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Ken Levine

Ken Levine

Posted: January 20, 2011 09:22 AM

Losing Simon Cowell from American Idol was like losing Alan Alda from MASH.

AfterIDOL premiered last night on Fox. Randy Jackson is the only holdover from the original series. Reminds me of the final episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show where everyone was fired but Ted. So now you have Randy and the two new judges -- Jennifer Lopez and Carly Simon.

Jennifer looked great. The years have not been kind to Carly.

AfterIDOL began the way its predecessor, American Idol, did -- with open auditions. 10,000 delusional lost souls willing to travel thousands of miles and camp out for two nights just to be one of the select few humiliated on national television. At least before you had Simon to provide a voice of reason and sanity. Now you have a vacuous former movie star/former recording star and a walking cautionary tale to not do drugs/alcohol/glue/mushrooms/tobacco/cannabis/electric bananas/sleep deprivation for five weeks in a row.

Between the three there wasn't one insightful comment. A worldwide search for new judges and these are who they chose? I fear AfterIDOL will struggle in the ratings this year.

As opposed to the original American Idol, AfterIDOL apparently is a singing competition of 16-year-olds. I bet they all had Algebra 2 homework due. It was basically just the usual freak show but with braces. Insane girls, buffoons trying to dance, caterwaulers, pathetic grovelers, and foreigners who can hardly speak English were all served up for our ghoulish entertainment. They even had one poor guy who looked borderline Elephant Man, and he too was played for laughs.

But there were also tears; at least a desperate attempt to elicit them. AfterIDOL featured the obligatory cancer survivor story, homeless family story, and war refugee story. And lots and lots of crying. It didn't matter whether people failed, succeeded, went to the vending machine for a Kit Kat -- everyone wailed. The only home viewers I can see being moved by any of this schmaltz are the ones that cry over Olive Garden commercials.

There were some good singers. A few. We didn't see many. Instead AfterIDOL introduced us to a guy who burped. There was one girl who is a singing waitress at Ellen's Stardust Diner in Times Square. This is a very cool '50s-themed diner where all the waiters and waitresses take turns singing "Suddenly Seymour" while your order sits at the counter getting cold. She had talent as did the 16-year-old who videotapes everything she does and probably thinks she's a cast member on Good Luck, Charlie on the Disney Channel.

American Idol used to be a rousing show. It was refreshing seeing young people try to realize their dreams. It was novel hearing a judge so completely candid. And it was... it was new. I'm not sure how often I'm going to review AfterIDOL. It's no fun to sit through something that's bad and repetitive. I hope it gets better. I know it's not fair to write off a show based on one episode. I'll check back in occasionally. But sequels are tough. Carly Simon deserves better.

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