Can anyone really imagine what American Idol will be like without Simon Cowell, the man whose cantankerous presence was such a key ingredient in the show's success? The answer is no, of course. But producers sure are pulling out the stops to make it interesting.
First they restocked the judges' table with two global superstars, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. Then they announced that this season, finalists will get to shoot music videos. And now they're "looking to add behind-the-scenes elements and find ways to have the singers interact with fans," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
That means 12 finalists living in a house in the Hollywood Hills, where they will all have Twitter accounts for shouting out to fans. Producers are also considering a Vegas road trip for some of the contestants, with cameras in tow, naturally.
This news provokes a few obvious questions. Will there be a hot tub in this Hollywood Hills mansion? (Isn't that a prerequisite on The Real World, The Bachelor, Jersey Shore and every other reality show about people living in a house together?) Will producers be encouraging… uh… entanglements of one sort or another? Love connections and violent outbursts are the dramatic bread and butter of reality shows built on constant camera surveillance.
Granted, it would be absurd to suggest that Idol is about to turn into a sort of docu-soap; it's a singing competition. But when producers call for "behind-the-scenes elements," they're usually hoping for the messy, personal, dramatic scenarios that drive up ratings.
MTV's Teen Mom was doing just fine as a show about the struggle to raise a child when you're still one yourself. But oh! How it drew national attention after the Amber-hit-her-boyfriend episode landed her a domestic violence indictment! Jersey Shore courted controversy from the beginning, but it got its first national close-up after MTV aired the Snooki-getting-socked footage. The whole Bachelor franchise is based on fans tuning in to watch people fall in love/lust. The Idol producers can't be immune to this temptation to make the show more titillating in the wake of Cowell's exit.
On the other hand, Idol has already proven that viewers will tune in for a good, old-fashioned singing competition, no smutty elements required. And the personal drama that has seeped into the show (like, say, the season that Paula Abdul had an alleged dalliance with a contestant) hasn't been a ratings-driving force. The show was strong on its own merits.
No one knows what Idol will be like without Cowell. Hopefully, though, it won't end up resembling The Hasselhoffs.
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