Monday, September 14, 2009

Ellen Judges AI

Pardon the drool, as I have spent all weekend trying to pick my jaw off the floor.

Now I am a pretty jaded person and nothing really makes my jaw get so slack that my lower mandible finds itself, teeth and all, in a jumble on the tile.

But last week, the announcement that Ellen DeGeneres would replace Paula Abdul on American Idol stunned me more than the news that Michael Jackson’s death was ruled a homicide.

The conventional wisdom behind Ellen joining the Island of Misfit Judges is simple. Ellen is huge with women (no lesbian joke intended). Her daytime talk show has had steady female numbers and Idol producers have noticed a lack of female eyeballs watching would be singers turn into starts for the past couple of seasons.

Also, Ellen is likable and funny without being too saccharine or insipid like Paula. As a side note, I have to admit, one of the reasons I enjoyed AI the last couple of seasons was because you never knew what kind of verbal train wreck would chug forth from Paula’s pert little mouth. Her slurry, confusing non-sequitors were something that drinking games were borne out of. “Take a shot if Paula says anything with the word ‘beautiful!’”

Sure, she was a lighthearted distraction, like a funny Aunt at a reunion that makes you shake you’re head and thank God she doesn’t live with you. That was, for good or bad, Paula Abdul and I, for one, will miss her drug-addled ramblings.

But the main reason that I cannot believe Ellen DeGeneres was picked to be the new judge on AI is that she (and this is tantamount) has no musical background whatsoever.

None. Zip. Nada.

Sure, Ellen can dance as she’s proven on her successful talk show when she moves her hips like some stuffy tart at a Junior League function, but does she know what pitch is? Can she pick out a warbler versus an actual singer?

Simon and Randy have actually produced world-class singers who have smash hits and gold records. Ellen? We don’t even know if she sings in the shower.

Ellen has that Everyperson quality to her that AI producers are looking for. She says she loves music, but without the one-hit wonder factor or the rehab stints. DeGeneres reminds you of a someone who goes to your church, but without the fashion sense.

Her likeability may have been the “it” factor for Ellen, being huge for test audiences, but remember this cautionary tale. A couple of years back – forever in TV time – Monday Night Football was looking to shake things up in the booth and found someone who they thought would reflect the Everyperson, sitting between the football guy and the announcer guy. He was smart, quick and was a self-avowed “football fanatic.” His name was Dennis Miller. And he sucked so bad, he was replaced after two seasons…by a man who knew a lot about football. His name was John Madden.

Ellen, you ain’t John Madden; you’re Dennis Miller. And that’s not a compliment.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent post. It's fair to both her strengths and her weaknesses, and I think it will be proven correct as the season runs. We have professional industry judges because they're -industry- judges. Ellen is not one. We already have the voting process for the public to weigh in. You may also like Newsy's coverage of this story at, which basically comes to the conclusion you did. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it's doubtful it will prove to be one.