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'American Idol': 10 ideas for a reboot and a ratings revival

May 25, 2012 |  3:22 pm

American Idol final five

The ratings are in, and the "American Idol" franchise is officially in trouble. Viewers of the season finale of the series dropped by 32% from last year, a fall that is part of an overall steady decline in viewership since its series peak in 2003. Back then, the "Idol" season was an event, but now it's just another show. The gleam is gone.

As a result, many commenters are wondering whether this marks the end of the run. Probably not, as it's still a ratings winner in the scheme of things. But it may mean that executive producer Simon Fuller and his team will be looking for ways to bring renewed excitement to a series that's struggling to climb out of a rut. Below are a few suggestions to get the "Idol" buzz back.

1. Open the field to all different kinds of vocalists. Which is to say, add young rappers into the mix. If it's fair to pit a pop vocalist such as Jessica Sanchez against a singer-songwriter like Phillip Phillips, why is it such a stretch to think that would-be MCs couldn't rank? Quality is quality, whether crooned, screamed or rhymed. If this is a pop music competition, it's ridiculous to exclude one of the most important creative engines the genre. Who knows, maybe we'll meet the next Kitty Pryde, Kreayshawn, or Riff Raff.

2. Include vocal groups. Every major label is looking for a female vocal group in the TLC and Destiny's Child vein right now, and with the rise of boy groups the Wanted and One Direction, all signs point to a return of packs of singing hunks. Let's manufacture some group hype.

3. Fire all three judges and replace them with Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton. As a twist, the early rounds could be "blind" by making the judges/coaches assess talent with their backs to the singers.

INTERACTIVE: "Idol" vs. "The Voice"

4. Add in a choreography element. Every Idol worth adoration should be able to not only to sing but dance. And considering the success of "Dancing With the Stars," an "Idol" choreography round could add some fuel. It certainly would have made Phillip Phillips' victory -- to say nothing of Kris Allen's or Lee DeWyze's -- less assured had they proved unable to effectively bust a move.

5. Add a juggling component to the dancing and singing. Bring in some professional clowns who can teach the young vocalists the ins and outs of keeping afloat flaming torches, knives and bowling balls. Such a move would balance the playing field even further, because some singers who can juggle aren't very good dancers, and some juggling dancers can barely sing. Imagine the thrill when America finds the perfect juggling vocalist with a knack for a little soft shoe.

6. Change the name of the show to "American (White Guy with Guitar) Idol."

7. Keep Jennifer Lopez but fire Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler and Ryan Seacrest. Replace them with Marc Anthony, Sean "Diddy" Combs and Ben Affleck.

8. Fire all three judges, then string Ryan Seacrest along for a few months while floating to the gossip sites the idea of firing him too. Change your mind and commit to Seacrest, then bring in Jay Leno as a judge. Fire him at the last minute, and as a replacement hire Conan O'Brien. Then fire Seacrest and replace him with Andy Richter.  

9. Cancel the dang show already and replace it with a reboot of the classic 1970s reality competition show "Battle of the Network Stars." Watch as Tina Fey, Ashton Kutcher, the casts of "The Mentalist" and the "NCIS" franchise, Ryan Seacrest and others race through ridiculous obstacle courses in tight shirts and short shorts.

10. Keep Ryan Seacrest but add as his sidekick a dancing juggler who can sing -- if they can ever find one. They don't grow on trees, you know.

Any tips for a reboot? Add them in the comments below.


Full coverage: 'American Idol'

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-- Randall Roberts
Twitter: @liledit

Photo: Phillip Phillips, left, Hollie Cavanaugh, Josh Ledet, Skylar and Jessica Sanchez. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox.