Idol Downsizing Simon? And Other Season 9 Tidbits

Some gossip from AOL’s Rob Shuter:

Sources tell me that producers of ‘American Idol’ have a plan on how to make sure the show survives if Mr. Simon Cowell does in fact leave at the end of this upcoming season.

“Expect to see less and less of Simon this season. The focus is going to be back on the contestants and less on Simon’s harsh criticisms of them, ” an insider tells me. “They also will be spending more time focusing on Ellen once she gets through her first few weeks live from Hollywood.”

The focus back on the contestants? Could it be?   Well, if it took Simon’s departure to bring that on. Buh bye Simon!

More evidence–from Lynn Elber of the AP–that the producers are shifting the focus back on the kids:

In focus groups with viewers, it’s about contestants that provoke the most emotion, said Fox executive Preston Beckman, adding, “They want to root for someone and see someone win.”

DeGeneres brings “something unique and will be the nurturing person on the show and create an interesting dynamic with Simon. But at the end of the day, it’s not on her shoulders to carry the show, ” he said.

The people have spoken! And hopefully, producer Ken Warwick is listening.

FOX is angling for a younger “edgier” demographic (Idol’s median age has gone from 31.9 viewers for Season 1 to 44.2 in Season 8.)

In a bid for the youth vote, Fox promotions for “American Idol” are emphasizing a “more authentic feeling, raw and emotional, ” Beckman said, countering any notion that it’s “lost its soul.”

A guest judge such as Katy Perry represents the kind of artist who appeals to teenagers and young adults, he said. Perry, Victoria Beckham and other celebrities filled in for the departed Abdul for filming of the cross-country auditions that kick off the season.

Younger viewers are especially taken with performers such as Lambert and fellow finalist Alison Iraheta who have “a bit more edge to them, ” Beckman said, so that was a focus of the contestant search.

The changes made last year by new Idol executive producer, Ken Warwick, had me dreading the season.   Most of my fears panned out– the return to the Top 36 diminished viewers’ ability to connect to contestants early, the Save brought an unsavory “reality show” vibe to the proceedings, and the increased emphasis on the judges meant less singing, and numerous show overruns.

With the return to the Top 24, and the promise of putting the focus back on the contestants, it could be the producers learned some hard lessons from last year.

Believe it or not, I’m entering the coming season with my glass half full. For once. Heh.

How about you?

About mj santilli 33693 Articles
Founder and editor of mjsbigblog.com, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!

52 Comments

  1. Younger viewers are especially taken with performers such as Lambert and fellow finalist Alison Iraheta who have “a bit more edge to them,” Beckman said, so that was a focus of the contestant search.

    Okay, that sounds good… I was afraid they would say they were focusing the contestant search on finding the next SuBo… what with the whole “raw, emotional” aspect. But I dunno, in all, I’m kinda liking most of what I hear– so also glass half full for now :)

  2. I like the sound of this, though I would never underestimate their ability to screw it up, lol. As in–please don’t get carried away with the sob stories, Idol, just give us good people with good pipes.

  3. Oh, thank goodness for the edge comment. I was afraid at first from the emotional bit we’d be getting tons more Danny type stories. I’d much rather hear someone like Allison say “it’s not like I’m cutting myself” (I STILL chuckle over that) than have massive footage of sob stories showing me how emotionally grounded and connected these peeps are. I’m definitely feeling more hopeful about season 9 after reading this.

  4. Yesss. More focus on the contestants. When they say “edgy”, hopefully they mean more than just people with an edgy look to them. If so, they’re focusing on the wrong thing (as usual).

  5. Well, what they are saying sounds encouraging, but I will go into it with a wait and see attitude. Last year, it was all about the judges and sometimes I felt that the judges were bordering on disrespectful when giving their comments to the contestants….one that comes to mind is during one of Allison’s critiques, Simon had drawn a mustache on Paula…it was ridiculous. Then, during one of Kris’ the whole ladies underwear comment and the back/forth with Simon and Paula. Again, takes away from the contestants! Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing less Simon…it’s become all about him and it’s getting tired.

    Also, if they want to be more currentand edgy and attract a younger demographic, how about stopping with all the theme nights of oldies but goodies! Allow the contestants to sing more current songs that reflect what is going on on the charts today. They keep harping on having contestants show what type of artist they would be, then allow them to sing current music.

    Oh, and judges should not be allowed to crown someone sailing into the finals or claiming they are already looking at the American Idol during the first week…let the contestants grow and evolve as the show continues…let’s scale back on the obvious favoritism that goes on during the season…..sometimes I think some of the judges’ behavior gives some fuels to the fan wars…just my opinion.

