Steve Eighinger

American Idol: An old friend is back, and so far, so good

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 13, 2018 9:20 am

Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive. I wasn't even sure I wanted to watch.

I had remembered all the good times from the program's early, formative, middle and (most of its) latter years. I also remembered how it limped into the sunset.

Like most of America, during the show's heyday much of my family built our viewing week around "American Idol." Heck, for a decade I even wrote a blog about the show for The Herald-Whig that developed readership not only across the nation, but Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe.

Yeah, at one time, the show was that big.

Unfortunately, during its final seasons the program became a caricature of itself. The loss of judges like Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, coupled with the arrival of replacements such as Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj quickened the show's decline.

For me, Idol had fallen off so much I did not even watch more than a few minutes of the final season in 2016.

That's why I was straddling the fence on whether I wanted to attempt watching the "Idol" reboot, which arrived Sunday night and continued Monday evening on ABC. Did I want to try and rekindle what was once an amazing love affair, or chance the disaster of an awkward getting-back-together that might not work out?

I chanced the awkward getting-back-together.

And I was glad I did.

Whether or not "American Idol" 2.0 ever reaches the heights of the original -- at one point, an unprecedented seven straight seasons as the No. 1 network show with as many as 38.6 million viewers -- is inconsequential. The new "Idol" was more like the original than I anticipated, and helped wash away much of the bad taste of those last couple of seasons.

Probably the most surprising element of the new Idol is the cast of judges. Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan meshed far better than I envisioned they would, and within 15 minutes I felt comfortable with the reincarnation of what was once my favorite show.

There remains the expected lineup of would-be stars and would-be singers that are so bad they make you wince. The most memorable catastrophe of the season's first show may have been an interesting character named Nico Bones, who sang a rather hard-rock version of some song about eating worms. Nico did not get a golden ticket, but he fit right in with the some of the iconic disasters of years past.

I found I still love the tear-jerking backstories, like the one belonging to Alyssa Raghu, who comes from a broken home and absolutely nailed an Ariana Grande favorite. She was arguably the star of opening night.

Venerable host Ryan Seacrest has also returned, and told us early, "We're ba-a-ack." And after all of my concern, I'm glad.

Very, very glad.