Wednesday, January 19, 2011

No more public beatings on 'American Idol'

During the days of Simon Cowell, a chubby, mustached singer performing a bad version of Billy Joel's "The Longest Time" in front of Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson, would likely have been scorned.

AP photo/Chris Pizzello
"American Idol" judges, from left, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson, and host Ryan Seacrest.

The Simon era is over.

Audiences watching the 10th season (premiering tonight at 8 p.m.) will see a kinder, gentler version of “American Idol.” Case in point: Instead of making fun of the man's dreams, the judging team encourages him to become a disc jockey instead of a singer.

"I think with every artist -- and Jennifer and Steven are legendary artists -- you have a lot of warmth and a lot of nurturing," said Jackson, the lone original judge remaining on the panel. "That's what happens. We've seen it in other seasons when we've had artists come in and mentor the singers. They really love on these kids, and I think that's good."

Paula Abdul, who was one of the original judges showed tolerance and compassion. She left and took her kindness with her. Most recently she has become a mentor on the new CBS hip-shaking competition show "Live to Dance." 

The last time the "Idol" judging panel got an injection of niceness, was when the chipper talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres agreed to take a seat behind the table. She stuck it out for one season but said it was hard to judge people and hurt their feelings. 

"We're certainly back to having fun," said executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, who rejoined the singing competition after a two-year hiatus. "At some point along the way, and we're certainly all guilty of it, we started taking ourselves too seriously. I know the ratings are a serious game, but as far as I'm concerned, my job and their job is to generate fun."

Will audiences embrace an "Idol" without criticism and rolling eyes? I would hope they do.

AP contributed to this report.

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