TV Trumps Talent
Flip the channel. Turn up the volume. Listen. There must be another talent competition flashing on your flat screen. One with raw talent, another with flashy lights and stage galore, and a third with spinning chairs and a star studded cast. American Idol is kicking off its twelfth season, and due to its success as the prototype for singing competitions, it has been thrown into its own competition as it battles against copycat shows.
American Idol can be marked as the American Bandstand of our decade. It even has host Ryan Seacrest trying to fill the footsteps of the legendary Dick Clark. With its start in 2002, it has discovered pure talent in the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, and the newest crowned idol, Phillip Phillips, is on his way to becoming the most successful male winner. The show has opened up dreams not just for the titled winners, but also for many of the finalists as well, including Katharine McPhee, Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry and Haley Reinhart. There is no surprise with such success from the show that it has sparked the idea for others to attempt to follow in its footsteps.
The X Factor began in the UK and has made its way back to America with former American Idol judge Simon Cowell. The man is both brilliant and ballsy, taking on not only the show that helped him become a household name, but also newer shows like The Voice. Yes, that’s right: three singing competitions in America.
Wait. Shockingly, they’re not the only ones.
There have been a few good tries from other networks with shows like Duets and The Sing-Off; however, they failed to ring in the ratings due to their lack of originality.
Why does this country need more than one singing competition? Well, networks are not only needy; they’re also greedy, and they feel the need to fill their pockets. They do not care if they find talent, since these shows have been more about the judges than about the contestants.
The X Factor signs a check for a $5 million recording contract to the winner, and throws judge Britney Spears $15 million. The Voice’s cast is a replicate of both X Factor and Idol, stealing elements of both shows and, to avoid being sued, throwing in some red spinning chairs to create their own gimmick. These gimmicks blind audiences from what the premise of the show should be about, and that is the contestants.
It’s about the ratings. It’s about the Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj diva drama, which is believed to be a publicity stunt to boost ratings. American Idol execs need to remember the stars they have discovered. They need to remind themselves about the stars the other shows have not found. Idol does not need flashy lights and over-the-top stage production, or spinning chairs, or Adam Levine to find talent. If Idol sticks to its basic format it will be able to stay on top, and to remain a show that can be watched, cheered for, and laughed about with a family. Let’s hope it does.