Well, it's official.
Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez think they can do more than judge talent. They think they can show it off.
The talent under discussion their own. Mr. Tyler thinks the world needs more grandfathers screaming into a totem pole of scarves. Ms. Lopez thinks the world needs more Spanglish dance tracks and fluffy movies about a beautiful woman overcoming the limitations of her beauty to land a beautiful guy and a beautiful life. And American Idol, that Fox juggernaut that re-launched their respective careers and reminded the generations that Once Upon A Time, these two were relevant superstars? Well, thank you very much, American Idol. But now you're just getting in the way of all that screeching and thudding and pouting. Step aside.
Yup. Steve-o and J-Lo are leaving Idol. Speculation is high that Randy "Yo-Dawg" Jackson will leave the judge's table as well, most likely to act as the behind-the-scenes mentor. So that he can flail his hands and throw out empty phrases of non-advice in the intimacy of a fake recording room.
With this clearing of the decks, speculation is equally rampant as to who will replace that trio. The most bandied-about name is that of Mariah Carey. Others in the rumored mix include Kanye West, with Aretha Franklin and Charlie Sheen taking the initiative to throw their own hats in the ring.
Ummmm. No. Fox? Nigel? Listen to me. None of those options are good.
From a business perspective, each of the contenders/pretenders is a powder keg of liability. Your insurance premiums would go through the roof. Mariah invented the "exhaustion" defense, Kanye can't walk into a 7-11 without complaining about his spot in the line for slushies, Aretha Franklin is too old, and Charlie Sheen is everything I shouldn't have to type here.
From a watchability perspective, they fare almost worse. Mariah's commentary would be undecipherable because of all the fluttery hand gestures and vocal gymnastics she'd force into every "I'm so proud of you." We wouldn't even be able to see her, what with the twins and Nick Cannon sitting on her lap. And most people now just associate her with Weight Watchers and perfume. Which will only make the audience hungry and inspire them to shower. Not sit and watch her wimper.
Kanye would be angry at everyone for everything, and there'd always be a Kardashian around. Aretha would inspire too much growling, and Charlie would make overtures to the younger female set that would make Steven Tyler himself blush.
Not good, Fox/Nigel. Not good.
I understand there are basic formulaic realities at play. There needs to be at least one female judge. There needs to be an industry veteran. There needs to be someone who can be kind of harsh. There needs to be someone trying to stake out a comeback. There needs to be someone who leaves the audience guessing as to whether or not that someone is under the influence of one or multiple non-prescription narcotics. I get it.
So let's stick within your framework. We can still make this work. Fox/Nigel? Get your pen out.
Here's what your next panel of judges should look like:
1. Jimmy Iovine. This is easy. Just promote him from the coaching/mentoring/analysis slot you've had him fill the past few seasons and put him in a judge's seat. He knows the show, and he knows the music. He provides insightful, call-it-like-you-see-it commentary that is sometimes the only thing that resonates with the audience at home. He's got pedigree and a proven track record. He can be both mean and incredibly complimentary. He doesn't have stupid trick phrases. When he doesn't have anything to say, he does this thing called he stops talking. Genius.
2. Justin Timberlake. This, too, is easy. Legions of fans would tune into the show just to watch Justin. He understands how to build a complete entertainment package, is gifted beyond belief, and is incredibly personable. He'd click with the contestants, with the other judges, with the mentors, everyone. And while his commentary would usually border on the fluffy-soft, he'd surprise us all with flashes of brilliant advice and withering criticism that would always keep us on the edge of our oversized couches.
3. Janet Jackson. This is fun. Both because it reunites Nipplegate and because Janet fills a lot of the demographics you're looking for in a judge. Female. Kind of crazy. Industry veteran. Plus, she's a lot like J. Lo in that she's gorgeous, would probably cry a lot, would pick random outliers as her favorites, and would really appreciate the show as a vehicle for her commercial redemption. She's also performed on the show, which is more I can say for Mariah "Diva Come Lately" Carey.
That's just my take. But what do I know?
Tell me, fair reader. Who do you think should be given the keys to FOX's 8-10PM EST Wednesday/Thursday time slot from September-July?