Idolizing Ellen

Posted on 22 September 2009


American Idol‘s latest battle for ratings has claimed a major casualty, a road warrior of an entertainer who, despite her arguable lack of talent, has endeared herself to millions tuning in year after year to watch and drive the nation’s largest singing competition.  Paula Abdul’s sweet, familiar face, non-sequitor comments, and genteel criticism will no longer buffer Simon Cowell’s eternal scowl, acid tongue, and lack of class.  In case you inhabit a monastery in Tibet, Paula was booted after eight loyal years to make way for the newest judge, Ellen DeGeneres.  We say “booted” because Paula herself, when questioned about the 11th hour lag in getting a new contract to her, stated, “Don’t believe everything you read; it’s not true.”  Ms. Abdul was referring to the media buzz alluding that she was holding out for a larger salary.  In closing the chapter on Idol, Paula’s people added that she was shocked and hurt by the decision not to renew her contract.


Enter, Ellen DeGeneres.  A strange choice, to say the least, leaving those of us not drinking the Kool Aid® to go, “Hmmmmmmmm ……”


Ellen does possess that all important likeability factor; she has it in gobs.  She is quick, witty, attractive, and a veteran of the entertainment world.  At the age of 51, she has captured the Emmy no less than a dozen times.  The former paralegal and current media darling boasts the titles of producer, writer, actress, comic, product sponsor, and voice-over for Disney films on her resume, as well as guest hosting for another grueling I9-Entertainment talent gauntlet, So You Think You can Dance.   She has twice starred in TV vehicles, once as the lead character in the sit-com, Ellen, which made history for her public admission of her sexual preference, and her current TV talk show.  Thus, Ellen is a comfy presence filling the professional dancing shoes of the beloved choreographer-singer Abdul.


But let’s examine this from a less, well, comfy angle.  Last season, Idol  introduced a fourth judge, one Kara DioGuardi.  As the show’s first-ever, permanent fourth judge, Kara constituted the handwriting on the wall for Paula.  Perhaps she constituted something else: a threat to Ms. Abdul…?  Or was it other way around?  Kara is a songwriter in her own right, of the schlock passing for far too long on commercial radio.  But she is also firmly attached to Idol’s stable of songwriters.  You know, the ones who produce the pap that the winners are forced to churn out (i.e., Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This”).


With the addition of Kara, the Rogue’s Gallery was as follows: Simon, a signer of new, er, blood for the recording industry, Randy Jackson, a serious musician and producer of talent such as Mariah Carey, Paula, the loveable, often goofy hoofer-slash-music video star, and Kara, the songstress-cum-songwriter.  Too many cooks spoil the broth, apparently.  Whether it was female jealousy or the fact that “every man” was not represented on the judging panel, what was Paula’s loss became Ellen’s gain.  But who else gains?  The viewers?  The contestants?  Or The Powers that Be, seeking to pad their coffers?


Idol‘s ratings have, over the past three seasons, been a slow mudslide.  In 2006, the year that soulful crooner and career musician Taylor Hicks was crowned, Idol enjoyed the lion’s share of the audience as well as the highest grossing tour.  In subsequent years, Idol  has been grappling to regain a lost share of audience reported by industry sources to be as high as 10% in 2007 and tour revenue down by as much as 17% in the same year.  The institution of “Idol Gives Back,” a charitable enterprise to which Ms. DeGeneres generously contributed, encouragement of contestants to play musical instruments in what Simon Cowell has incessantly howled to be a singing contest, and bloated advertising (a two for one?) causing the show to run semi-regularly over schedule — all of these blatant ploys and more, point to the fact that Idol is struggling to keep its audience interested and tuned in to those all important sponsors.


Enter Ellen.


Those with their noses glued to this show last year will remember the controversy that ensued after Kris Allen was named winner.  Compared to the runner-up — glam-rocker Adam Lambert of potent pipes and over-the-top stage presence — Allen was a milquetoast choice.  Lambert seemed poised to run off with the crown.  Indeed, the show’s finale was designed around Adam, not Kris.  After Allen was named the winner, it emerged that his hometown supporters had defrauded the voting process, though of course they cried, “Nay, nay!”  So…who exactly paid for those free text-enabled phones given out to any and all who’d wanted them — Kris’s supporters or Idol, afraid that they’d lose the Bible Belt viewers because an obvious and admittedly gay man seemed to be natural shoe-in?  The placement of Ellen DeGeneres, an openly gay woman, would be a perfect foil to offset mindsets such as mine, which rarely accept what’s spoon-fed to me at face value.


The fact that Ellen is openly gay also does the job of squelching any feminine jealousies that may have erupted a la Paula and Kara … captured for posterity, by the way, by the camera.  Meowwwwww!       


If the over-exposed Ellen was entrenched to provide the face of “every man” and “every woman” among a panel of music industry people, why bother at all?  The panel is supposed to be comprised of people with industry knowledge and experience (talent, as Simon Cowell has proven, is not necessarily a criteria).  The judges exist to separate the wheat from the chaff during the audition stages, offer criticism, both negative and positive, during the contest and yes, folks, sway the viewing audience’s choices.  But the fact of the matter remains that America determines the winners, not the judging panel.  So why add a non-music industry celebrity into the mix?  


I have only one answer for these questions.  And that is, Idol is what it always was: a show concerned far less with finding true talent than it is with the entertainment factor, which equates to big bucks.   As Abe Lincoln so wisely stated, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.”   Me?  I’m not drinking the Kool Aid®.   But if you are, bottom’s up! 

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17 Responses to “Idolizing Ellen”

  1. Carmine says:

    Ellen is not my cup of tea, her lifestyles and demeanor is objectionable to me, but she does have a following who thinks she is the greatest. Ratings not popularity is what drives TV shows and if people like me are more than people who adore her, then she will go the same route as Paula Abdul.

  2. scrabblequeenbe says:

    I quit drinking the kool-ade a long time ago. I can’t stand that they let people that can’t sing on the show for laughs. So that, Simple Simon can make fun of them. Most people that I know have stopped watching this show and others will not watch it this year. AI powers are hoping that Ellen will bring her fans with her. If she does, then AI will have a ratings power house, for a short time. I think Ellen has a smart mouth and the show will end up being the Ellen and Simon Show. Therefore, the viewers will tire of the duo in short order.

  3. MercyMercyMe says:

    What an excellent and insightful article! I had only watched American Idol, almost by default, during Taylor Hicks’ season. I stopped watching it primarily because of Simon Cowell’s cruelty and the way the show is carefully edited to sway votes.

  4. Kathleen Felleca says:

    I would like to point out an error here. The article is mine, not Small Town Girl’s. Thank you.

  5. Alexander K. Savchenko says:

    Hey ! Thanks for this post – can’t wait for the next episode from this series. When I watch I’m out of this world hehe . Anyone know when then next episode will be aired? Thank you.

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    I read that he was to eager do a Home and Away appearence! :O. do you know if this is true? There’s a bit of me that sort of hopes this is not true lol.

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  9. auto insurance company ratings says:

    Wow. First Paula goes and now Simon is on his way out. I wonder what’s going to happen to American Idol. I wonder if it will still be as popular without Simon. I think he is a very big part of what made the show successful.

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