  6. Focus back on the contestants–I guess more half-empty with a little hope..Why?each time I think the American Idols producers or judges won’t do something the show starts out fine and does it again. Would like notTreating them like crap,no ott pimping and no more of a spotlight on judges or guest preformers and finally more about this years contestant not former ones..

  7. I don’t get how they say they’re downsizing Simon to “focus more on the contestants” at the same time that they’re going to “spend more time focusing on Ellen.” Say huh?

    If I do my math correctly… it seems like we’re still gonna get too much judgey judge and not enough singy sing. I scared.

  8. (And I’m hoping real hard that they scrapped the Judges’ Save. Do we have info on this?)

    I’d love to see this happen, too. (Hate it and think it’s unfair.) But, if I recall, MJ talked about this previously and thought they’d keep it because it makes for great TV. And, really, the night they saved Matt was pretty awesome with the other contestants tackling him and showing him love. But, watching those kids “sing for their lives?” Painful. And then having another contestant (Lil) go out the following week in the order the “saved” contestant would have gone out just seems wrong.

  9. What?!!?! NO!!!!!!!!!!! I want Simon there!!!! First Kara comes, then Paula is gone, then Ellen shows up, and now less Simon?!!?! ARGH! I want to hear Simon’s comments!!! I do love Ellen but I miss Paula!

  10. Focusing the contestants, not the judges, SIMON!! what a novel idea. Now if we could just get Kara, to get her critiquing out in one sentence, and get her amount of words right, I will be sooo happy.I want to know about the kids, but please not the sobbing back stories they soo want to focus on. But why focus on Ellen, we know her shes everywhere, if you want to see more of her watch her show. Just give your remarks Ellen, you like, dont like, need to do this, whatever, and please with the you look soo beautiful, your clothes are awful, stulff. Just give them some constructive ideas to work with. Let the public decide who is going all the way to to finals. It is up to the public after all.

  11. This is completely different than what Kara said in Billboard. She brought up Susan Boyle, Carrie and Kris. Now these articles are quoting “insiders” who use the words edgy, Allison & Adam to bring the younger crowd back in. We’ll just have to wait and see, but AI was always about the backstory and I would be shocked if they got rid of them.

  12. Plus, the only way to focus just on the contestants would be to not have judges. As long as there are judges and they have a say, they will also have at least part if not all of the spot light.

  13. What?!!?! NO!!!!!!!!!!! I want Simon there!!!! First Kara comes, then Paula is gone, then Ellen shows up, and now less Simon?!!?! ARGH! I want to hear Simon’s comments!!! I do love Ellen but I miss Paula!

    And I am the exact opposite. Since I rarely watch the show live, I have the luxury to skip the judges comments and usually do. The only time I make a point of listening to them is when I have heard or read that Paula said something outrageous again or Simon is being ruder – or softer – than his usual form.

    Since I can see Simon not watching and probably not even listening to perofrmances whenever the camera includes the judges in the perofrmance shots, I don’t really think he has anything relevant to comment upon. I used to think he was watching the audience to judge their reaction to a particular performance but then there came the moment where he was drew on Paula last year instead of listening to Allison sing. I wasn’t a Megan Joy fan but I applaud her for getting in Simon’s face when she left because he was being rude.

    I also never watch a results show. As someone said 50 minutes of filler when the results could be announced in 10 minutes. I can find out all I need to know later in five minutes on the ‘net.

  14. “The show’s producers and Fox pay due respect to the judging panel but say what counts most are the “kids,” their favored term for the mostly 20-something contestants angling for a record contract and career, such as last year’s winner Kris Allen and runner-up Adam Lambert.”

    I like this quote better and it was right in the beginning of the article. Too bad the majority of the demographic they’re looking for isn’t watching. Edgy is good, but I do believe the seasoned performer will be a thing of the past.

    I think on the whole the manipulation, the judges’ personal picks/favs being shoved down the viewers’ throats –Paula was definitely the most blatant season 8 — were just way too much this year. Why watch a show when the finale’s winners were all ready chosen even before TOP 13/12? That is out and out ridiculous. Why bother having the other competitors show up at all? I think Matt and Anoop felt defeated before they even began and had to look at it as a platform to get noticed rather than getting the IDOL crown.

    This past year for me in the IDOL BLOG WORLD has been eye-opening. I’ve been amazed by how truly bizarre the IDOLSPHERE is and have gotten a glimpse of its seamier side. It’s hard to look at the show now as purely entertainment after spending a year in the post IDOL trenches. As a VIW, I’ll be watching with a cynical, war-hardened eye.

