American Idol Season 10: What's the Verdict on the New Idol?

Reports of American Idol's demise in Season 10 may be a bit premature.

Yes, it's going through a major transformation. Only Randy Jackson remains from any previous season's judging panel. He's joined by two wild cards: Jennifer Lopez -- struggling to stay relevant in a world of Lady Gagas, Ke$has and Taylor Swifts -- and Steven Tyler, who has possibly not been relevant for longer than J-Lo.

But, and it's a big but: They are both bona fide, hit-making performers, just like every Idol wannabe wants to be. When Paula Abdul pulled her "you don't know how hard it is to get up there" on Simon, it had a ring of truth. Even Jackson, who played bass with Journey among others, was much more a behind-the-scenes guy. Now he's joined by two people who have been front and center, and who know a thing or two about charisma, packaging and performing.

Image courtesy FOX

You might expect more egos and diva moments to accompany the addition of two stars like Tyler and J-Lo, but instead I see a group of people who genuinely seem to be having fun together. I don't blame past scenes of conflict and acidity on the judges, actually. I tend to think the producers made every kind of cut in the book to create those kinds of scenes, and once there were two women judges, watch out! The producers love to manipulate themselves some catfights and sexual tension.

Dare I hope we won't see much of that this season?

So far, so good. We've got camaraderie and good humor, not eye-rolling, weird homoerotic spats and hyperbolic criticism that crosses the line. (Does that answer your question? No, I do not miss Simon at all...yet.) J-Lo might be a little too prone to tears, and Tyler needs to remember when he's talking about a 15-year-old. But in general: Good chemistry, good fun.

And we haven't even seen real-live mega-star producer Jimmy Iovine in action yet as a resident mentor (an idea I actually dig).

Another thing that is really, really working for me so far during these audition episodes is that they are showing way more of the good people than the crazy, delusional, pathetically bad people.

I usually don't start my recaps until we get to the top 24 or 36, because I don't like to write about humiliation. I've always watched these episodes; I just don't recap them. As a viewer, I watch this show to see good singing, so I'm gratified that they are actually focusing more on that. (And now that we're back down to three judges, I am hopeful we'll have even more singing, less talk throughout the season.)

I am a little concerned about one thing. Once we get down to the point where basically everyone is an adequate singer, down to the culling and winnowing part, I did agree with Simon's assessments more often than with anyone else's. In general, he was spot-on (although I thought he lost his touch the last two seasons). Will anyone else be willing to really tell the truth? I think there's a lot of room to tell the truth and be even more constructive than Simon was, since he didn't lean toward providing actual actionable feedback beyond "Sing better." Will anyone fill that hole? Is that Jimmy Iovine's role in the pre-performance clips we'll see?

I'm curious to see who the truth-teller is.

In the meantime, we have the tear-jerking stories, the unexpected talents (Otis Redding soul coming out of an unprepossessing 15-year-old boy being a prime example), and even a blogger who has made it through to the next round (Sarah Sellers, food and music blogger from Richardson, TX).

I'll be watching, and I fully expect to enjoy it more than the last couple of seasons. Ratings for the opening episodes had certainly dropped significantly, including from week one to week two, but Idol still easily wins its time slot.

Let's see what happens when we get to the good stuff: the semifinals and beyond!

I mean, they've got to find a better winner than Season 9, don't they? DON'T THEY???

I'm still All In for American Idol. How about you?

Elisa Camahort Page
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