Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Open Letter to Ellen Degeneres

Dear Ellen,

First of all, I want to say that I just adore you! I think you are maybe one of the top five funniest people on this planet. Whenever I catch your talk show, I grin through the entire program. You have such a quirky sense of humor but you never make fun of people - you are always laughing right along with them as well as at yourself. Plus, you have quite possibly the prettiest blue eyes I have ever seen, and I love your haircut. I wouldn't call my feelings for you a girl-crush, but you are tops in my book.

To that end, I was so glad when you replaced Paula Abdul as a judge on American Idol. Sure, there is the fact that you don't have a music background. Know what? Neither do I. But that doesn't preclude me from knowing what I think sounds good and what sounds bad, and who comes across as likable versus a complete ego maniacal diva. Besides, Paula never offered any feedback that lead me to believe that her musical background gave her an edge up in any way. Heck, she was having a good day if she could keep all of the contestants straight and know who had sung how many songs already. I had no fears that you would make a great judge.

During Hollywood week, it was clear that you were taking this gig very seriously. You paid attention, you took notes, you offered honest opinions even if they were negative. And you kept the funny to a minimum. Granted, I'm sure the editing staff had something to do with your original impression on Idol, but they could only show us footage of the reality, so I'm sure you were portrayed accurately.

Now that we've moved into the live portion of the American Idol Season 9 journey, I'm becoming a bit worried about you. Because I can tell that you are nervous. I can tell that you are worried about not being taken seriously as a judge. I can tell that you do harbor some (possibly deeply buried) insecurities about not having a musical background and thus not being qualified for this job.

So I'd like to offer you the following friendly advice. As you and the other judges always tell the contestants, BE YOURSELF!!

Don't try to be somebody you aren't. Relax. You deserve to be in that seat just as much as any other celebrity worth spending upwards of 5 hours a week with via TV. Heck, if there's any truth to the Howard Stern/Perez Hilton rumors, you are actually overqualified if that's the type of person they are seriously considering to fill Simon's vacant seat next season.

You bring something really special and unique to the table, but in the course of trying to prove your worthiness and that you take this whole endeavor as Very Serious Business Indeed, you've lost the very essence of Ellen-ness that I love so much. I'm sad because I was really looking forward to it as part of the circus that is American Idol. That show sure as heck could use a little bit of lightening up.

I know you have it in you. On last night's episode (Top 24 Crapfest Part II: The Guys), I saw a tiny spark of the real Ellen shine through. When you went into your banana analogy while critiquing the performance of Alex Lambert (basically, he's a green banana who'll be really yummy after he's had some time to ripen, but he's just not ready to eat quite yet), the relaxed, goofy Ellen that I love came bursting through. For the first time, you seemed genuinely relaxed and confident in what you were saying. And I want to reassure you that it wasn't too funny - you didn't come off as if you were trying to steal the spotlight or make it all about you at the expense of a good critique. It was relevant to the situation, it wasn't mean, and it was comedic without being over the top. Perfect!

That's the stuff I've been waiting for!!

My second piece of advice is to maybe not worry so much about not hurting the contestants' feelings. I do appreciate your determination to be honest without being cruel, a lá Simon Cowell. It's downright Christian of you to offer at least one positive aspect of each performance to soften the reality of real suckage. Nobody deserves to be humiliated publicly, no matter that they actually signed up for this shit and shouldn't be surprised by it nor that they'd better learn to have a thick skin if they want a career in the entertainment industry.

However, I don't think you have to lie and say that you're "a fan" to every single person whose performance was sub-par. This isn't the Miss/Mr. America Pageant - we aren't judging personality. For the sake of expediency, we'll assume that everyone chosen to go on the show has a wonderful personality, is likable and sweet, and that he or she is kind to dogs, rescues kittens from trees and helps little old ladies cross the street. Good for them. When they come on the show, none of that matters because either they sound good or they don't. And to be honest, if they act like a douche on the show, your saying that you're a fan doesn't do much to change our opinions of the guy/girl. We either liked their performance or not, we either like them as a possible celebrity or not. What we want to hear from you was if you liked their performance or not, and why or why not. We'll just assume that you still like them as a person. Of course you do.

I do think there are ways to be honest about an epic fail without being mean. Something along the lines of "I didn't like that very much. I thought the song wasn't the right choice for you because your falsetto isn't strong enough for all of those falsetto parts/It sounded to me as if you went out of tune because I stopped recognizing the melody/You need to work on your stage presence because you seem uncomfortable on stage...I hope you do better next week." etc. If you are just honest without being snarky (again, see: Cowell, Simon), you will show the contestants plenty of respect while maintaining your credibility. There's nice and then there's patronizing.

Besides, Paula took the role of "the nice one" and look where that got her? Her opinions were never respected, and to be honest, they sounded insincere. I don't want you to start sounding insincere, and I'm afraid you're headed down that road.

I'm chalking up these little road bumps to nerves and the need for time to find your groove. I have no doubt that by the time we finish up these semi-final rounds and dive into the Top 12, you'll be relaxed and comfortable, funny when appropriate, respectful without pandering, a real asset to the judging panel.

Meanwhile, I'm still tuning in. To be honest, with the poor level of talent we've seen so far, I'm starting to think maybe five minutes of pre-show standup from you might be needed to keep me watching!

A Big Fan

1 comment:

Saadi said...

I agree...Ellen appeared abit shaky!! Bt knowing her...she'll grab it by reign really soon!!

N yea...the talent this year is not as good as the talent we hd last year!