— Season 10 of “American Idol” has already been full of surprises, and more are reportedly in store. Does that mean it will be an unpredictable year? Heck no! Here’s a fearless forecast of 10 things to expect from the show this season.
1. This will be a kinder, gentler 'Idol'
OK, I’m kind of cheating with this first one. “Idol” producers have already said the show intends to be less mean without cranky Simon Cowell to lean on for its snark.
It’s a smart decision because it eliminates some of the distraction that the change in judges was expected to provide. If there is no mean judge this season, there is no comparison to be made between newbies Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez and Simon. Given that the acerbic Brit is one of a kind (and thank heaven for that), it made sense to change things up when he left.
Of course, because of that ...
2. The audition episodes will be the dullest ever
Let’s be honest, 90 percent of the fun of these first few episodes is watching delusional folks get their dreams mocked and crushed on national television.
Does that make us bad people? Maybe. But we know McDonald’s can be bad for us and we eat those supersized fries anyway. The audition episodes are the fast-food french fries — they may be unhealthy, but without them there’s no point in going there in the first place.
The first two audition episodes have been heavy on the success stories, light on the disasters. Very touching, very wholesome ... and at times, very boring.
3. 'Steven said what?!' will take over from 'Simon Says'
It’s already apparent that Tyler is no Simon. That’s why picking him to replace Simon, though it seemed nutty at the time, was a little bit of genius.
Tyler isn’t cleverly cutting like Simon, but he's going to make people remember what he says because he can be both funny and inappropriate. While everything Simon said appeared scripted, Tyler does not appear to have any filter between his brain and his mouth and just blurts out whatever comes to mind.
But since that irreverence can come at a cost ...
4. Fox will have to explain several times why Tyler hasn’t been fired
The over-under on “Tyler Apologizes for ‘Idol’ comments” press releases issued as a result of “American Idol” season 10 is 3.5. If you could wager on that in Las Vegas, I would take the over.
5. J.Lo’s nice-girl act fades
Based on the footage we’ve seen so far, everything has been peaches and cream for Jennifer Lopez. Every contestant thinks she’s gorgeous, and she likes everyone. Unlike Paula Abdul and Ellen DeGeneres, however, she seems aware that she’s not supposed to like all the good-hearted but mediocre singers who come before her.
At some point she’ll snap at someone, and from then on, she’ll get more comfortable at telling the contestants they stink. At least, I hope so. We already had a “I’m going to have to boo myself here because I hate criticizing people” judge last year, and it did not work.
6. Bieber fever: Catch it
There’s a reason that “American Idol” lowered the age limit to 15, and it’s not because the public at large was clamoring to see even younger contestants crash and burn like most of the 16-year-olds do in Hollywood. It’s because Justin Bieber blew up at an age where he was just a bit too young to be eligible to audition, and the folks at Fox and 19 Entertainment would like to be sure that if anyone else out there is that talented and precocious, they’ll also want to hang out with Ryan Seacrest.
Good luck with that.
7. 'The most talented group of finalists ever!'
This is another prediction that isn’t quite fearless. Every year, the show promises the most talent ever, and yet Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry sit unchallenged as the Mount Rushmore of successful “Idol” contestants.
But this year, they really have to mean it. If the show is really going to be about the contestants this season, it’s very important that the singers not stink. So if your reaction to this year’s group is “meh” instead of “awesome,” “Idol” may be in big trouble.
8. We'll all know who Jimmy Iovine is
There's a reason why one of the new faces on "Idol" this season is music producer Jimmy Iovine. He'll be the permanent mentor this season, thus sparing the contestants and the audience from the weekly parade of stars offering contrary advice and meaningless compliments as they look for the PR boost of the show's millions of viewers. The goal is for this to result in a winner who is ready to immediately sell records, with an established style undiluted by the ridiculous theme weeks and lack of direction in the past.
If Iovine's going to be the equivalent of the coach, watch for early signs as to what kind of coach he is. Will he be the supportive and encouraging type, or will he motivate by yelling and screaming? If it's the latter, that could provide some of the edge that vanished with Simon.
9. Guys and guitars? No thanks!
“Idol” is in a tricky spot here. Viewers love the solo-male-singer-with-a-guitar act, as they’ve sent three in a row to victory. The problem is, once the ball drops on the finale, fans don’t go out and buy the winner’s records.
It’s far too early to say that Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze are failures, but it’s safe to say that they didn’t catch fire following their “Idol” gigs. This season, the show desperately needs a fire starter, and it will try and get America voting in a different direction.
So don’t be surprised if we see much fewer of the DeWyze-Allen type in the finals. It’s not that "Idol" doesn't think we’ll like them … we love them too much for our own good. Or, more accurately, for “Idol’s.”
10. 'Idol' learns to play defense
For years, other networks would put up just token opposition to Fox’s ratings juggernaut, but no more. Simon leaving the show is akin to Rocky Balboa landing that first haymaker on Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV,” shattering the favorite’s aura of invincibility.
Even with the added challenges, however, there’s no need to weep for host Ryan Seacrest and company. The show’s still going to be a ratings success and the big hit in the reality TV talent competition genre.
At least, until Simon debuts “The X Factor” this fall.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman , where he live tweets each "Idol" show.