TWISTS & TURNS
American Idol is looking for some controversy — and that's the point
Monday night's American Idol started with a dramatic message that flashed across the screen: “Last night you picked your Top 9,” it read. “But there's room for one more.”
In other words, Idol decided to shake things up in its 19th season with what producers are calling the “comeback” twist. Typically, viewers would have narrowed down the contestant field to the Top 10 on Sunday's episode. But one slot was left open — because for the first time, a group of contestants who were eliminated last season received a second chance to return and vie for a spot in the Top 10, where they will compete again for the Idol crown.
While singers are allowed to audition for future seasons after they're voted off, this was different. The comeback contestants who performed Monday were chosen by producers, and it was to make up for the fact that their season in spring 2020 was upended by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of spending weeks in Los Angeles with producers, vocal coaches and hair and makeup artists, rocking out on a huge stage under bright lights with professional backup musicians, the show went virtual. Contestants were sent home, where they were relegated to performing from their living rooms and backyards in front of iphones and ring lights.
“These kids didn't get their big moment in front of the audience,” said judge Luke Bryan.
“And you know what? We feel like that is kind of unfair,” Katy Perry said. “Plot twist!”
On one hand, the twist makes a lot of sense. Aspiring singers work for years to get a chance on a big platform like Idol, and it was no doubt hugely disappointing that the pandemic had denied them the full once-in-a-lifetime experience. On the other hand ... well, if you took a brief look at social media leading up to the comeback episode, specifically replies to the official Idol Twitter and Instagram accounts, plenty of fans also thought this situation was unfair to the current contestants.
Some viewers were thrilled to see their old favourites again, but many others were furious that the show was shaking things up toward the end of the season when the stakes are so high.
They made valid points. It's the same reason there's frequently an outcry when other reality series with a competition element, such as The Bachelor or Big Brother, bring back cast members from past seasons. It may theoretically help the show's ratings if viewers tune in to see someone they have enjoyed before, or just to witness the drama.
But it's simultaneously frustrating because the contestant already has a clear advantage, given they know all of the tricks from the show from their first appearance.
The Washington Post