Idol: Get That Show on the Road

If you really need proof that the people behind American Idol are incredibly intelligent, I offer you what happened at last week’s finale. Someone connected with the show was nice enough to offer myself and my bride tickets at the last minute to the Wednesday night Simon send-off.

And the tickets they gave us were in the last row of the entire place, which was brilliant on their part. You see, by putting an entire arena of people between us and the performers, Team Idol avoided promoting an ABC show on Fox. Because had the missus been within pouncing distance of young Lee DeWyze, we surely would have seen the unfortunate, all-too-true meaning of the term Cougar Town.

But with the finale now come and gone, the show—and the entire television business— must turn its attention to the biggest personnel decision in recent memory.

Enough conjecture will be written about Simon Cowell’s replacement that I need not get into it here. Plus, my vote has already been cast in this space: Jane Lynch of Glee in character as acid-tongued Sue Sylvester.

The show will be looking at everyone and everything, as evidenced first by Kevin Reilly’s upfront (pun fully intended) acknowledgment that TV’s Death Star is showing some age. I also saw a May 21 viewer poll Fox sent out via the Internet that literally asked about everything from the show’s talent to the format. Granted, these polls are not remotely newsworthy, and Fox and every network have done them forever. But it’s a great reminder that for Idol, everything is in play.

I have already weighed in with thoughts like going back to three judges and finding some way to keep Cowell in the show. And Ellen DeGeneres probably would be smart to simply walk away, as this show is not the best use of her significant talents.

But in recent weeks, an idea popped into my head, and then cemented at the finale. Idol needs to use a problem-solving method made famous by a group of great academic minds at prestigious Faber College in 1962: It needs a road trip.

American Idol should be filmed in a different city every week. Go right to the wildly successful WWE Monday Night Raw playbook, tour the show every week, and feed off the incredible live-event energy of a passionate fan base that will turn out in droves when the circus comes to town.

Yes, it will add significant cost and significant headaches, from where to do Ryan Seacrest’s radio show on tape days to just building and striking the set every week. And much like this year’s Dancing With the Stars rebound, Idol could fi nd its groove again pretty easily with the right casting, both in the judges’ chairs and on the stage. But the show also needs an energy infusion that just doesn’t come on a Los Angeles stage anymore. Two words, boys: Road trip.

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