2009 format, 2009 semifinals

7 reasons to hate Idol’s new format


Arianna Afsar (center) and Stevie Wright (right) are two of the female singers we've heard little from so far in season eight.

Longtime fans of American Idol are going to be stunned Tuesday to find out how differently the semifinal round will work this year.

As for myself, I’m pretty sure the changes won’t be changes for the better.

In recent years, 24 singers made it to the semis, 12 girls and 12 boys. Each week, all the singers performed. Each week, low vote-getters were given the boot until the field was reduced to the 12 finalists.

This year, Idol decided we needed more variety. I mean, what would the semifinals be without the likes of Nick Mitchell and Tatiana Del Toro. This year, they advanced 36 singers to the semis.

And since Idol’s specialty isn’t shows chock full of singing, I guess 18 gals singing one night and 18 guys singing the next just wouldn’t work.

So here’s how it will work.

Come Tuesday night, six gals and six guys will sing for us. Each week, the top female and the top male vote getter earn spots in the final 12. A third top-12 spot goes to the next highest vote-getter.

The process will be repeated for two more weeks, with 12 different singers performing each week. By the end of week three, all 36 of the semifinalists will have performed; nine of the 12 spots in the finals will have been filled.

Then comes the twist. In week four, the judges will invite 12 other performers back for a second shot at the finals in a wild card round. The next night, they’ll choose the last three contestants to earn spots in the finals.

Why do I hate, hate, hate this format change?

Let me count the ways.

1. By the time the finals roll around, we simply aren’t going to know the contestants as well as in past years. Under the old format, we saw all the singers each week so we could determine who was a consistent performer and who was a one-week flash in the pan. Under this format, we’ll get to see nine of the 12 finalists perform on one night during the semis. That’s it.

2. Think of the performances we could miss out on. Last year, David Archuleta blew everyone away with his rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It happened in week two. Remember Brooke White, her guitar and that wonderful performance of “You’re So Vain?” Again, it came in week two of the semis. And I’m not a huge Jason Castro fan, but his performance of “Hallelujah” was something special in last year’s semis. In week three.

3. Idol wasted so much time on the drama surrounding Bikini Girl and Tatiana Del Torro that we’ve seen very little from most of the female contestants. So they’re going to be judged by viewers solely on one semifinal performance. Same goes for some of the guys we’ve seen very little of, like Ju’Not Joyner. Hardly seems fair.

4. Meanwhile, Idol gave so much air time to the likes of Danny Gokey, Adam Lambert and Lil Rounds, that they’ll have a distinct advantage under this format. Viewers are already pretty familiar with them. They won’t have a chance to get familiar with many of the other semifinalists. Again, hardly seems fair.

5. Idol should have ended the final Hollywood Week edition with contestants drawing lots to see who would perform against whom under this new semifinal format. As it is, we have no idea how producers determined who would perform when. That will only fuel speculation that producers have rigged the lineup so their favorites make the finals.

6. The new format just might backfire by eliminating really talented performers too quickly. Take round one. The men’s group features Danny, Anoop Desai, Michael Sarver and Brent Keith, all very talented. If the gals’ group isn’t as deep, it’s easy to foresee two gals advancing on week one by attracting the bulk of the female vote while the four talented guys split up the vote.

Katrina Darrell, aka Bikini Girl ... could she be back?7. I don’t trust Idol producers not to pull some publicity-grabbing shenanigan come the wild card show. I already read a comment from someone on the Idol site suggesting Jamar Rogers, Danny’s friend, be brought back for the wild card episode. And Bikini Girl told Access Hollywood that she’s hoping Idol realizes the mistake it made and invites her back for a another shot. Hey, with Nick and Tatiana making the semis, I wouldn’t rule anything out.

Now, having said all that, I did notice that Tuesday’s episode will last two hours. I’m hoping that means the judges will stop blabbing long enough for each semifinalist to sing two numbers.

Otherwise, follow the math: 36 semifinalists minus nine who win in the first three rounds minus 12 who are invited for the wild card competition leaves 15 singers who will be ousted after having performed one song.

Gee, all that work for one minute and 30 seconds of fame.

Hardly an improvement, Idol.

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