Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: 'American Idol' finale preview

In today's column, I attempt to live down (or up to) my pre-finals prediction that David Archuleta would win "American Idol" walking away. Also, in an online-only sidebar, I add one item to my recent list of things "Idol" needs to fix: it's time to dump Randy Jackson.


K J Gillenwater said...

Um, I thought Randy was there because he's worked with Mariah Carey among other big time stars. He has more experience working with and developing music talent more than Paula.

I agree, his comments have been pretty useless this season and his 'dog' phrases are tired, but he has worked in the music industry, behind the scenes.

I remember when AI first started, it seemed like Paula Abdul was probably the only music has-been they could get to agree to be on the show as a judge. An unproven reality tv show. She was *lucky* she got in when she did. She is more famous now for sitting behind the judges' table than she ever was for her one flash-in-the-pan album that had a few hits back in the hey days of MTV.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I get that he worked with Mariah, but for a guy who's worked in the music industry for decades, he brings a shocking lack of insight -- or, at least, the ability to articulate any insight -- to the proceedings. You could plug virtually any "Idol" fan into that seat and he or she would have smarter, more interesting things to say about each performance than Randy does.

Just Me said...

Alan, I read both of your columns this morning (both about the David vs. David finale and Randy Jackson) and agree 100% with everything. Jackson has become increasingly annoying each year, when originally he seemed like the most "fair" judge. As for the finale, and the way the season went with Cook/Arhculeta -- you put everything exactly the way I've been thinking all season.

KendraWM said...

Could not agree with you more, oh one thing you forgot Randy is also there to remind us of everyone he has worked with and just how many times.

The worst thing about Randy is he clearly does not try to hide his favorites, he pigeon holes the contestants, will decide that John Doe is this years rocker, or Jane Doe is this years soul voice and then when they sing the genre he keeps telling them they should be in he then tells them he does not get them. He makes no sense and is not consistent in his judging.

He criticized Syesha for rearranging a Sam Cooke song and then thinks little Davids bastardized version of Elvis with 15 runs, a dropped note and a cracked voice on the finale note was the second coming of Christ.

I am so over him.

Anonymous said...

I suspect Randy will stay as long as Simon does.

Anonymous said...

"But deserve's got nothing to do with "Idol,"...a shout out to The Wire's Snoop in an American Idol column? Fantastic.

For the sake of Cook's career, I'm hoping for an Archuleta victory.

dark tyler said...

a shout out to The Wire's Snoop in an American Idol column? Fantastic.

Could be a William Munny shout-out. Fantastic either way.

Alan, I agree 100% with every single word on Randy Jackson. I don't have high hopes for him getting the boot (yet) but maybe the idea could work itself into the minds of the producers, and consider it in the future.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you speak the truth about Randy. He hasn't said much of substance all season. Maybe it's because this is the first season I've watched every week, but I never noticed before how obtuse he is. Does he know about any music other than the headache inducing dreck Mariah puts out?

Maybe I wouldn't mind so much if he weren't so obviously biased towards David A. I don't have a problem with David A. Ten year old girls deserve their own music too. But Randy's inability (or refusal) to call him out on anything is a clear sign that Randy has either lost it or just doesn't care anymore. Or maybe he's as worried about Young David's welfare as you are.

I would be happy if all three judges were replaced. Paula is huge mess most weeks,and her rambling drives me crazy. Simon doesn't seem to know a thing about music made before 1990. All of them hold Mariah, Celine and Whitney as the gold standard, when all three singers should be stuck on an island and forced to listen to 1960's Motown and punk music for the rest of their lives. I'll amend that. The singers and the judges should be dumped on that island.

Nicole said...

I have read that Archuleta's dad goes to speak with the judges during breaks (except for Simon), so Randy may be pimping Archuleta and ignoring his obvious flaws because he does not want to deal with Dadzilla. It's not right, but could be a possible reason for the pigeon-holing.

I think Cook should win, and he's good enough to weather the rainbows and puppies song, like Kelly Clarkson did. It would be best for Archuleta if he didn't win, and faded into obscurity so that he could escape his father's clutches, and get actual training if this is what he really wants to do. A win will just further trap him.

I hope next year the producers raise the age up to 18 so that stage parents can't interfere, or at least get excluded from the process.

Adam said...

Idol Finalists Tricks-Per-Pony:

Clarkson: Infinite
Guarini: 1 (0.5 for hair, 0.5 for "Get Here")
Studdard: 1, but it's a good one
Aiken: I hate him. Cannot answer dispassionately in re: music's magical elf.
Barrino: Infinite
DeGarmo: Same as Archuleta in every way.
Underwood: 3
Bice: 1, but it's a good one.
Hicks: 1, and it's a bad one
McPhee: 1.5
Sparks: 3
Lewis: 2.2, but they're good ones. Remember "How Deep Is Your Love"?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Could be a William Munny shout-out. Fantastic either way.

Technically, it's both, as Snoop's line was The Wire staff paying tribute to Unforgiven.

KrisMrsBBradley said...

So right! Randy doesn't add anything to the show anymore. You could have a drinking game with "A little pitchy, dawg", "Blazing hot!" and "I worked with Mariah/Whitney" Always the same comments.

