"And then there were 7..." by Jennifer, idolingalong.blogspot.com

Looks like it's that time of year again. It's snowing, it's cold, the post-holiday letdown is just starting to ease, football season is in its last weeks and something else.

Let me think...

Oh yeah. Season seven of the world's favorite talent show is about to begin.

Because THIS is American Idol. Seven.

Season six, arguably the worst season in the show's run, saw the ratings drop to only category 4 tornado levels from the tsunami levels of the past, and, according to Nigel Lythgoe, the producers have learned some valuable lessons from last year's snoozefest that they vow to put into place.

Fewer mentors. Thank you to the Idol Gods for this one. We've screamed for years that we watch to see the kids, not Gwen Stefani pimping her latest CD under the guise of grooming the contestants to be the next, well, Gwen Stefani. Nigel, in this week's TV Guide (on your newsstands now!) promises only a sprinkling of professionals, and only those willing to put Barry Manilow-level effort into actually coaching the kids.

Musical instruments. I'm undecided on this attraction, actually. After all, the panel of pickies is always reminding us that this is a singing competition. I'm not going to complain about keyboards and guitars on stage quite yet, except to remind the producers that there's already one America's Got Talent. I watched it. We don't need another one.

Stronger field. Paula says in the TV Guide article that she can't even remember any of the kids from last season. And, except for Sanjaya, neither can I. They promise a deep final group, reminiscent of season five.

This is the best season yet, says Randy.

Doesn't he always?

I don't know about that, but I do know this. The taste of last season is still in my mouth, despite the number of times I brush my teeth. I can deal with mentors, as long as they don't hog the show. I can deal with a guitar or two as long as there's a decent vocal to go along with it. And I can deal with the Sanjayas, just as I've lived with the Leah LaBelles and Scott Savols of the past.

But I will not deal with another season where the kids are the afterthought, playing supporting roles to "superstars" with CDs to hawk. (Unless they're Idol alumni superstars with CDs to hawk, then I'm down with that.)

One of the downsides to syndicating the seasons past on American Idol Rewind (check your local listings) is that it has reminding me what hooked me on this show in the first place. Season two is airing now, and the focus was (and was up through season five) on the contestants, who they were, why they were there, what made them tick. We got to know their families - I can still pick out Ruben's and Clay's mom from 20 yards. That's the heart of this show, making us care about these kids, care enough to be excited for them when they advance and heartbroken when they have to watch their funeral videos.

That's the show they need to return to. Maybe it would be a good idea for Nigel and company to watch Rewind and remember how they got to be the tsunami they were.

Ready to ride the wave again?

-Review by Jennifer on idolingalong.blogspot.com


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