Two years ago I considered the question of whether Simon Cowell, the famously caustic judge on “American Idol,” was a workplace bully (post here):
Because Simon is the toughest judge, contestants often appear apprehensive when it’s his turn to comment. If Simon praises the performance, the contestant breathes a sigh of relief and beams with delight. If he pans the performance, the poor contestant tries to take it in stride.
I concluded that while Simon is something of a bully, many have experienced worse:
I’m not endorsing or defending Simon’s style or practice. He’s a bonafide jerk, and he sometimes abuses the power his role confers upon him. His Idol fame makes him a workplace bullying poster boy. But as some readers can certainly attest, there are many, many bosses out there much worse than Simon Cowell.
Simon is gone now, having moved on to other (equally or more lucrative) projects. Two other judges from last season, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres, were not retained, creating an opportunity to remake the judges panel.
The corps of Idol judges now includes holdover Randy Jackson and newcomers Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. The addition of two famous performers obviously was designed to bolster ratings, but both Lopez and Tyler have proven to be solid in their roles.
Kinder, gentler, and still entertaining
The remodeled Idol judging panel also shows the dramatic effect of removing a bully from the workplace. Although I’ve missed several episodes, I feel comfortable saying that the 2011 edition of American Idol is a kinder place, even when the judges issue pointed critiques of less-than-stellar performances.
Both Lopez and Tyler bring a natural sympathy and respect for those who are auditioning and performing.
Tyler, surprisingly, also happens to be a bit of a class clown. Lopez has shed her diva personality and at times plays the role of maternal softie when it comes to dealing with the young performers.
What’s missing is the gratuitous meanness that Cowell often brought to reviewing performances he didn’t like. The palpable apprehension on the faces of contestants awaiting his critique and the deer-in-the-headlights looks as some struggled to react to one of his heavily barbed criticisms are no longer standard parts of each episode.
The effect of Simon Cowell’s departure on ratings is harder to determine. Ratings have been down, but they have been on the decline during the past few seasons, and this may be only a continuation of that trend.
Back to focusing on the talent
This appears to be a talented group of finalists, with a few of the contestants showing real star qualities early in the season. Think what you may about the talent show format, but during its 10 years, “American Idol” has unearthed some genuine stars. Perhaps the focus away from Simon Cowell’s bullying reviews will help to shine a more proper light on the young folks who are trying to make a splash on the Idol stage.