HOLLYWOOD —Well they’re possibly the two biggest reality shows on television right now. One show became a phenomenon overnight and proved that dreams can come true, and the other is a television hit that shows what celebrities are really made of. I’m talking about “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars,” but after years of being on the air are the shows losing their appeal?
“American Idol,” became an instantaneous hit when it first aired in June 2002, the series about wannabe singers who compete for the top prize of winning a record deal catapulted the careers of pop singer Kelly Clarkson, country superstar Carrie Underwood, rocker Chris Daughtry and singer/actress Jennifer Hudson. All who have gone on to sell millions of albums, star in blockbuster films, win countless awards including Grammys and even an Academy Award; so “American Idol” can do wonders for a career by making a virtual unknown into superstar. Each week the contestants face a grueling singing competition and they are then critiqued by three judges Simon Cowell (a famed record producer from England), Paula Abdul (pop superstar from the ’80s and ’90s) and Randy Jackson (a music producer who has worked with greats such as Mariah Carey). Cowell is known as the “villain” on the series for his harsh criticisms, but he’s the reason people tune into the show; they love that he doesn’t sugarcoat things.
Then we have “Dancing with the Stars,” a dancing competition that pits some of the world’s most famous stars against each other as they take on challenging dance styles such as the Waltz, Samba, Salsa, Fox-Trot and others. The show first aired in 2005 and slowly gained its steam. It’s now in its 10th season and has become a show audiences tune into to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrities either humiliate themselves or defy the odds. Past guests on the show include Kelly Monaco, Jerry Springer, Vivica A. Fox, Kristi Yamaguchi, Mario Lopez, Marie Osmond and Susan Lucci to name a few. This season’s new stars include Pamela Anderson, Kate Gosselin, Niecy Nash, Shannen Doherty, Nicole Sherzinger and recent “Bachelor” star Jake Pavelka. Like “American Idol,” “Stars” began its run with three judges (Bruno Tonioli, Carrie Ann Inaba and Len Goodman) who are all skilled in various styles of dance and judge the contestants based on their performances.
Both shows have an initial strong point for them; the public has the opportunity to vote for their favorites. After each week, a dance team or singer is eliminated from the competition. “American Idol” currently in its ninth season has made a few changes within the last year. First, a fourth judge was added to the panel (Kara DioGuardi) and fan favorite Paula Abdul left the series. She was replaced this year by comic and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. And just when fans thought the show was losing some of its steam, a shocker was announced: judge Simon Cowell announced that this season would be his last. I’ll be the first to admit, Simon Cowell is the heart of the show. He simply tells the contestants who can’t sing what we at home are thinking, but not willing to say. It’s going to be difficult to replace the irreplaceable Simon. With all these shakeups I feel like Idol is losing its strength and may ultimately lose its promise. The singers this season aren’t all that great, and sometimes the talent is overshadowed by those who can’t sing and that’s unfortunate.
Both shows have had their shocking moments (the elimination of Jennifer Hudson, the fact that dancing great/singer Mya was defeated by Donnie Osmond), but that’s the price you pay when the public votes; they don’t always get it right. Viewers tend to vote based on their emotions and not on the performances, which ultimately sends someone who should be in the competition home. “Dancing with the Stars” has the ability to revive a struggling actor, singer or celebrities’ career; just look at what the show did for Mario Lopez. Plus viewers get to see stars tackle a challenge that places them out of their comfort zone.
Both series are losing a bit of promise; it happens with any show over a period of time. Things just get a bit repetitive and for viewers things have to be spiced up a bit. While “Idol” is facing a few surmountable challenges in the future, the same could be said for “Stars,” but as we all know “Idol” has dominated the ratings for more than eight years. So until those numbers began to significantly drop, “Idol” is still on top and “Dancing” is on its coattail.