What Is Wrong With Australian Idol – As Seen On The Punch
Here is my latest article I wrote for The Punch.:
With the latest episode of Australian Idol still not hitting the 1 million viewer mark in the new 7.30pm time slot, it is time for Channel Ten to hit the panic button.
Kyle Sandilands may have presided over the death of Big Brother by being the host in its last year, but has he also contributed to Australian Idol’s demise by not being on the show? Without a doubt this year Idol has had to overcome the challenge of standing down a judge the week the show premiered, the loss of co-host James Mathison, as well as other changes to try and keep a tiring concept fresh.
Here is what I see the problems are:
1. The Two Hour Blockbuster Show
With the elimination and the performance show all rolled into one blockbuster episode, this has meant it is twenty minutes into the program before the contestants get to sing. First the viewer has to sit through a group number by the Idols, and also the elimination of a contestant. Those with an itchy remote finger are channel searching and chances are watching bison mating on the ABC nature documentary. If you were a first time viewer this season of Australian Idol and saw the group song on Sunday night, a cover of Duran Duran’s Girls on Film, you would have thought you had stumbled upon an old episode of Young Talent Time when it was in its death throes.
Also if your favourite singer has been eliminated the chances are you will not be in the mood watch the rest of the show. Yes the Monday night show was a lot of filler, but a jam-packed thirty minute show would be entertaining. This would also give the punted contestant the opportunity to have their last few minutes in the spotlight by allowing them to sing again.
2. The New Judge
Record company executive Jay Dee Springbett was thrown into the deep end as a quick replacement after Kyle Sandilands was stood down. His role is to provide the record industry perspective to the contestant and the viewer at home. He seems nice, which may have been why he was selected in the wake of all that MasterChef Australia love. However he is just not a strong presence on TV nor that entertaining. Kyle provide some much needed snark to the panel, not that I am advocating his return. Dicko and Jay have been told to rile each other up, but it is not working as there is no chemistry. Guest judges are now on each week to try and put some pizazz into the panel. Suzi Quatro, and Brian McFadden definitely earned their money, and were great, however the downside is the viewer has to sit through four peoples opinions.
Australian Idol should have just kept Dicko and Marcia as the permanent judges, and rotated a third person through. This occurs in the popular US version of So You Think You Can Dance.
3. The Contestants
What looked like a really strong top twenty four resulted in an underwhelming top 12. I partly blame the judges. They were able to wildcard two singers in and they picked two bland male pop performers, Casey Barnes, and Tim Johnston. Toby Moulton an “older” pop singer was already in the top 12 so it is all too much of the same. Rocker Adam Eckersley would have added some much needed diversity to the show. At this stage out of the boys Stan Walker is a standout, his rendition of Prince’s Purple Rain was a highlight in the mediocrity which was Sunday night’s eighties theme show.
The girls don’t fare much better. Tiny Sabrina Batshon had a interesting story of overcoming mental health problems to be on the show to re-start her singing career, but her camera hogging behaviour and chatting back to the judges did not endear her to the voters. She has now been eliminated. The only one that I see with star quality is young rock chick Hayley Warner. Yes Kate Cook is lovely, but will you buy her records?
But is it all the contestants fault they are struggling this year? Which brings me to my next point.
4. The Loss Of The Shows Musical Director John Foreman
This is the first year without the show’s uber talented Musical Director, John Foreman. His role was to guide the singer’s song arrangement ideas into a workable performance. The new musical director is probably working out what does and does not work when trying to cut three minute songs into to a minute and a half. Thankfully he did provide a huge backing vocal section on the last episode to drown out the more woeful singers.
Australian Idol has struggled in some previous seasons, but this is most serious slide yet. Fremantle Media and Channel Ten need to examine what is or isn’t working and implement changes to ensure Australian Idol has a few more years left. When it all gels, with talented singers, charismatic judges and great performances, it is one of the most entertaining reality shows on TV.