The concept of the TV judge seems to have become one of the most profitable ways to work on TV without necessarily breaking a physical sweat. While those celebrity judges getting massive paychecks might tell you that it’s not as easy as it looks, we should probably believe them. Regardless, has TV really looked at the value of the talent judge lately? Is the advice really bringing something useful to singers and other talent, or is it just a time-killer that helps pad out talent shows with thin concepts?
One way to determine this is to see exactly how much thought each judge puts into the job. There’s also the entertainment value and whether the same shtick can continue without viewers realizing networks are wasting millions of dollars.
The Judging Panel on “American Idol”
If there’s any lesson to be learned about how much money can be wasted on judges, it’s probably on “American Idol.” Even though notables like Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez know valuable things about the music industry, have they really imparted anything useful? The original judging panel of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson always seemed afraid to utter anything overly useful in musical knowledge out of fear the viewer wouldn’t understand it. That led to words like “pitchy” becoming a ubiquitous nonsensical musical term.
It seems Mariah Carey and Harry Connick, Jr. brought the most meaningful analysis when it comes to actually helping singers learn something. Considering their more extensive musical educations, it’s proof music majors can’t resist talking in real educative terms.
Now it remains to be seen whether “Idol” will be able to afford some big names without bringing in real music experts who will judge with a pay cut. And as Harry Connick, Jr. proved, those with real constructive music knowledge will probably get derided more than those who keep their mouths shut.
The Judging Panel on “The Voice”
The camaraderie among the judges on “The Voice” is much more entertaining lately than the judges on “Idol.” While you have to imagine those judges getting burnout listening to singers who bust their guts singing as many power notes as possible, the talent pool is obviously wider on “The Voice.” Considering they aren’t as persuaded lately to turn their chairs around during the audition phase shows that these judges may be the most astute judges on TV.
Any future of the talent show judge may have to involve actually teaching the performers valuable industry advice. How much time “The Voice” judges actually spend with the singers off camera is a matter of debate. How they manage to nurture talent that almost exceeds their own, though, is a lesson in not letting ego run amok. It’s something that probably won’t happen again with any other group of notable judges.
The Judging Panels on “Dancing with the Stars” (and Other Dancing Shows)
Dancing has just as much subjectivity as singing, though there sometimes seems to be a reluctance to give real technical advice on air. The panel on “Dancing with the Stars” has always been too simplified with interactions that sometimes border on the ridiculous. It almost makes you want an audit of what those judges are making over the last decade, despite having dancing backgrounds.
In comparison, Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance?” usually takes the time to give more constructive criticism, especially from former dancer and now mega-producer, Nigel Lythgoe. But that seems to show there’s a wide chasm between celebrities who barely move on the dance floor and those who actually want to make it as a real career.
The Judging Panel on “America’s Got Talent”
For sheer honesty, there isn’t any better judging panel on TV than the current crop of judges on “America’s Got Talent.” The reactions to the truly awful acts are far more hilarious and burning than the forced bad auditions on “American Idol.” Even though the bad performances are obviously just a chance to promote one’s self on national TV, the ones who actually want to succeed realize how much they have to step up in order to make it. The quartet of Stern, Klum, Mel B, and Mandel seem to be simpatico with the pulse of the nation, despite their paychecks exceeding everyone who’s watching.
“AGT” is also the only place where novelty acts can finally get notice for being the art forms they really are.
Will ABC’s “Rising Star” Change the Future of Judging?
ABC is airing a new talent show called “Rising Star” this summer that will show voting results in real time. It’s basically a chance to show how artificial intelligence and technological interactivity could ultimately replace the celebrity judge in the future. Having TV talent shows reading select comments from the net would show that the public probably knows more about what makes great talent than any celebrity judge spending half of their day in a makeup chair.