(Image via US Weekly)

The American Idol Reboot Is Off to an Optimistic Start

American Idol is back in our homes, this time on ABC, after taking a two-year hiatus and the nostalgia is real.  
March 19, 2018
8 mins read

“This…is ‘American Idol’!” The famous phrase hasn’t been said for two years and was finally brought back during the reboot of “American Idol,” which returned Sunday, March 11.

Now airing on ABC instead of Fox, the singing competition show creates the chance for talented singers from the United States to showcase their talent and have their dreams come true by winning the title and scoring a recording contract.

With numerous singing competition shows still on the air, was the reboot necessary and will it last for more than one season?

Back with an all-new judging panel — Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan — the show delivered a triumphant premiere and had fans experiencing some serious nostalgia. Ryan Seacrest returned as host but played a less prominent role than normal, which may be because he has been accused of sexually assaulting his former stylist, Suzie Hardy.

With three of the biggest names in music in each of their genres (pop, R&B, country), the judges are sure to find the best of the best and deliver a great season.

However, some critics found that the two-night premiere’s insistence on pushing back-stories felt off-putting. Almost everyone who auditioned had some sort of story from their past that was supposed to captivate the audience, but they ended up distracting the viewers from actually judging them for their talent.

Also, most of the contestants had an extensive video introduction, which is odd because usually, fans don’t get to know the singers until the top twenty or so. A lot of competition shows make the mistake of giving entry-level contestants too much attention, which backfires when an early crowd favorite fails to advance.

By focusing more on each contestant’s talent, the show would evoke the original spirit and wow factor the show was famous for.

Another new component of the reboot, the fact that the show switched networks to ABC, means that “Idol” will likely plug Disney throughout the season, which is to be expected. Auditions were even held in Disneyland where viewers saw Mickey and Minnie were greeting contestants. Fans may even be treated to a Disney night once the top 20 are picked.

The judges, however, got the picture. When Ron Bultongez auditioned, he played on his backstory about his abusive father and his rough childhood. The judges, especially Perry, judged him more on his talent. “I don’t know who you are at all,” Perry said. “You know how to imitate, but you haven’t found your thing yet.”

With this comment, maybe this season will be different in focusing more on the talent.

Something notable to mention about this season is the judge’s outlook on the contestants. When auditions were occurring, it was clear to see that they were more honest, yet kind this season. Many of their answers were “Not yet. Come back” instead of just a flat out “no.”

While Simon Cowell’s brutal honesty is missed, the new panel delivers more experience, advice and kindness than ever before. They were very interactive with the contestants, delivering dance parties, wig-snatchings and first kisses.

However, when contestants can’t take “no” for an answer, the judges are keen to hold back their opinions, especially with Broadway singer, Koby.

Unlike past seasons, there is definitely respect and friendship among the judging panel. The trio was even seen starting a group chat during the two-night premiere. The chemistry may not be there yet, but like with most things, it takes time.

Perry definitely outshines the men with her colorful outfits, her millennial vocabulary and her critique of the performances. It was the perfect balance between the judges and the contestants, with the judges not outshining the talent.

Another popular aspect that was very scarce was the bad/funny auditions. In past seasons, some of the most memorable auditions were the ones that made you chuckle because of how off-pitch people were. Showrunner Trish Kinane said, “It doesn’t feel right to put borderline unstable people on stage and laugh at them.”

Kinane did provide viewers with one audition that did leave the judges speechless, and not in a good way. While the show is all about finding the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, it provided fans a laugh and let them see that not everyone who auditioned had extraordinary talent.

They are what many fans tuned in for and, with a lack of them this season, the reboot might not last past 2018.

In the past, each audition-based episode was dedicated to one or two cities. With that setup, more talent from around the country was showcased. Within two episodes of Season 16, fans saw many auditions from about 10 different cities.

Maybe it’s because of the timing of Perry’s tour or maybe there weren’t that many great auditions, but the show needs to slow down so fans can appreciate the talent.

One aspect that did make the revival better was the presence of live music. Instead of singing acapella, the contestants, unless they brought their own instruments, were accompanied by a piano player to help them belt out their tunes. This really amped up the performances and showed a glimpse of what they would sound like on recorded songs.

Despite having three big names on the judging panel, none of the shown contestants sang any of their songs. In fact, many of them came with their own original music, which could be a blessing or a curse.

“Idol,” like many other shows that are being revived, makes viewers think of simpler times and maybe that is why shows are brought back — to make viewers relive the good old days but put a present-day spin on it.

There was no political talk or mention of any scandals going on in the country (although L.A. residents did ignore Seacrest when he was standing on his walk of fame star). It may be just what this country needs to put a smile on their faces, at least for two days a week. The reboot has the potential to bring optimism and positivity back into America’s living room.

So continue watching to see who America’s next superstar will be. Also, if you’re brave enough, consider auditioning for the next possible season to see if you have what it takes to become the next American Idol.

Brittany Sims, Temple University

Writer Profile

Brittany Sims

Temple University


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