  15. “I do love Ellen but I miss Paula!”

    ITA. I’ve been watching the Season 8 re-runs, and it’s clear to me that Paula is the one who identified the best talent early on, and was supporting of them despite negativity from Simon, Randy or Kara. I’m afraid of what we’ll see without her involvement in the selection process this season, but, like MJ, am the “glass half full” on S9 just because I hate being negative!

  16. but I do believe the seasoned performer will be a thing of the past.

    Oh, I think exactly the opposite. To do that, they’d have to end up with a lot of teens and even then it’d be difficult. People who have the talent and drive for the business work for years at it. I don’t know what you mean by seasoned, but this years S8 top 3 all had significant experience. Kris had produced his own CD. Adam in theatre. Allison in singing competitions. Last year both Cookie and Archie had significant experience. All were seasoned in different ways depending on the direction their art took them. The people that try out for the show w/o any experience are generally going to be the lazy type that don’t want to put in the work. Seasoned contestants are here to stay and I’m grateful for it. If we really had to listen to and watch complete amateurs each week the show would be too painful to actually watch.

    jambajim
    01/07/2010 at 11:28 am

    I don’t get how they say they’re downsizing Simon to “focus more on the contestants” at the same time that they’re going to “spend more time focusing on Ellen.” Say huh?

    If I do my math correctly… it seems like we’re still gonna get too much judgey judge and not enough singy sing. I scared.

    Well, I’m thankful to say your math is a little off. Not a lot. Just a little. You forgot the amount of camera time that Paula consumed in your calculations. If they only give Ellen a portion of the time they gave to Paula, she’ll still get lots of camera time. Then if they take some time away from Simon and use it and the remaining Paula time for the contestants, there will be less judgey judge than last season. Likely still too much, but it should be an improvement.

  17. I will be watching the show via MJ’s site, as usually, since I live outside the US. So far it sound good :) I really hated the last year’s format, but (maybe I’m the minority here) I really like the emotional side of the “save”. I hope they will bring it back.

  18. Could it be? I’m too scared to hope for anything. I’ve been burned before.

    Still can’t wait for season 9 though. Bring it on!

  19. “Oh, I think exactly the opposite.” — jms

    I believe they’re looking for a diamond in the rough, fresh off the farm, whatever the cliche ala Susan Boyle, Carrie Underwood. Can’t argue about their success in the industry — that appears to be what’s selling CDs right now. Daughtry, himself, was a regular joe, working-stiff with a wife and family. I, personally, feel the whole getting back its soul comes down to steering away from the overly polished and focusing on seeing a performer blossom before the AI viewership’s eye.

    Teens and twenties are the demographic IDOL is looking for, so yes, there probably will be more teenagers and college-aged kids looking for their big break. Raw, natural talent — seeing a gifted young person getting that break and becoming a success.

    That’s great that Paula can identify talent, but I think she should have toned it down a bit. I mean the woman was near tears during some of her critiques. It was weird to me. No offense to Paula Abdul fans — I’m certain she has a bazillion.

    As far as Susan Boyle’s success or Carrie Underwood’s, the genre/demographic is not the issue to TPTB, mainly their story/background. I believe that’s what they are looking for now.

  20. I believe they’re looking for a diamond in the rough, fresh off the farm, whatever the cliche ala Susan Boyle, Carrie Underwood.

    Except that the diamond in the rough/raw talent thing doesn’t typically come with an edge and when it does, the edge is likely too rough for the idol audience to stomach. They used Adam and Allison as examples of edgy. And while I disagree that either is actually edgy, I suppose if you compare them to what idol is typically used to they could in dim light be seen that way. You don’t acquire that type of performance persona (edge as they called it) without a lot of practice. Since they want that edge, I don’t see them going for the unseasoned.

  21. “They used Adam and Allison as examples of edgy. ” — jms

    That was one small facet of the article. You can be edgy without years of performance/competition experience. Edgy to me speaks of a certain vibe or attitude or about being different. Having experience, pursuing one’s craft doesn’t make EDGINESS a given.

  22. I don’t believe Idol will ever wise up enough to put more focus on the contestants; I think that is probably bogus (and a shame that it is!) I DO believe, though, that they will switch the focus from Simon to Ellen… We shall see…

  23. Definition of “edgy”: Daring, provocative, or trend-setting

    Based on this definition I don’t think there have been many edgy contestants on Idol that have made it through to the final 10. In fact I would have a hard time naming more than a couple.

