A Kindler Gentler American Idol?

When you’re king of the mountain for six years running, everyone is gunning for you. Last year, amid criticism regarding “mean-ness” by the show’s judges, and, lesser overall talent, ratings lagged for the first time. Prior to the debut, last Tuesday, of “American Idol’s” seventh season, many were referring to the long-running show as “Fallen Idol.”

After viewing the premiere, it is clear that the show continues to retain its magic, as the New York Post noted, albeit with something more—heart. Shortly after Philadelphian Tamara Brown walked onto the stage to audition, it was soon evident that the nervous 16-year old resembled Aretha Franklin in looks but not voice. Yet, rather than smirks and rolled eyes by Paula and Randy or barbs by Simon, words of support were provided as tears rolled down the youngster’s face. A group hug was next, followed by all three judges walking the rejected contestant back to her waiting family.

And, while the show’s 13.8 rating totally blew away the competition with 33 million viewers, what was most significant was the humanizing of its stars. They acted in unison, as a family, to do the right thing. In that way, for perhaps the first time, we were able to actually associate with them. These are attributes of successful, long-running TV shows. For “American Idol,” it was the missing ingredient that, if continued, could re-energize the franchise for years to come.