All of the judge change-ups in recent years really hasn't helped American Idol all that much, has it? The series' has been on a mostly steady ratings decline since about the sixth season, with a slight spike in numbers for the Season 10 finale. Was that faint increase more to do with the judges or the contestants? Given the constant state of flux at the judges table, it seems some are leaning toward the former. Most recently, there were apparently rumors that the network was looking to pull new-judge Mariah Carey from her chair and replace her with former judge Jennifer Lopez. The plan was reportedly abandoned when Carey's people threatened to sue.
THR got the story, stating that in "recent weeks," Fox executives hatched a dramatic plan to give the show a boost by replacing Carey with Jennifer Lopez - from the sound of it, mid-season this year, which would have been a pretty drastic twist. Threats to sue caused them to drop the plan, but Idol producers are said to be working on bringing Lopez back for the finale and the search has begun to replace Carey and probably Nicki Minaj as well. In fact, all four judges could be ousted before next season.
Fox's response to the rumors is, "This is just another ridiculous Idol judge rumor, likely started by talks of Jennifer performing on the finale." That may be true. Or maybe the rumors, themselves are true. All we can do is speculate.
While I will continue to repeat myself in saying that Jimmy Iovine needs to be at the judges table, helping choose the contestants from the start and offering his honest and educated criticism to contestants immediately after their performances, losing Minaj would be a bad call, if that's what Fox has in mind. Minaj is one piece of exactly what Idol needs at its judges table. She's a star, she's different, she looks great on camera and she's not afraid to voice her honest opinions. Of the four judges, she's the most entertaining, the most opinionated and the most unpredictable. Keep Minaj. The rest, honestly, I could take or leave. Keith is certainly likable, but he doesn't stand out much more than a guest judge might. And while Randy may be the veteran among the group, he works best within a good dynamic and Idol really hasn't had that since the original trio
But I really don't think the judges are to blame for the show's continuing ratings slip, nor am I convinced that the right set of judges will bring Idol back to higher ratings. As THR points out, Idol's being beaten out by The Voice, and yes, the NBC singing competition has added two new judges of its own this season, but the series was climbing in popularity with each season anyway. The Voice is on the rise because it's new and because people love the blind auditions format and the battle rounds. Likable judges and a good dynamic certainly help, but I'm going on the theory that it's the format that has people tuning in. And Idol's format has grown stale. I don't think any amount of sparkle (or conflict) at the judges table is going to hold viewers' interest for very long.
So it seems we may need to anticipate another spring of rumors and reports about who's returning to Idol and who's out, and if THR's report is to be believed, Carey may be the first to go.