Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tonight It Begins...

It seems like only yesterday we watched the confetti fall on Kris Allen as he struggled through another dreary coronation song. But tonight we will once again hear Ryan Seacrest say those four magic words: “THIS is ‘American Idol.’”

Normally there aren’t a lot of questions during the show’s hiatus. It’s usually just things like: How successful and/or good will the winner’s CD be? What format changes will the show make for next year? Can “Idol” stay on top of the TV ratings? But as the auditions begin unfolding tonight there are so many questions it’s hard to keep track as this has been the wildest “Idol” off-season ever.

The biggest question, of course, is how the show will be different with the addition of Ellen DeGeneres as a judge. I’d like to look in my crystal ball and tell you that “Idol” will still be the same show we’ve always known and loved. But I just can’t do that.

Let me say for the record that my biggest concern is not DeGeneres herself. It’s the other judges. I worry that the judges’ comments may end up becoming a one-liner competition which will completely take the focus away from the contestants. I still firmly believe that it was Kara DioGuardi who “Idol” should have let walk out the door and not Paula Abdul. The truth is that regardless of how good DeGeneres may be, “Idol” as we have always known it is no more.

And in some cases that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. After the dark place the show went to last season with the judges trying to manipulate our votes and the ugly backlash over the results, the show could probably use a little lightening up. I believe DeGeneres will do that not only with her humor but by putting Cowell in his place when it’s necessary.

Right now, it’s time for my least favorite part of the season, the auditions. I know that some of you live to see the clueless people make fools of themselves but some of them actually make me cringe. I love it when they’re finally over and we get to the good stuff.

But that won’t happen until February 17 when the judges name the top 24 as the show goes back to its familiar 12 males and 12 females format. In the meantime we’ll sit through the best and the worst seven US cities have to offer. And since DeGeneres will not join the show until the Hollywood rounds, we’ll get guest judges like Katy Perry, Joe Jonas and the one I’m most looking forward to—Neil Patrick Harris. Victoria Beckham gets us kicked off tonight.

I always say that the return of “Idol” is the moment my life ceases to be my own as for the next five months I hand it over to the phenomenon that will take us on a crazy and often frustrating journey. I hope you all will consider going on that journey with me.

“American Idol” returns with a two-hour episode tonight at 8 on FOX. I’ll be posting my thoughts on the premiere at the end of the episode…