Work on TV: American Idol without Simon Cowell

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.

Exit Simon

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.

4 responses

  1. I’ve never watched Idol for more than a few minutes at a time, but I agree that Simon’s absence is a relief. I’ve always liked Randy and Jennifer, and now I like Steve. The show’s focus now is more balanced and doesn’t have a fear/intimidation quality, which makes it easier for me to watch.

    (Have you had a chance to watch Castle yet?)

    • Mary, sorry, I haven’t watched Castle! (Right now I’m barely keeping up with DVR’d episodes of my regular shows.)

  2. Dear Dr. Yamada:

    I thought the very same thing as you stated when I first tuned in to watch American Idol. Because of that fact, I never really watched up until the media news covered the story of Susan Boyle when Simon Cowell was one of the judges on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

    Susan Boyle took the world by storm about a year and a half ago with her dream to sing like Elaine Paige, who originally sang the song that Susan Boyle chose to sing, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. Even before Susan started to sing, the audience made faces and laughed at her just because of her outward appearance. The moment she started to sing…Wow! What a wonderful turn of events for Susan Boyle. Every time I watched the video, I felt so great inside with the biggest smile on my face and tears of joy running down my cheek knowing that she has inspired so many. You definitely need to listen to the words of that song – you can google Elaine Paige live theatre, Les Miserables; I think all should listen to those words!
    What a great lesson Susan Boyle taught the world…with the millions and millions of hits on YouTube.

    You will notice Susan was ‘not’ intimidated by Simon Cowell – Susan was a great encouragement to all. “When you believe in yourself, you will never allow anyone to ever bully you again!” (I think this is where our answer lies – I think if ‘required learning’ were taught in school from K-12 eventually the bully would be a thing of the past.

    PS: In the present time, I have to come in defense of Simon Cowell. He has now become a kinder, gentler judge to date. No, Simon is not gone: His new X-Factor is about to start very soon. I, now, really enjoy watching him; he is very funny; he has even made disparaging remarks about himself on the Jay Leno show a couple of weeks ago.

    This may prove there is still hope that “Bullies” can/be rehabilitated!

  3. Idol has changed for the better, I think, with the current judges. However, I’m not sure I would classify Simon as a bully given that he and the other judges just seemed to be playing specific, identifiable TV roles for our entertainment and for ratings–what will Simon say next? How will Paula react? Tune in to find out!

    Simon’s persona on other shows was always much kinder and enjoyable–see appearances on Oprah or, as previously mentioned, Britain’s Got Talent. As the seasons changed on Idol, Simon was encouraged to “let ’em have it” or “bring it on” by the other judges, the MC, and even by individual contestants, and the “bad relationship” between the mean Simon and the soft-hearted Paula in early seasons seemed increasingly one of playfulness–in their Idol TV roles, on Larry King, and in other guest appearances.

    TV shows and movies can certainly be illustrative–but not this one.

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