Skip to content

Ellen DeGeneres on American Idol? Yes, Please!

September 10, 2009

Jeez, leave it to the American Idol producers to come up with a Good Idea before I had the chance to turn it into a TBTS Good Idea™ column. I was getting there, dear readers, I promise you.

I think Ellen DeGeneres is a brilliant choice to be the newest judge on American Idol. Last season was the first AI season I watched—hence, I can tell you all about Adam Lambert even though I’ve known nothing about prior AI megastars. This season, I will say unabashedly that I will be watching again, and do so happily, mostly because of Ellen. The reason why boils down to the African proverb that you’ve probably seen on refrigerator magnets or on a postcard tacked up in your co-worker Tammy’s office cubicle:

“If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance.”

I can think of no better (or certainly no more widely known) embodiment of that idea than Ellen DeGeneres. I don’t regularly watch her talk show, but I’ve certainly seen bits like this where she throws on some music and just starts moving.

When Ellen dances, it’s always a joyful, celebratory moment, one without guile, irony, or apology. And her energy is infectious. She gets her audience to dance. She gets some of her guests to dance. For crying out loud, she got Chris Matthews to dance—although, to be fair, he may have just been looking for an opportunity to cop a feel.

Ellen says she aims to represent “the people’s point of view” on American Idol, and I believe her. She’ll present the perspective of a lifelong pop music fan, rather than an industry insider, something the show has yet to offer on a regular basis. She’ll also imbue AI with a level of intelligence that, based on my fairly limited viewing, no one else on the panel seems able to match.

And of course Ellen will be funny. I mean, Paula Abdul was damn funny herself, but I don’t think that’s what she was going for. Don’t get me wrong—I like feeling superior to stupid people every once in a while too. But that can only go so far. It’ll be good to laugh at Ellen’s smart jokes instead of Paula’s narcotized idiocy.

Most importantly, and going back to the dancing thing, I trust Ellen to bring empathy to her post-song remarks. She’ll realize that the performers are putting everything on the line, to an almost unprecedented extent in the history of television, when they sing on American Idol. Honestly, I can’t stand a lot of the music on AI, but I respect anybody who can even remotely keep it together on that stage after going from waiting tables or driving a truck in January to singing in front of 30 million people in April.

I think Ellen will be good at keeping that in mind too—that most of the contestants were, until very recently, regular folks who just had a desire to sing for people and maybe make some money while doing so. On her talk show she seems to live by the idea that everyone can dance, and a good dancer is one who’s having fun. If, on American Idol, she shows a genuine belief that everybody has a song worth singing (even those that probably can’t or shouldn’t make a career of it), she’ll be as much an asset to the contestants as she’ll be to the ratings.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: