'American Idol' producer: "The audience votes -- there's nothing we can do."
The folks behind "American Idol" do not think they bear any responsibility for that fact that, since they started allowing "Idolettes" to perform with instruments, the competition has been won each year by a spate of utterly forgettable, virtually indistinguishable, scruffy-but-safe white guys with big, soulful eyes, who stand behind guitars.
Most recently, 9th season winner Lee DeWyze, put out his post-"Idol" debut album which sold just 39,000 in its first week and that is the lowest first-week sale for any "Idol" winner's debut album in history - or runner-up, for that matter, according to Billboard.
Before him, the winner was there Kris Allen - remember him? Never do we. And before Kris, it was David Cook. Not a Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood in the bunch.
"The audience votes - there's nothing we can do," executive producer Ken Warwick copped-out during an "Idol" session at Winter TV Press Tour 2011.
"Our job it to serve up the best, most diverse group of 12 kids and then the audience vote and they vote for whoever they like," added another of the show's exec producers, Cecile Frot-Coutaz.
"The record has to be great. If you make a great record, the public will buy it," chimed in the show's surviving judge Randy Jackson in his usual empty-calorie way.
"This is a great springboard out there, but you still have to find a record that works," weighed in show host Ryan Seacrest - after telling critics he attributes his youthful Dick Clark-ish appearance to "placenta."
But, Jimmy Iovine, head of the Interscope/Geffen/A&M Records label that will record the winner - seemed to get it, so there is hope for this coming season of "Idol."
Iovine is the show's new "in house" mentor; he said his role is to "help make sure we find an original voice - somebody with originality, rather than singing like someone else which is not particularly attractive to a record company."
"In the past they weren't getting the proper help to improve," Iovine said of the show, while drumming his fingers nervously on the arms of his chair and gazing around impatiently through blue-tinted glasses. We like him already.
The new judges, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and pop singer/dancer/bad actress Jennifer Lopez lent an I'm Ready for My Close-Up air to the news conference.
When one, clearly middle aged TV critic asked them to pretend he was a contestant who hadn't done a very good job with a song and demonstrate what they would say to him, Lopez rolled her eyes and snapped, "What is the age limit now?"
Lopez, BTW, is herself more than a decade too old to compete on "Idol." She's 41.
"I want to see if I can be real," Tyler said when asked why he was doing the show. "Forty years I've been on the road...God knows I've been judged all my life for what I do."
Tyler said he decided he really wanted to do the show with JLo after watching her flick "The Backup Plan." "She was so vulnerable...I thought 'I want to sit next to that," he said.
And now, "I get to sit between her," he said, which drew snickers from the room - not the only time that happened during the news conference.
"Do you have to put Steve on a five-second delay?" one critic asked the panel.
"[Have sex] no!" Tyler shot back.
And what of the show's sole surviving judge, Randy Jackson, you're wondering. When asked how his role might have changed from the previous nine editions, he explained, "You'll see a little bit more assertive dawg. More hair on the dawg, you will see. Fewer 'yo's'... It's a different kind of panel. My role definitely changes... I think you're gonna like this a lot. You're gonna say 'Dawg! You were right!'," he concluded.
Yup - still negligible.
One critic wondered whether Fox was concerned that the median age of the "Idol" viewer is now in the mid 40s.
"I like to think it's aged with me," Fox's impish reality-TV evil genius Mike Darnell shot back.
"Look the show is amazing. It's 10 years in. Let's all get perspective. That's bigger than 'MASH' and 'All in the Family'," he said of his singing competition, which remains the country's most watched TV show, though it's ratings have eroded noticeably the past couple seasons.
"I want to keep the success, keep it fresh, keep it new. If the audience keeps coming at these levels, we'll be thrilled.
How does it feel to be a Latina on ['American Idol']," one critic asked asked JLo. The question immediately was entered into the pantheon of Incredibly Stupid Questions Asked Over TV Press Tour History.
"I wouldn't know how it would feel to be anything else," Lopez said, understandably irked. Then she added, cynically, "Yeah, it feels good?"
This press tour has been particular thick in Stupid Questions. Just yesterday alone produced these gems:
I've never seen your show, but I've heard really good things about it and Twitter has a question for you. It involves Ezra: 'Will the affair with Ezra continue or be found out - will there be repercussions?'
I wonder if you girls have had any trouble with maybe cyber stalking?
Anyway, getting back to "Idol," the producers will this season extend Hollywood Week auditions, in order to cull the field to a smaller group of just 20 Idolettes. This, they said, will help viewers get to better know the semifinalists. And those Idolettes will, for the first time, be allowed to perform their own material -- gak!
These are among the changes that have to happen because Simon Cowell has bailed on the show, following in the footsteps of Paula Abdul, Frot-Coutaz said, though not exactly in those words.
"It's important that the show evolve with the change of cast. Otherwise, you're putting a new cast in somebody else's show," she explained.
Lisa de Moraes
| January 11, 2011; 5:22 PM ET
Categories: Winter TV Press Tour 2011
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