  24. PREDICTION:….the networks know what they are doing…Simon leaves for X-FACTOR and PAULA will return….I would almost bet Paula is still being paid, just not on show and so the “plan” to have her the “big talk” of returning with Simon gone after Simon leaves is all in the design of making AI still to be watched after he leaves….just saying!

  25. I don’t get how they say they’re downsizing Simon to “focus more on the contestants” at the same time that they’re going to “spend more time focusing on Ellen.” Say huh?

    I join you in your skepticism. Anyway, this whole “downsizing Simon” notion is a bunch of BS. Simon isn’t the one who rambles, he is usually very concise — he doesn’t have a whole lot to say after “That was self-indulgent rubbish” or “That was brilliant.”

    Sorry, I just think there is no way to “focus more on the contestants” with four judges, even if they wanted to. And with Ellen there, forgetaboutit.

  26. ITA. I’ve been watching the Season 8 re-runs, and it’s clear to me that Paula is the one who identified the best talent early on, and was supporting of them despite negativity from Simon, Randy or Kara. I’m afraid of what we’ll see without her involvement in the selection process this season, but, like MJ, am the “glass half full” on S9 just because I hate being negative!

    Paula picked some of the talent out early, but she refused to give others a chance to grow. She was so focused on Danny and Adam she never saw Allison, Kris or Matt coming.

  27. Having some experience is necessary to succeeding on American Idol, because they handle the pressure better. As Jay Leno would say, people are not plucked from Starbucks and go on to be the American Idol. As for the show looking for edgy contestants, their definition of edgy is anyone who don’t look or sound like the boy next door. I certainly think Daughtry and Adam both were edgy, they pretty much own their performances and had an incredible confidence, that showed in their performances. As for Adam, he’s a whole lot more honest than the rest of the judges put together. He didn’t sugarcoat his opinions and pretend someone was okay when they stunk to high heaven. Sure some people don’t like Simon, but when it comes to the contestants, it’s his opinion that they respect the most. This show won’t be the same without him, and truthfully I will miss him.

  28. Yeah, with Ellen being there, I don’t see as much emphasis on the contestants–But then again, there has always been emphasis on the judges.

  29. hopefully they mean more than just people with an edgy look to them. If so, they’re focusing on the wrong thing (as usual).

    I agree. When I think of edgy it’s more in terms of contestants challenging themselves and the show, taking themselves out of their own safety zones and surprising the audience (in a good way). Often, that’s where you see a winner in the making. That is, if they don’t browbeat the person out of the running or not even have them on the show at all.

    “They used Adam and Allison as examples of edgy. ” — jms

    However, by singling out Adam and Allison, it looks like they equate edgy with a “look.”

  30. Re: more focus on the contestants—I’ll believe it when I see it. I still think that four judges and the addition of Ellen will still result in more judges blather and less contestant time.

    And my shocking prediction for the winner of Season 9: Either an overweight and/or homely white female singer with no back story (unpimped stealth contestant) or a young, black male with more urban than R&B vibe.

  31. Definition of “edgy”: Daring, provocative, or trend-setting

    Except the context means everything.

    Are they talking about in the real world or by Idol standards, where Bo, Daughtry, Cook, Castro, Adam and Allison were all “edgy” by comparison with the previous years’ contestants?

    “Edgy” according to Idol standards is a pretty low threshold, to be sure. But it’s that way in pop music in general too. Some people consider Ke$ha and Owl City edgy.

    Whatever the spinmeisters at 19E mean, I really doubt we’re going to be seeing a bunch of Grizzly Bear or Antony & the Johnsons wannabes this season!

    [ETA: Why am I suddenly in moderation, mj? I just posted in another thread!]

  32. She was so focused on Danny and Adam she never saw Allison, Kris or Matt coming.

    Really? cause I’ve been watching the re-runs and from top 36 to date she has been absolutely ebullient in her praise for both Allison and Kris

  33. I hate that photo. It distracts me from the article.

    First, I don’t think any of them were in the room at the same time. Looks like Photoshop came into play — or some cardboard cutouts.

    Second, I say it to my 4- and 6-year-old boys all day, and I’ll say it to Simon, too.

    GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF YOUR PANTS, YOUNG MAN!

    Okay, so it’s probably pockets in his case, but I’m programmed to get irritated at the sight of anything even similar. ;)

  34. First, I don’t think any of them were in the room at the same time. Looks like Photoshop came into play — or some cardboard cutouts.

    Yes, there is an article on the web that discusses the photoshopping. It also mentions the fact that it puts Ellen in different shading than the rest of the group so she blends more into the background.

    I wonder if that is to make Simon stand out all the more.

