On Wednesday night, American Idol kicked off its 13th season. Interestingly, American Idol began the same year as this writer's marriage; thirteen whole years ago. Sometimes, it feels like it was only yesterday when we stood breathless with the excitement of beginning a new journey. At other times, it feels like . . . well, it feels like you have to boot Randy Jackson and Nigel Lythgoe and add a little Harry Connick, Jr. to spice things up. In fact, after Wednesday night's show, it's apparent that adding a little Harry Connick, Jr. could solve much of what ails the world.
It might be premature to declare Harry as Idol's saving grace (maybe that pun was slightly intended) but after his Idol premiere, it's safe to say that he might just be the best judge to fill that seat since Mr. Cowell departed four seasons ago. So what was it that made Connick such a great asset to the show? You're going to be so glad you asked.
1) He has, quite possibly, the bluest eyes on earth. What? You need more?
2) He is remarkably astute and actually knows what he's talking about. While Jennifer Lopez is all about her "goosies" and Keith Urban listens with his heart, Harry Connick Jr. listens critically. So much so, that he even takes the time to explain to Jennifer and Keith about the pervasiveness of the pentatonic scale and how some singers rely too heavily on those five notes. Needless to say, JLo stared at him like he had a pentahead.
3) He is irreverent and hilarious. Unlike Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler, who spent an entire season mooning over how beautiful Jennifer Lopez was, Harry Connick Jr. frequently disagrees with her and uttered the best eight words spoken in thirteen years of Idol: "Jennifer, I will slap you on national television."
4) He effortlessly cradles contestants and Keith Urban in his arms, as if they were mere babes.
5) He isn't afraid to be honest. While Harry isn't needlessly cruel toward contestants, he doesn't coddle them either.
Because of the above reasons and because of the natural, healthy dynamic that seems to emanate from the judging panel, it seems like Season 13 could be just what viewers need to wipe the horrors of last year's panel from our minds. And that's exactly what Idol is hoping for. To help grease the wheels of their new, bright image, Idol opted to forego the carnage of failed auditions and instead relied on really funny moments, like Ryan Seacrest face planting in the carpet after trying to jump over a chair or Ryan Seacrest face planting a contestant's father when he tried to pick him up. That's good wholesome fun, right there.
To add to the delights of the new judge and the absence of Mariah (a delight, in and of itself), Idol also showcased a few promising talents from their Boston and Austin auditions such as Sam Woolf, 17, who gave a great rendition of "Lego House," Malcolm Allen, 21, who sang "Superstition" and finally Ethan Thompson, who sang an unfamiliar song but was still able to leave an indelible impression! Bonus points to the readers who can identify the song in the comments section.
As promising as the addition of Harry and the new affable panel may be, it's too soon to tell whether these or any of the other changes in store, will be enough to rescue Idol from their steady decline in viewership. But if Season 13 is American Idol's last gasp, taking it with Harry Connick, Jr., will make it that much sweeter.