for Ours!

As I've mentioned before: Some episodes get incredibly dull because they become way too ballad-heavy. Singers love to sing ballads. I used to do my own cabaret act when I lived in NYC, and my musical coach was constantly having to remind me to mix it up. Why? Because otherwise I would get BORING. So, if you see the contestants all going for exactly the same kind of song, don't let them. Make it first come, first served with ballad selection, or something, but require that the overall song choices for the night have some variety.

#3: Time to Ditch Theme Nights, or at Least Radically Change Them

I will stab my eardrums out before watching another "Inspirational Songs" theme night. Or "Love Songs." See above re: variety being the spice of life. The judges keep harping on people to show what kind of artist they'd be. Why not just let them pick a song, each week, that they think shows that? The themes are cheesy. The themes get old. The themes are a clever way of stacking the deck, since there are clearly some folks who are going to do better at Country, or Rock, or Big Band, than others. Let these singers show us what kind of artist they'd be ... whatever that means to them.

#2: If You're Going to Manipulate Us, Do It Right

Each year, the producers focus on a few folks in the early auditions and Hollywood Week episodes that they know are not going to show up in the semi-finals. Think Angela this year, Danny Gokey's best buddy last year and so on. It's time to stop with that. What happens is we end up caring more about people we don't get to see, and never quite getting why, say, a mediocre singer has made it through, only to be cut right away, rather than someone you actually made us love and want to see more from. If you're going to build those people up in our eyes, why not let them get in front of America and their votes? I know, I know, this is reality TV, and drama is essential, but that actually leads to my Number One reason:

#1: This Is Not Reality TV; This Is a Talent Show. Put. Talent. First.

What does that mean? What difference does it make? It means: Give us less manipulation, more talent. Give us less "personality," more talent. Give us less chatter and banter and treacle, more talent. Give us less backstory, more talent. Give us more talent!!! If this Top 12 were really the best 12 singers from over 100,000 contestants, then ask yourselves what's wrong with your audition process that you aren't getting better people to audition? Because, seriously!

OK, those are my top five reasons ... did I miss any?

Elisa Camahort Page
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