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Lisa de Moraes's TV Column: 'American Idol' Fans Don't Like Judging Tweak

The honorable Simon Cowell only presided over half of his cases Tuesday, angering some fans. But he and the other judges spared Matt Giraud with their veto power.
The honorable Simon Cowell only presided over half of his cases Tuesday, angering some fans. But he and the other judges spared Matt Giraud with their veto power. (By Rene Macura -- Associated Press)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, April 17, 2009

Allowing "American Idol" star Simon Cowell to critique only half the show's competitors will go down in the history books as the dumbest idea ever hatched to "tweak" the most watched television show in the country.

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It will also go down in the books as the shortest-lived on-air tweak.

One episode.

Although next week there will be as many Idolettes performing at this week because the judges vetoed viewers' decision to eliminate competitor Matt Giraud, Fox is dumping the new judging system it introduced Tuesday as a time-saving device, in which the four judges were divided into two teams and took turns critiquing every other competitor.

Viewers hated it, and said so in the network's "Idol" chat forums.

Instead, the show will now attempt to cut out some of the "other stuff" that does so much to plump up the running time. You know, like this past Tuesday's "Quentin Tarantino: Legend -- Seriously" package that contributed so mightily to the gobbling-up of a precious seven minutes of the performance show before the first Idolette sung a single note.

The late new judging system was initiated this week in response to the previous week's nightmare, in which the Tuesday performance show ran a whopping nine minutes long.

That overrun meant the final competitor's performance was not seen by a hefty chunk of viewers who had DVR'd the broadcast (Nielsen estimates more than 3 million people are DVR-ing "Idol" this season). This is not a good thing for a TV competition series that calls for viewers to do the voting. In addition to the viewers, from whom Fox heard in substantial numbers, the network also got an earful from the folks who run the network's TV stations across the country. Because the nine-minute "Idol" overrun resulted in a seven-minute "Fringe" overrun, which caused their local newscasts to start and end late, which can affect ratings.

Fox issued a statement the next day in which it revealed that "American Idol" is a live performance show and, as such, has "unpredictable elements" that affect running time.

By "unpredictable elements," Fox means no one involved with the show is capable of doing simple math, and was unaware that if you don't cut anything out of a show and you then add a fourth judge who typically gives about 30 seconds of remarks on each Idolette's performance -- plus you're airing the tightest performance show of the season, in which you are trying to jam eight Idolettes into a one-hour broadcast -- that equals Major Time Overrun.

Of course, it also doesn't help that the show's two chick judges seem to be trying to outtalk each other throughout the night.

When the new judging system was unveiled Tuesday, by show host Ryan Seacrest, he called it "historic," as in:


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