Back for another round of endless auditions, so far Simon Cowell's best zingers have been in his battles with new girl Kara Dioguardini.
We're into the second week of the eighth season of American Idol, one of my favorite past times. Like every year, the show kicks off with auditions where a mix of delusional insane asylum screechers mix with Hollywood kids in training. After being a cultural juggernaut for most of it's existence, Idol stumbled a bit in season seven as ratings sagged a bit and participants failed to reach beyond the Idol faithful. Longtime producer Nigel Lythgoe left and a new judge, Kara DioGuardini, was brought in. This left the question: what's the status of the Star Search of the new millennium now?
The answer so far seems to be going Back to Basics. Unlike previous seasons, Idol has become more unassuming - not taking viewership for granted and constantly ramming it's greatness down our throats. It still plugs itself of course, just not every three minutes as in prior shows or extended documentaries on the making of the show. There's a genuine focus on the contestants this time out, much more than last year. An even mix of funny oddballs, showstoppers and sob stories goes a long way. The presence of the judges and Ryan Seacrest have been more subdued, less indulgent so far. They still bicker and needle possible Idol's and each other but are edited into shorter bursts.
Which leads to the new kid on the block, Kara DioGuardini. Being the new person, DioGuardini is getting a sizeable push in camera time equalling Cowell himself. Fortunately, DioGuardini seems to be what the show needs. Her presence gives a slightly bored Cowell a new person to badger, stabilizes Paula and takes over on the musicianly critiques that Jackson used to do before he became content to clown people. She hasn't shied away from saying her opinion and fueled the most noteworthy contestant interaction so far this season. DioGuardini's catch phrase seems to be "You've got chops" as she used that relentlessly during the first week's episodes. By mid-season, "Chops" could be the new "Pitchy" in overuse.
American Idol is settling in for the long haul, it's stopped tripping over itself to wow us and is serving up plenty to talk about. There's already been Bikini Girl and the guy who is like a human Gollum from Lord of the Rings to cause some minor sensations. This is shaping up to be a season of modest yet still watchable fun, assuming they don't find a breakout superstar. Idol may not have the fantastic runs and high notes it once had, so they are showing what they do have: chops.