Why ‘Idol' Needs The Mary Hart Rule (And Other Notes)

So I fired through the first three hours of the new-look American Idol on Thursday night, and was pleasantly surprised. Even as an admitted long-time Idol watcher, I am already on the record as firmly believing that if Fox doesn’t mess with X-Factor when it comes in the fall, it will probably render American Idol irrelevant by comparison before too long.

But even without American Idol star Simon Cowell (sorry Fox, he was the star as much as the contestants), the new blood on the panel was welcomed by this viewer who has watched long enough to remember how good Carrie Underwood was in the early rounds of her winning run and how much I wanted to beat the shit out of that Sanjaya kid for his entire season.

So a few notes on the beginning of Season Ten:

THE MARY HART RULE: The people who run Entertainment Tonight are pretty smart, as they have kept their show number one for about 73 years now. And one of their best moves ever was to realize the assets they had in Mary Hart’s legs. Seriously. So much so, that they actually ended up building a desk on set so that viewers could see her widely-fawned-over legs. So could someone please tell me why in the hell American Idol would hide Jennifer Lopez’s equally popular lower half behind a clunky old desk? I am not trying to be sexist or a pervert, because if you don’t think sex sells on any show, you are somewhere between naïve and unemployable. So smarten up Idol and invoke the Mary Hart Rule - free J-Lo’s legs!

WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR? Watching the dynamic Steven Tyler and the sheer fame of Lopez in their first episodes has to make you wonder how the hell the same show could have ever hired Ellen DeGeneres and Kara What’s-her-name. Kara had all the personality of a Swedish fish, and the talented DeGeneres looked like a deer in headlights so often on Idol that the only person with that much talent so miscast was Michael Jordan’s unfortunate run as a pro baseball player. Now with Steven Tyler (who you literally have no idea what he will say next, or even what he just said half the time) and Jennifer Lopez (who gives great Q score), the cast really has been reinvented well. After just three hours, and even without Simon, it already made you forget how bad last year’s cast - outside of Cowell - was.

IT’S ENOUGH, DOG: I get keeping Randy Jackson for some continuity, but his act needs a reboot of its own, and you can already tell he is grasping for attention and gravitas next to his two fellow panel-mates that are already overshadowing him. I remember writing last year that Randy would be better suited to be backstage in a mentor role. Idol created the role, they just gave it to the wrong guy.

REPLACING THE HONESTY (A.K.A. SIMON): Over the course of the first couple nights, the judges put through some really average talent because there wasn’t a Simon to step up first and say, “You are sweet, but you can’t, um, sing.” Without him, no one on the panel is ready to look at a nice kid and - oh, God I can’t believe I am about to write these four words - keep it real, baby. That could set the Hollywood rounds (or whatever they are doing this year) up to have some bad performances (which of course won’t find their way to the air). So someone is going to have to step up and play the heavy, or if all these terrible singers keep sneaking through, I may have to take my tone-deaf self down there and audition. At least that way I could see J-Lo’s legs.