American Idol (ABC, Sundays and Mondays, 7/6C) returns with a two-hour auditions episode that brings us stories and talent and joy and a little heartbreak.
You know the show is for real when the first audition is amazing right off the top.
The judges are human enough to acknowledge when they make mistakes – and yet, they’re straightforward with their praise and criticisms.
The new American Idol has made a few tweaks – we still get the participants’ stories; we still get the thirty second auditions; we even get the opening that emphasizes how universal and necessary music is – what we don’t get are talentless hacks whom the audience is supposed to laugh at or vote for out of pity (there are other tweaks, but that’s the most important one). Which is not to say that there a few less talented performers – just none that feel like jokes.
Of course, Idol wouldn’t be Idol if at least one singer was put on hold for a commercial break – that’s just great editing sense (and we know that she didn’t actually have to wait like we do). The first time it happens (and not the last) is with a very talented young lady of sixteen, so we, the audience, are definitely not going away until we find out what happens.
The new Idol is as slickly produced as the original, but it feels fresh because of the tweaks and the remarkable chemistry between judges Lionel Ritchie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan – not to mention the talented performers.
From opening performer Catie Turner to Dennis Lorenzo’s closing, the auditions we see/hear are genuinely entertaining and, occasionally extremely surprising (one, singing a Sinatra standard, finds himself dancing with Perry!).
As a general rule, I don’t watch singing competitions unless there’s someone who’s really special/amazing in the mix (remember Carly Rose Sonenclar singing Nina Simone’s Feeling Good on The X-Factor in 2012? She didn’t win, but I remember her and not whoever did win!).
There are at least two performers in the new Idol’s premiere that are that surprising and amazing – and several that are just right there.
Unfortunately, some performers don’t get to go to Hollywood – there’s one who complains that she thought this was a singing competition and doesn’t get why she got a no vote from all three judges (plus a montage of several departing performers we never got to see perform).
What we do get is a very entertaining two hours and whatever else ABC’s rebooted American Idol might be, it’s a showcase for some prodigious talent.
That earns it a higher grade than I was expecting to giver it.
Final Grade – A-