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AI10: How a Pop Culture Phenomenon Grew Up Without Growing Old

by Ethan Tussey

by Alex Wagner-Trugman & Suellen Wagner for IN MEDIA RES

Love it or hate it, American Idol is not the same show it was in years past. With the departure of Simon Cowell critics and fans dismissed the show as dead; how could it survive without its "heart"? But like modern day Dr. Frankensteins, Executive Producers Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe pieced together all that was salvageable, added a pinch of J-Lo's booty and a dab of Steven Tyler's, well, everything, and voila! Lightning struck and out came a kinder, gentler monster that is the American Idol we watch every Wednesday and Thursday night.

While the new Idol was born from necessity, it may very well be better than before. Just as America, battered by recession and unemployment, has awakened to the fact that bullying is bad, Idol’s resident bully has been replaced by far more nurturing figures who allow the contestants to stray from their comfort zones without fear of evisceration. This new panel is all performers (let’s not forget that Randy once wore spandex and played bass for Journey), and performers understand that we all mess up sometimes, and to punish risk-takers only leads to a legion of wannabe Celine Dions. Yes, while there are some fans who despise this new Idol and long for the old days, where aggressive humiliation was the norm, many of us are coming to the realization that this is what Idol should have been all along. Is it really so great to teach our kids that someone who commits an error deserves to be put in the stocks and have tomatoes hurled at them in front of friends, family, and 30 million other, casual observers? While the schadenfreude was delicious (and we relished in it from time to time, don’t deny it), it leaves a bitter aftertaste, and one that we can surely live without. In the words of Thumper, "if ya can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."

Casey Abrams sings "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Casey Abrams sings Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on episode 18 of season 10 of American Idol.

from American Idol (2011)
Creator: Simon Fuller
Distributor: FreemantleMedia; FOX
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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