Four Judges Plus (Roughly) An Hour Equals Overtime

I don't think American Idol went into such a big problem with its running time in any other season but this one. Or, probably, because I've heard so many people point it out in a collective sigh of disappointment and dismay. Performance shows, arguably full of fillers and unnecessary hoopla, bleed beyond 9pm, and in some cases ended up disappointing viewers who had the whole thing recorded on their DVRs--case in point: Adam Lambert's much-applauded performance (and Simon Cowell's subsequent standing ovation) a few weeks back was truncated. And then there's the ridiculous attempt to save time by having only two judges critique each performance, which obviously didn't work.

And I'm still seeing the blame being tossed around. Some are bent on pointing the finger at new judge Kara DioGuardi. Apart from her judging style, which has earned some disappointment from fans, there's the fact that having a fourth judge would severely ruin the time dynamics of the show, which long settled with three judges for the previous seven seasons. Maybe you can say Simon even blamed her, as well as Paula Abdul, for blabbering too much, leading to the time issues on the show.

"Of course, we're going to have time issues--you added a fourth judge!" Kara told the Associated Press. "What did you think? I was going to just sit there and, you know, like do a grading system on my hands? Which probably I would mess up because you know how my remedial math is."

(I did remember her blunder--"I've got six words for you. One of the best performances of the night!" clocked in at eight.)

The decision to wheel Kara in was, of course, part of a much bigger shake-up on American Idol, intentional or otherwise. They brought back the wild card, had 36 contestants compete in the semifinals rather than 24, and in a slightly memorable twist, had 13 contestants go into the final rather than just a dozen. Of course, there's also the save, which was used last week to save Matt Giraud from elimination.

It seems the move's had some consequences, though, and producers are bent on fixing just that. "It's hard for [the judges] to figure out whether they've spoken for 30 seconds or 45 seconds, so ... we're going to try and help them with that and give them a sense of their timing so that we keep it under control a bit more," said Cecile Frot-Coutaz, one of the show's executive producers.

So what could the tactic be? Have a timer run when the judges give their remarks? Have the director be more vigilant and kick in the music when the allotted time for the critiques runs dry? Shove a sock on an erring judges' mouth? Well, that's obviously too much. And, obviously, we'll never hear much about whatever decision's made--it's behind the scenes, after all, and unless someone sniffs it out into the light, it'll be something that we'll just feel when the show returns this Wednesday.

Anything other than having those two-judge critiques, please!

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