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Lisa Steinberg

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Cashing Couch

Posted: 09/28/2012 10:02 am

With the recent announcement of the new American Idol judges it is becoming apparent that an old trend in television is starting to reemerge," Stunt Casting," or the use of high-profile celebrities to boost the appeal of, or to broaden the demographics, of a television program. It's been a tried and true go-to trick for countless years, but with networks trying to revamp their images to find a younger, hipper or more well-balanced audience for their shows, using high-profile celebrities nowadays has been a staple among some of television's most popular programs, and it isn't even necessary! American Idol, Glee, and The X Factor have all beefed up their wildly popular programs with star-studded guest stars or judges and it isn't always paying off.

American Idol started off with judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul sitting behind a table. They wanted to try and find the next big American singer. Maybe these names were people you were familiar with, or maybe not, but they had chemistry together. The show focused on finding talent, not packing megawatt talent in to judge someone and mentor them. Over the past few years the faces behind the judges' table have changed. Simon Cowell left the show and Paula Abdul was replaced. In their places singing superstars Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler were recruited. Both have a huge fan following from their long singing careers, but did their presence really impact viewership, or the careers of those who went on to win the American Idol title? Seemingly not so much. These judges lasted a few seasons and are now being replaced by three new judges, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and Keith Urban, along with returning judge Randy Jackson. Certainly they all have the chops and credibility to fit the bill, but since American Idol now has to compete with new sensation The X Factor. The X Factor has young Ingénues, Demi Lovato and Britney Spears. Is this Idol's attempt at bridging age gaps?

Speaking of these, The X Factor judges, who are sitting alongside Idol alum Simon Cowell. He has done his fair share of judging. What's the difference in him judging for Idol and judging for The X Factor? And now that he has Britney Spears and Demi Lovato sitting beside him at the judging table, how will they mesh? High salaries plus highly charged attitudes, egos, and emotions may not be the best combination. Certainly Britney and Demi do add a specific drawing power to The X Factor with their age and younger fan demographics. Idol has been on a roller coaster ride of viewership throughout the past few years. Maybe the younger, fresher look and appeal of The X Factor has a leg or two up on Idol. Lovato and Spears are definite proven talents and have industry longevity, much like Minaj, Urban, and Carey on Idol, but this trio has an edge with being more well-seasoned music veterans. Will viewers be interested in leaving a longtime favorite program and taking a chance on a newer, fresher take at finding the next big star? There is the draw of the stars megawatt status, but is there substance to what will keep viewers tuned in week after week, or make them care?

Glee has been a favorite show that is a must-see ever since it came belting on the scene. I've been a loyal viewer never missing an episode and always sharing my opinions on fandoms, storylines. quotes, etc. Unfortunately, to me, in seasons two and three the show seemed to take a different turn. I felt like the show became more about who was guest starring and providing that guest a storyline than it was about the show's origin, the kids in the Glee Club and their mentors. Guest stars like Ricky Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Whoopi Goldberg, Lindsay Lohan, and Matt Bomer, have shown up not so much to move the stories along for our favorite characters, but more of a way the show can boost its ratings and go off on tangents.

Martin showed up as a night school teacher who pushed Will into realizing he didn't have passion as a Spanish teacher. Although it felt more like he was there to randomly do a LMFAO song and dance with the Glee Club for no specific motivation, especially with Martin's character taking over the role as Spanish teacher and then never being seen again. Lohan played a judge at Nationals along with celebrity blogger Perez Hilton and Goldberg was a menacing professor at NYADA who held Rachel's future at the prestigious school in the palm of her hand. Now, so far in season four we've already been given Kate Hudson as Rachel's dance teacher at NYADA, and coming up shortly is Kurt's new employer in the form of Sarah Jessica Parker. Hudson's character is there to push Rachel and be far less coddling then her Glee Club teacher Mr. Schue, but really it's seems to just be a platform for Hudson to sing and dance and steal focus. None of this has added up to anything more than just cameos to really provide no steam or fire to propel episodes, and instead has fallen flat and turned me somewhat off to the program.

So is the added star power to these shows something that excites you and has you glued to your television? Or is it a turn off to you where you're more interested in finding out what happens to the core characters, rather than the flavor of the week? Will you be tuning in to American Idol for the talented singers they uncover each season, or because your favorite singer is now a part of the judging panel? Or perhaps, will you be switching to an old favorite for a fresher take on talent searches? Are these stars going to have staying power, or is it all about the paycheck?

 

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