Well, her love may not cost a thing, but apparently [lastfm]Jennifer Lopez[/lastfm]‘s judging skills cost $12 million. That’s what reliable sources are reporting, saying that while J.Lo didn’t get all her rumored diva demands met by Fox and Fremantle, the newly confirmed ”American Idol” judge’s paycheck will keep her in Louboutins for some time.
Until recently, [lastfm]J.Lo[/lastfm] and her on/off manager Benny Medina had been reportedly negotiating a “vanity deal” that would involve the sometimes-actress developing motion pictures and TV pilots for Fox, on top of a requested $15 million “Idol” salary. Apparently that didn’t work out, but Jenny and Benny eventually agreed to a slightly lower, but not too shabby, 12 mil (sans film or television commitments) for her to start judging “Idol” in Season 10.
So this begs the question: Is Jennifer Lopez worth $12 million? I say heck to the NO. I personally loathe the idea of J.Lo judging “Idol”–for several reasons.
First of all, when “American Idol” launched back in 2002, the idea was to have a well-rounded judging panel consisting of one performer (Paula Abdul) and two seasoned music biz executives (Randy Jackson and, of course, the impeccable Simon Cowell). It was a magic TV formula that worked winningly for eight straight seasons, even when a third exec, Kara DioGuardi, controversially came into the mix and gained few fans thanks to her condescending ‘tude. (Incidentally, I didn’t mind Kara; at least she knew what she was talking about most of the time.) But now, with J.Lo sitting on the panel alongside another performer, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler–and only one industry insider and original judge, Randy, who is often useless on the show, remaining–this crucial balance will be thrown off.
Come on, J.Lo and S.Ty may have many combined years of stage experience, but do either of them have the well-trained ear or eye to recognize a future superstar? I realize that at this point “Idol” producers are much more concerned with boosting ratings with famous judges than with hiring a lesser-known executive type like Ron Fair or Steve Lilywhite to actually find the next Clarkson or Underwood…but still. At the end of the day I still want to believe in this show’s rags-to-riches dream, so I want “Idol” to ultimately be about the talent onstage, not the talent behind the judging panel.
Second, let’s just say singing is not J.Lo’s strong suit. OK, to be blunt, her tissue-paper-thin voice could make Paula Abdul sound like Maria Callas. Yes, of course, Paula was no multi-octave vocal wonder herself, so it could have been easy to make the same argument that she too had no business doling out singing advice. But Paula was intrinsically likable, so she got away with it, coasting on her cuteness and kookiness. It was pretty hard to hate on Paula. Jennifer, on the other hand, just seems like a one-note ice queen.
But that brings me to my biggest reservation here: I’m just not so sure that J.Lo will be unlikable enough. See, with the absence of Simon, “Idol” really needs a new villain, someone unafraid to crush the hopes of thousands of wannabe Idols dreaming of ditching their day jobs. If the rumors of J.Lo’s demanding diva ‘tude are true, then she obviously has it in her to be the perfect “Idol” villainess and do even Simon himself proud. But as returning “Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe has pointed out in various interviews, the problem with celebrity judges is they want to be LIKED. They crave the adoration of the crowd. They don’t want to get booed by angry audience members for being brutally honest. (This was the problem Ellen DeGeneres had when she was on the show last season; she was reluctant to really “go there.”) Additionally, the public is, unfortunately, usually pretty unaccepting of powerful witchy women on TV (unless the woman is a fictional soap opera character, that is). Case in point: Everyone adored big meanie Simon, who only became more popular the nastier he got, but every time Kara let it rip, she became “American Idol’s Most Hated.”
I do believe if J.Lo was marketed as the ultimate mean judge, the kind of maneater who gobbles the likes of Simon Cowell for breakfast, it would make for some truly must-see TV. But I know Jennifer has a sizable ego, so I have my doubts that she’ll be willing to be the butt of a joke (pun intended) or become Enemy Number One by being truly vicious on “Idol.” (I don’t recall her being very hard on Sanjaya et al when she was a guest mentor in Season 6, for instance.) And if J.Lo holds back, while Steven babbles nonsensically and Randy just says “dawg” and “pitchy” in an endless chattering loop, then this show going to get boring, fast.
However, now that for better or worse the ink has dried on J.Lo’s overpriced contract, I just hope she’ll fully bare her French-manicured claws when “Idol” Season 10 premieres in January 2011. I’d like to see her earn that cool $12 million.