In a separate post, I mentioned earlier that “American Idol’s” ratings have taken a nosedive this past year, although I don’t think it has anything to do with having a lesbian on the judge’s panel. But going into next season, “American Idol” faces a ratings challenge: The show is losing its biggest draw in the acerbic British judge, Simon Cowell.
To be honest, though, Cowell isn’t anywhere near as vicious as his reputation suggests. Granted, he’s the only judge on the show that anyone cares to listen to because he’s usually the more honest of the four, but — like Randy Jackson — Cowell has been recycling the same metaphors since the beginning of “AI,” comparing contestants to karaoke singers, cruise-ship entertainers, coffee-shop performers, and wedding singers. He’s as tiresome as the show is.
If “American Idol” wants to continue its stranglehold over the ratings for another year or two, the show needs to reinvent itself. It needs some new, fresh ideas. I honestly don’t believe that there’s any one real person in existence who can adequately replace Simon Cowell. Not even Howard Stern (who was at one point rumored to be in the running), who would alienate half the audience, or Madonna, who is being rumored as a replacement today (she’d lose her novelty after a few episodes).
Indeed, the only acceptable replacements I can think of are all fictional characters. And that’s the way I think “American Idol” should go. That’s how you reinvent yourself. Cut the reality-show charade. Bring in a fictional character — an actor who would deliver improvised lines as a particular widely known fictional character. It’s meta-terrific!
Here are the five fictional characters I think should be considered to replace Simon Cowell.
5. Buddy Ackerman: The abusive producer from Swimming with Sharks would be an excellent lead judge on “American Idol.” The contestants don’t cry enough, and with Ackerman — a Hollywood producer — on board, there’d be a crying montage after each episode. “You are nothing!” he would exclaim. “If you were in my toilet I wouldn’t bother flushing it.” He would single-handedly drive up the suicide rate of contestants, and suicides are great for ratings.
Sample Critique: “I told you, it’s gotta be loud loud loud! The audience should feel their balls tremble, their ears should bleed!”
4. Derek Zoolander: He’d probably wear out his welcome fairly soon, but I like the idea of Derek Zoolander because he’s likely choose contestants based solely on their physical beauty. “American Idol” doesn’t need another Lee DeWyze or that Soul Patrol dude. It needs chiseled faces and supermodel looks. Singing talent should be secondary. Aren’t you tired of looking at unattractive 20-somethings singing bad renditions of Beatles songs? If the music is already going to be awful, at least give us some eye candy.
Sample Critique: “Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty. ”
3. Anton Chigurh: Every contestant would be judged arbitrarily, based solely on a coin flip. They get it right, they move on to the next week’s round. They get it wrong: cattle gun. If audience members boo or hiss: cattle gun. If Seacrest takes more than 45 seconds to announce the winner on the results show: cattle gun. If Randy calls the dog pound: cattle gun. If the pretty woman who sits next to Simon and prattles goes over 30 seconds in her remarks: cattle gun. Seasons would last only three episodes. It would be sublime.
Sample Critique: “Call it.”
2. Ron Burgundy: You know what’s better than a mean judge? A nonsensical one. Like the majority of “American Idol’s” audience has increasingly been doing, Burgundy would complete ignore what’s happening on stage and riff about whatever’s on his mind. Preferably loudly. And in gibberish. He would demand more classic rock. More cowbell. And he might occasionally take the stage himself, either to perform or to yell loudly in the contestants’ faces: “You’ve got a dirty whorish mouth!” He might even proposition a few, and what’s better than a sexual harassment lawsuit or six to drum up ratings.
Sample Critique: “I’m in a glass case of emotion.”
1. Sue Sylvester: Not only would Sylvester provide the best cross-promotion that Fox could ask for — she’d be featured in back-to-back shows, providing her own lead-in — but she’s an ideal judge. No one’s more honest that Sue Sylvester. Or more cutting. She’s clearly qualified — she instructs a cheerleading team and and has seen enough of the Glendale Glee Club to be able to recognize singing talent. What’s more: She’s mean, quick with a zinger, and yet strangely likable. Also, it would double the lesbian quotient on the show (assuming Sylvester, at some point, comes out) and that would piss off right-wingers, which would make me very happy.
Sample Critique: “Liking showtunes doesn’t make you gay. It just makes you awful.”