Note to 'American Idol' Season 14: You (Still) Have Format Problems

Michael Becker/FOX
American Idol Season 14: The Top 12

Billboard's blogger laments the loss of two-hour episodes that reveal more of the finalists' personalities.

American Idol returns to a two-hour live format on Thursday night (March 12) after weeks of truncated episodes to make way for new Fox hit Empire. Most would probably groan at the prospect of 100-plus minutes of Idol hopefuls, but not this loyalist, who feels a one-hour show brings with it a host of challenges.

For one thing, it feels that the contestants are being rushed through their songs. While we Idol worshipers understand the importance of editing, keeping to a schedule and filtering out filler, running to the stage with nary a second to spare can only work against most finalists, no matter how talented. It's almost as if the adrenaline prior to the top 12 reveal threw some of them off their game and led to all the pitch problems we have seen this season.

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For instance: Sarina-Joi Crowe, who was so solid in previous weeks, was the first called to perform and faltered with her audition song, "Love Runs Out" by OneRepublic. Could it be that sprint to the stage and the lightning-fast pace is affecting them?

Also, the frenetic tone is so quick -- even host Ryan Seacrest seems to be forgetting to put on a tie -- that it's making it impossible to get a true feel for who these kids are. At this stage of the game, it would be nice to learn something about each singer, but the packaged clips are so short, you don't get a sense of their personalities or what is driving their artistic decisions.

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Thirdly, the judges' critiques have been effectively neutered. Case in point: Qassim Middleton is an entertaining and engaging performer, yes, but maybe he should sing a little bit? He was all over the stage and out of breath, but the judges didn't seem to notice. Or maybe they were too rushed to notice? At least Harry Connick Jr. gets it right in a pinch -- particularly when he called out cherub-faced Daniel Seavey for his "inexperience" on Paula Abdul's "Straight Up." Someone should have called him out on forgetting the lyrics in the house that Paula built... but there isn't enough time for that.

Finally, when the kids do leave the stage, they should have their camera time to themselves. It was distracting to listen to the super cute and emotional Joey Cook tearfully thank America for another chance while fellow Idols squeezed into her moment for camera time.

Every season, the Fox singing show comes up with a new gimmick to up the ante with drama. On season 13, it was the airplane hangar of doom and the travesty of a group of singers like Jillian Jensen being sent home without the opportunity to sing a note. But this season is like Idol on speed. It will be interesting to see what happens when we have more time to spend with the top 12 tonight.

What do you think? Do you prefer your Idol in one- or two-hour portions?


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