  35. It annoys me that they say they are going for a certain type, that this year a female should win, etc. What’s the matter with just letting the best performers through and then letting the viewers decide. I hate the manipulation but OTOH the viewers usually do a pretty decent job of deciding……..often better than the judges.

    I surprised that more articles and more posters don’t feel that the fact that they insist on having 4 judges is much of the problem. Absolutely no need for 4 judges and changing judges doesn’t change that fact. There was a big controversy when they added a 4th judge and I think it proved to be a failure…….remember that it got so bad that they even tried at one point to limit two judges to each contestant. The amazing thing is no matter how badly tptb botch things, the show is still successful.

  36. I’m with the people who will believe the changes are happening if we see it. But even if the changes are true will they get them right? I don’t need backstories shoved down my throat – producers manipulate that stuff and it’s the classic early pimping strategy for the producers. It bugs. I definitely want to see more of the contestants but it’s a double edged sword because of how that becomes a producer tool.

    IMO last year the problem with the focus being on the judges came during their comments on the live shows. I think getting rid of Paula will help with that. But the judges really have to believe the show’s about the kids and not themselves too. With somebody like Simon in the mix is that really going to happen? Kara might be better but only if she doesn’t feel like she has to prove she belongs at the judges table.

  37. “Having some experience is necessary to succeeding on American Idol, because they handle the pressure better. As Jay Leno would say, people are not plucked from Starbucks and go on to be the American Idol.” — Bridgette12

    Again, I’ll refer back to Carrie Underwood as an example. How about Kellie Pickler? Jordin Sparks? Clay Aiken? Sounds like Jay Leno was just speaking off the cuff.

    Experience is not a factor in handling the American Idol pressure. It has more to do with personality and character. I also believe Adam and Kris, as well as, David Cook and David Archuletta had the right attitude which allowed them to cope with the pressure — and that mindset was to compete against oneself rather than against each other.

    Developing friendships, having a sounding board, are, I believe, what keeps/kept these kids sane during American Idol. Again experience has nothing to do with getting through IDOL BOOT CAMP. Also, there are a lot of unstable professional singers, actors, et al, in the business. Experience, knowing the ropes, isn’t a prerequisite for coping or handling the pressure well. One judge comes to mind. ::grin::

  38. Simon is the draw for Idol. IF they downsize him too much, no one will watch. But the last season gave the judges way too much time. So I’m hoping they get the formula right this time around.

  39. Speaking of the right attitude, coping, etc., who was it who pointed out that Pschology Today has a lengthy article in the current issue on what makes a successful Idol contestant? It’s here:

    How to Win American Idol
    A creativity researcher cracks the pop-stardom code: It’s not talent or looks—it’s something far more improbable.
    By Scott Barry Kaufman, published on January 01, 2010 – last reviewed on January 04, 2010
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200912/how-win-american-idol

  40. A return to focus on contestants would be great. A return (or a new turn) to contestants with true talent, skills, and artistry would be even better. The episodes are usually excruciating to watch because the singing is so darn awful, save for 2-3 standouts. America has so. much. singing. talent that AI should be able to have 10 outstanding finalists while still keeping to their casting formula (rock chick, gospel chick, etc.). That would keep me tuned to AI week after week, rather than not watching till top 10 performance night, and then just tuning in the last 10 minutes to watch the pimp spot, (or the last 1 minute, assuming overtime spillage, LOL).

    ETA: BTW what does a tween mean by “edgy”? I’m not sure if that’s really the best standard to aim for…

  41. ptslittlecomment

    And I am the exact opposite. Since I rarely watch the show live, I have the luxury to skip the judges comments and usually do. The only time I make a point of listening to them is when I have heard or read that Paula said something outrageous again or Simon is being ruder – or softer – than his usual form.

    Well the only judge I am not interested in is Kara. I just want Paula, Randy, and Simon. I love when Paula pulls a Paula. :) I love the playful stuff Paula and Simon does. :)

  42. J9BT

    ITA. I’ve been watching the Season 8 re-runs, and it’s clear to me that Paula is the one who identified the best talent early on, and was supporting of them despite negativity from Simon, Randy or Kara. I’m afraid of what we’ll see without her involvement in the selection process this season, but, like MJ, am the “glass half full” on S9 just because I hate being negative!

    Yeah we have to watch and see how season 9 goes. I love the playfulness of Randy, Simon, and Paula. They just have great chemistry together.

  43. Simon is the draw for Idol. IF they downsize him too much, no one will watch. But the last season gave the judges way too much time. So I’m hoping they get the formula right this time around.

    If Simon is the biggest draw, then why are we on a web site passionately discussing previous contestants and their careers? Why aren’t we on a web site devoted to Simon?

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