Despite Nicki Minaj vs. Mariah, American Idol has barely changed: stunning

American Idol 12‘s debut last night proved one thing: it will remain fundamentally the same show regardless of its judges or producers, whether there are changes to the structure or not.

Even a somewhat judge-centered episode focusing on Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey and their something-out-of-nothing spats, the show was like always: generally pointless bickering, Randy Jackson inexplicably saying “welcome to Hollywood” to contestants who were permitted to move on to the Hollywood round, et cetera. Oh, and some singing.

About the only significant change seemed to be when an auditioner with an inspiring story–he lost his leg to cancer–and could sing well enough received four no votes.

That does fulfill Nicki Minaj’s promise not to advance people because of their backgrounds alone, but what of the promise that she would help reinvigorate the Fox series?

It’s actually remarkable how little has changed through the succession of judges. Sure, Steven Tyler and J Lo may have been less dynamic a panel than Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, but tonally, the show has never shifted.

That said, the show’s mean streak has ebbed and flowed throughout the years, but last night was somewhat more cruel than last year’s auditions, complete with giving a lot of time and attention to two Asian men who couldn’t sing, because that’s still so funny and not at all racist. (Sigh.)

American Idol 12‘s debut lost about 20 percent of its viewers 18 to 49 compared to last year, but that was less of a slide from the year before, and it still dominated the night with ratings most shows would love. In other words, it’s still working, even if that just means going through the same tired motions.

Surprisingly, man not eaten alive on Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive

Discovery Channel’s happy family holiday special Eaten Alive aired Sunday, rewarding viewers for their two full hours of viewing by ensuring that they spent quality time in the company of others instead of wasting that time doing something else that might not have been as satisfying, such as buying things that have labels which accurately reflect their contents.


Winter 2015 reality TV debut schedule

winter 2015 reality TV schedule

Mark your calendars with all these upcoming reality TV show debuts, including Celebrity Apprentice, The Bachelor, and another season of MasterChef Junior, all of which kick off in early January.

There are also 20+ shows debuting in December--including the one-off return of The Sing Off. No winter break for reality TV.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.