How to Fix ‘American Idol'

I don’t mind admitting that I have been a big American Idol fan for a long time. I remember where I was when Carrie Underwood sang the Tiffany song. I got excited every week to see what Adam Lambert would do—and wear—next. And as I have said before, I truly believe my life would be better if the host of the show would go back to closing it every night with those two words that used to send me warmly into the night: “Seacrest out.”

So, for the same reasons Ellen DeGeneres is qualified to be a judge, I am qualified to suggest how to help TV’s biggest stage keep its 15 minutes of fame running for many more years.

Not that the show is remotely in trouble. With the competition now getting down to the more talented performers, and the kids (and Ellen) getting more comfortable, it will be fine. It has an alternative star in the making in Crystal Bowersox, who should win the whole thing, and a few guys with great voices and even better mullets.

But complacency kills, and Simon is supposedly leaving, so here are three simple moves to make now.

1. Lose a Judge. This four-judge thing is killing me this year. My TiVo’s fastforward button is almost worn out from this show. An Idol episode’s rundown is just way too heavy on unentertaining and derivative reactions, mainly from Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi.

I was going to sit down and time out how much of an hour is devoted to judges talking versus actual singing, but doing that sounded more boring than actually watching Randy and Kara.

So, I’d dump Randy from the judge’s table and make him a coach. He can help the contestants pick songs, be featured in the taped rehearsal snippets, and still call everyone “dog” and yell “What!” every two seconds. Or just sack him, and then reunite him with Paula and Simon on X Factor for some major publicity.

I’d pick all-about-me Kara over Randy to remain a judge because she is growing nicely into the nutcase role vacated by Paula. If her teary-eyed breakdown last week was genuine and not just another desperate stab at attention, she may want to get the number of Abdul’s pharmacist. But she should avoid Abdul’s agent—or whoever advised Paula to leave Idol for that smoking- hot career she has going these days.

2. Get Ellen and Simon Together.
Ellen and Simon are the two TV stars on the show, and I’m betting they could make some sparks fly—though you’d never know it because they have zero interaction on the show, save for a staged open last week that featured her sitting on his lap.

I don’t care about the silly rumors that they hate each other. They’re both pros and Idol needs to get them playing off each other, and fast. This whole Kara- Simon interaction feels tragically forced, and has yet to produce a single piece of good television.

3. Bring Back Simon. Simon Cowell is the top talent on the top show in primetime. But no worries: When you take the top talent out of the top show in a daypart, it always works out great. Just like with NBC and The Tonight Show.

Cowell doesn’t need the money, so all Fox can offer is time: Find a way to bring him back in a limited role next season. Let him skip all the auditions and start him on the show once it goes live, or even just for the top 12.

I don’t care what it takes, Fox cannot simply let him leave American Idol. A show like this comes along once in a lifetime, and letting Cowell just disappear—even to another show on Fox—is out of the question.