Sonya Sorich column: Seven ways to improve American Idol

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comMay 21, 2013 

In case you haven’t heard, something’s wrong with “American Idol.”

When Candice Glover won the 12th season of "Idol" last week, it was the first time the show's season finale attracted fewer than 20 million viewers, according to the Los Angeles Times. This year's finale drew "just 14 million viewers, a whopping 7 million fewer than last year," it adds.

The finale marked the end of a season marred by criticism.

But what exactly is the problem? Is it the judges, the contestants, or simply the inevitable onset of viewer fatigue?

Naturally, many pop culture aficionados have opinions. Google "ways to fix Idol" and you'll find a deluge of suggestions.

MSN has five ways to fix "Idol." The Today Show lists six "Idol" fixes. The Huffington Post has 18 ways to improve the show. As a longtime "Idol" blogger, I suppose I should prescribe a few remedies, too.

Submitted for your approval, here are my top seven ways to fix "Idol."

• Structure audition episodes based on themes, rather than cities. The novelty of the audition episodes has worn off. Instead of airing the audition shows as "Atlanta auditions" or "San Francisco auditions," producers should structure them thematically. Put the joke auditions in one episode, the memorable young singers in another episode, etc.

• Figure out Jimmy Iovine's role. Is he a judge? A mentor? A voice to fill up air time? "Idol" should consider airing Jimmy's critiques on performance night -- when his feedback could affect voting.

• Remove certain tunes from the "Idol" songbook. To freshen up the show, let's retire songs that have outlived their welcome on the "Idol" stage. My list includes "Feeling Good," as well as all Stevie Wonder songs.

• Limit the judges' voices. It seems like incessant rambling is a prerequisite for a seat on the "Idol" judges' panel. Why not draw on the popularity of social media and occasionally limit judges' feedback to 140 characters or less?

• Embrace the WGWG. The "White Guy with Guitar" was an unbeatable force on "Idol" -- until this season. We didn't have a WGWG in the semifinal or final stage. To many viewers, it suggested manipulation by producers to ensure a female winner. Come on, "Idol." You're better than that.

• Ditch the judges' "save." It's arguably the most overt evidence of manipulation by the "Idol" machine. Producers should abandon this tired element and let the people speak.

• Consider an all-star season. It wouldn't happen in season 13. But if next year's season flops, producers should seriously think about ending the show's run with a season featuring some of the best finalists from previous seasons. In my ideal world, everyone except winners and runners-up would be eligible for casting.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/americanidol to read her "Idol" blog.

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