‘American Idol’ Experts: Age Is Show's Problem, Not Judges
For the 20 million-plus fans that still watch American Idol, all this major shake-up in one day was enough to make the heart shaky.
But, Idol fans -- you probably saw this coming, didn't you. Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler never did seem like long-term natural judges. They certainly were no Simon Cowell or Paula Abdul -- or maybe even Ellen DeGeneres.
Now, where does the show go from here? So many possible directions.
Celebuzz has some of America's foremost Idol experts on speed dial to break down the judge shakeups and direction changes in a way to make it manageable.
Point 1: Were Tyler's and J.Lo's exits "departures," or were they "pushed out"?
"I don't think they were pushed out, primarily because I don't think the Idol producers, Nigel Lythgoe, have the balls to do that, to push out a Jennifer Lopez or a Steven Tyler," says Hollywood Reporter TV editor Shirley Halperin. "In my interviews with producers before and after the show, they genuinely seemed like they wanted to keep things intact as possible."
But that doesn't mean there wasn't blood on the hands of J.Lo for her quick stay at the judges' desk. "Not only did she not save the show, she may have hurt the show," Halperin says. "Because the ratings have dropped so much."
There does remain a realistic chance, however, that Lopez's people were engaged in negotiations. If the dollar figures and other back-and-forth didn't match, that could have been the impetus for J.Lo bolting.
"J.Lo was saying this week, I don't know if I will come back, we'll see how it goes," says Richard Rushfield, "Idol" expert and former inveterate Los Angeles Times writer. "Generally, what that means is that they're in a contract negotiation, and they're trying to get more. Kind of just me reading the tea leaves, but that's what it looks like to me."
Point 2: Did J.Lo and Tyler take advantage of Idol producers to boost their careers?
"I think the basic pitfall when you have established stars on there, is that it's very hard for a star to see beyond themselves," says Rushfield. "Steven Tyler made a decision early on that he was not going to say a negative word to anybody. J.Lo was a little more critical. But, they're all very much in their own world."
Before Idol, Lopez's career was indeed stalling -- having hit the skids with lackluster movie sales (Before 2010's dud The Back-up Plan, Lopez had two studio movies since 2002) and declining record sales (she hadn't had a new record in years).
Likewise, Tyler's rock band, Aerosmith, has been riding high for decades -- but hadn't had a hit record in years.
Now, the two are re-energized. Both are undergoing world tours for their music this year. And to Tyler, Idol was just a second-place "mistress" to his first love, Aerosmith.
Point 3: What's REALLY the problem with the show?
Age. That's it. Age of its audience, and age of the show. Not the instability.
"What was popular 10 years ago can get tired," says William Keck, who writes TV Guide's Keck's Exclusives column. "American Idol is now having to compete with its younger, hipper copycats, who have been able to lure current talents like Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Britney Spears, and Demi Lovato. Next to those names, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler seem old and irrelevant."
It's also the age of the viewers, not just the judges. "The viewers have cycled through an entire generation," Halperin says. "If you were 12 when you started watching 'Idol' in 2001, you're in your 20s. Or if you're in your 30s and have kids, your kid is not going to want the same show you are into. That is I think Idol's biggest problem -- its generational gap."
Point 4: Is this the beginning of the end for Idol?
We've heard this before, Idol fans. With every passing year since season 5, Idol's deathwatch has been a perennial talking point. Well, we're losing the judges. Are we losing the show, too?
Perhaps, says another Idol expert, Matt Whitfield, an entertainment editor for Yahoo!
"We're now at the middle of the end of Idol," Whitfield tells Celebuzz. "It will be interesting to see who will replace the departing judges. Personally, I think Randy should be handed a pink slip, and former contestants should be hired to fill the empty seats. How awesome would it be to have Adam Lambert, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, and Kelly Clarkson up there?"
But some of the chastened longtime Idol fans still pay homage to a viewership of 20 million, still standing head and shoulders above most shows on TV. Its demise doesn't appear any more imminent than several years ago, say others.
"I think they've proven very resilient," Halperin says. "20 million is nothing to be ashamed of."
One name that's been seriously tossed around to join the judges' table is singer Mariah Carey. For more on the possible addition, watch below.