Paula does the same, to some extent, but she, at least, is never boring, and always tries to say something positive with it. She has her "thing", and I think it works in it's own coo-coo-bananas kind of way.

Simon is the only one with honest, cognizant comments, and they still cut him off with music.

Anonymous said...

I think he's just alright, dawg.

Mo Ryan said...

And, sure, she's an easy target, as she's usually so confused about what's actually happening in front of her that she seems to have stumbled out of The Orchid station on the "Lost" island wearing a bloody Dharma parka, not sure where or when she is.

Now that was smoking, blazing hot. Heee!

Spot on about Randy. One thing that drives me nuts -- his enthusiastic endorsement of the kind of trills and runs and vocal tomfoolery that Mariah made popular. For years we've been subjected to that sort of tiresome, melodramatic singing because the judges, especially Randy, just love it. Ugh.

I do think parents should be banned, period. For all contestants. Parents, spouses, dogs, coaches, whatever. And yes, the age should be raised (wasn't part of the reason Dadzilla was there because lil Archie is under 18?). But didn't I just read Simon floating the idea of *lowering* the age? Yee-ush. That's be a disaster. It's one thing to be 18+ and be put through the Idol machinery, I'd hate to see what it did to a 14 or 15 year old.

Adam said...

I think that if they moved more of the theme weeks into music of the past two decades, it would help weed out pageant singers like Young David Archuleta by making their disconnect with contemporary music more apparent.

I know Bill Carter tells the "how'd they find Randy and Paula?" story in DESPERATE NETWORKS, but I'll confess that I don't remember what the story is.

Adam said...

I think that if they moved more of the theme weeks into music of the past two decades, it would help weed out pageant singers like Young David Archuleta by making their disconnect with contemporary music more apparent.

I know Bill Carter tells the "how'd they find Randy and Paula?" story in DESPERATE NETWORKS, but I'll confess that I don't remember what the story is.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts on changes:

(1) Definitely drop Randy and Paula. Consider dropping Simon, who can give good critiques, but has some really big gaps in musical knowledge. Although his failure to understand that a bird may be a metaphor is entertaining.

(2) Replace producers' choice of song with something like former Idol contestants' choice of song. The producers have hideous, dated taste in music. I'm no fan of YDA, but Dan Fogelberg's Longer? Few on Idol are old enough to carry that off without seeming disconnected from the song, and if one des, sh/e would come across as ancient. If they surveyed past contestants (say past years' top 6) for possible options, I bet that you'd come up with better, more contemporary, more stylistically appropriate choices, and having a video with a past contestant presenting why s/he suggested the ultimate song selected would probably be a real crowd pleaser.

(3) Severely limit the number of group songs. I could lose them entirely, but at least after Top 7, could we not have the contestants focus on their individual efforts?

(4) Fewer dated themes. I've seen some suggestions that the itunes partnership may have increased these, because of licensing issues. If so, that's unfortunate, because it's been good to hear complete versions of songs.

(5) More time per performance in the later rounds. By Top 5, it would be nice to see if each can present a good performance of more than 1.5 minutes. For rounds of two songs, give each contestant 1 extra minute that s/he can allocate as s/he wishes. For Top 3, give each 2 extra minutes. Top 2, 3 extra minutes. Minimum of 1.5 minutes per song.

(6) If the number of performances require it, go longer than an hour. Top 5 was a mess even without Paulagate.

(7) Replace some of the random crap with stuff that details some background stuff on the show---say, a week with a pithy video on working with the vocal coach, one with making arrangements, etc.

(8) There's some stuff on the web from ancillary shows where the contestants actually show personality, e.g., where they are asked about their favorite past Idols, what superpowers they would like, and where the Top 3 talk about first impressions. Why not put that on the air? I bet you that you'll come away from those clips liking some of them more, including YDA, who is very funny in that last one.

(9) Less extracurricular stuff. The final five contestants seemed really tired.

(10) Please, please, please. No more "inspirational songs" theme. Ugh. If they insist on doing Idol Gives Back, do it as a separate week, maybe between Top 4 and Top 3, to allow more time for the Final 3 to prepare and get clearances for their preferred songs.

Nicole said...

I think extending the time for performance in the later rounds is a great idea. There was no reason for Cook's middle song last week to be as short as it was. This is Top 3.

Less filler interviews and more actual singing.

Anonymous said...

The only time I watch this show is the first few episodes where they have the bad singers on. Otherwise I find it stretched out too long and don't care to hear a lot of mediocre "good singing".

I DO follow information markets though, and online wagering sites provide some very good information for American Idol (and also the less important Presidential candidates races). Somewhere about 3 weeks back, David Cook overtook Archuleta as the favorite to win. Before that, Archuleta was in the high 70-s% for most of the season.

In aggregate, taking the average of the most popular betting markets on the Internet (the ones from the U.K. are the best, IMHO), Cook is currently about a 68-to-32 favorite to win, or just over 2-1.

Will be interesting to see if this changes much after tonight's show (which I won't watch). I suspect it won't, barring a disaster, because the votes are pretty much already 'locked in'.

Second interesting thing is if Archeleta wins. It probably indicates that betting (information) markets are overly discounting the voting power of teenage and preteen girls versus adults.

I don't watch the non-audition shows, but replacing all 3 judges seems intriguing and the best way to inject life into it.