“American Idol,” how we’ve missed you. “The Voice” was a fun diversion that needed more talent, and “The X Factor” lulled us to sleep. As angry as we got over last season (see: the judges’ critique of Haley Reinhart), this show in terms of production and entertainment is still at the top of the class.
Really, there were three reasons why the “Idol” premiere Wednesday was such a welcome return to our television sets.
1. The talent
Not long after the first audition of the season (courtesy of 17-year old David Leathers), it was immediately apparent that the strongest singers in the show’s age group are trying out for this show over the others.
As much as we enjoyed a few select auditions on “X Factor” (such as Chris Rene or Drew Ryniewicz), the vast majority of the auditioners here were close to that level. Colton Dixon and Phillip Phillips are clearly stars in the making, and Lauren Mink would probably have more of an impact if we hadn’t seen so much country on the show last year.
Even if you take away the stories and the personality, there was just so much pure singing talent here that you have to smile at the possibilities.
2. The production values
Never once does “Idol” come across as aggressively heavy-handed or over-the-top — instead, it seems to realize that both inspirational stories and fun can go in the same
Take for instance W.T. Thompson — a man we saw this week who gave up his job to audition. They could have made him into a sob story, but instead he came across as courageous and bold. Out of the show’s actual winners, only a select few have had stories that bring tears to your eyes.
Even with some of the bad auditions, “Idol” does a good job to make you care about some of them, as well. It’s obvious some are just there on a joke — but who doesn’t want to watch a guy who looks and talks just like Ryan Seacrest? Isn’t it entertaining when a contestant literally begs people on the street to come vouch for him to the judges?
Most importantly, “Idol” feels like a show that has actually been here before. The host does not seem lost, there’s no ridiculous segment to point out what’s trending on Twitter, and it really does show that you don’t need fancy new gimmicks or a $5 million recording contract to entice viewers into watching.
3. The personalities
After seeing Nicole Scherzinger on “The X Factor,” we have a newfound respect for all three of these judges — even Steven Tyler, who brought virtually nothing to the live shows last season. All three of them know their on-camera personality already, and they’re not sitting there trying to figure themselves out.
The auditions are really when the judges shine. They don’t have a personal investment in anyone yet, and can thus be more critical. Steven Tyler also knows how to handle some of the crazy fans, and Randy Jackson does not say “in it to win it” every other sentence.
The panel certainly works together well, but lest we forget that Seacrest — whose contract is up at the end of this season — is as bit a star as any of them at this point. He makes the contestants feel at ease, but at the same time he knows his job is to entertainment the good people at home.
Overall, revisiting “Idol” after some other singing shows was like tasting a fine dessert after getting through some duds — you’re simply reminded of just how good the first one you had was to begin with, and you shouldn’t have spent so much time picking at its flaws.
With that being said, who wants to bet that we’ll be tearing the judges a new one in two months?