Sunday, September 06, 2009

Has Australian Idol sung its swansong?

I've never watched Midsomer Murders, but I know enough about the weekly plot to know it's less feasible than Lost. I mean, Midsomer is a small place - how many people can keep getting murdered there every week? The town is probably responsible for raising the national homicide average - why hasn't Scotland Yard investigated this countryside anomaly? AND WHY IS ANYONE STILL LIVING THERE?

But I digress. As it turns out, for the last few weeks the main thing being murdered on television has been Channel 10's ratings.

For two Sundays in a row, Ten has barely scraped onto the top rating shows list, with its biggest end-of-week hopes - Australian Idol and Rove - both falling short of the top five. ABC1's Midsomer Murders, meanwhile has been romping it in with about 1.5 million viewers nationally, making it the second highest rating show last Sunday and the third highest the week before that.

Simply put, that means more Australians want to watch people being murdered than Australian Idol. (Strange really, because if you've a penchant for killing you can't really go past Idol, where classic 80s and 90s hits get murdered on a weekly basis. Not to mention all the fashion crimes being committed every week by Marcia Hines. Get DCI Barnaby to solve that one, why don't you?)

But it raises the question – after seven seasons, are we finally over Australian Idol?

If you recognise any of these people, please call Missing Persons in your state or territory.

The show has seen a number of changes this year, which some people have accused of “watering down” the format. Perhaps the most radical was the sacking of Kyle Sandilands as judge in the aftermath of THAT radio scandal, and replacing him with an unknown – Sony exec Jay Dee Springbett.

And while it gave many (myself included) a warm and fuzzy feeling to see King Kyle get his come uppance, and while we all got to feel nice and righteous for a week to see him punished, two weeks of Jay Dee has me wanting to shout “COME BACK KYLE, ALL IS FORGIVEN!”

Because let's face it, Jay Dee is just a bit, well... dull. Unlike Kyle (and Mark Holden before him) he's too conscious of being “nice” - “good job” is his favourite critique. Even Marcia, the resident “nice judge” has been more critical than him – she almost started a race debate last week over The Temptations, for goodness' sake.

But the main problem with Idol is not Jay Dee, it's the fact that it's started to take itself far too seriously these days. Idol seems to have forgotten that at its heart, it's just a big, glitzy gong show – replace Dicko with Bernard King and you've basically got Pot Luck. Forget all this talk of contestants' “marketability” and “artistic direction”, and give us more amazing performances and train wrecks – remember Carl Risely's swing version of Waltzing Matilda, or Dicko wearing Paulini's gold dress? Priceless.

Despite all of this, I'm still addicted to the show. As the saying goes (I think): I'm not over Idol until the fat lady sings. And given there isn't one on the show this year, it's probably safe for another season in 2010.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on September 6, 2009.


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