Well, it's official: the American Idol season that kicked off this week will be Simon Cowell's last as a judge. Initially one of the singing competition's principal draws, the taciturn, acerbic Brit has mellowed out over the last couple years, his barbed dismissals softening as the program's popularity grew. Blame it on boredom, blame it on fierce jet lag, blame it on whatever you want, but it goes without saying that Cowell's departure is the best thing that's happened to the show since Paula Abdul's over-publicized departure after the end of last season. Right now, Idol is a bland, well-oiled machine; it's capable of real surprises (Adam Lambert, ya heard?), but there's a bloodlessness to the pacing, editing, vingettes, jeer-inducing car-wreck auditions, and manipulative back-story exploitations creates the sense that we're all watching the same season, repackaged, over and over again. (I blogged about the show last season for a different publication, and I'm still recovering.)
In our view, it's high time that someone dumped some sand - or better yet, crushed glass - into the Botoxed maw of Idol's well-oiled machine. To fuck things up, if you like. In that spirit, for the consideration of FOX executives and shareholders, we've prepared the following shortlist of prospective Cowell replacements; call it a rogue's gallery, or a Breakfast Club, or maybe the least palatable potential Celebrity Apprentice team ever.
Kelly Ripa. Like guest Idol judge Victoria Beckham, Ripa is probably an extraterrestrial or a Fembot, because nobody can be that sickeningly perfect and human. Anyway, Ripa's presence behind the judges' table would have the effect of crippling - and potentially expanding its watchability - vis-a-vis whitened-smile banality. Seriously. Try to imagine Ripa saying anything to a contestant following an audition, or to a fellow judge, or to Seacrest. You can't, can you? She's like an empty space, a host/glad-handler black hole; just picture the discomfort this could bring about, or the not-so-remote possibility of everybody on stage or set being suddenly sucked into the furthest reaches of the cosmos at any given moment.
Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon is a musclebound douchebag who probably spends most of his time playing with grandkids and diving into vaults full of his WWE cash, like Scrooge McDuck; he's been known to physically attack interviewers who, in his view, disrespected him. Like Ripa, he doesn't need to be on Idol; it doesn't even make sense for him to be on Idol. He'd scare hopefuls and crew alike shitless. He'd call Randy Jackson a "dawg" and come off thoroughly insincere; he'd smile at Kara DioGuardi but it'd register as a leer. All of which is exactly why McMahon needs to be on Idol. It's the fear-of-being-torn-limb-from-limb factor.
Artie Lange. This could go one of two ways: (1) judging on Idol could be a life-affirming, transformative experience for this comedian/relapse guy/celebrity death pool favorite/Howard Stern sidekick, or (b) he could show up at work everyday blasted and belligerent, slinging f-bombs and crashing through tables and screaming. Either way: must-see TV. DVR magic!