Daniel KlineThough I know precious little about "American Idol," I have always been of the idea that judges in a singing competition should, in fact, pass judgment on those singing.

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Daniel B. Kline: Even on TV, judging should involve passing judgment

Published 9:46am Thursday, September 24, 2009

This makes the choice of Ellen DeGeneres as the show’s unnecessary fourth judge somewhat perplexing.

Once funny, DeGeneres has sold her soul to whatever demon made Jay Leno successful.
Instead of comedy, her talk show consists of familiar bits her audience has been conditioned to find amusing.

I challenge anyone to actually be entertained by her recurring dancing or actually be compelled by her puffball interviews.

That is not so say DeGeneres does not have the capacity for comedy.

She was once a funny, albeit very mild, standup, and she remains witty, but instead of humor she now relies on her trademark mannerisms and verbal ticks.

It’s a living and it brought her career success, but comedy by focus group and upper management notes does not give anyone hope that DeGeneres will offer anything useful as a judge.

The comedian has often said in interviews since gaining the chair once held by Paula Abdul that she will represent the fans watching the show.

She told USA Today that “hopefully, I’m the people’s point of view because I’m just like you. I sit at home and I watch it and I don’t have that technical … I’m not looking at it in a critical way from the producer’s mind. I’m looking at it as a person who is going to buy the music and is going to relate to that person. So I’m hopefully going to be that voice of what we’re all doing at home.”

In saying that, DeGeneres misses the entire point of being a judge.

First of all, aside from iTunes downloads, you are not going to buy the music from the show.

That music is karaoke of other people’s hits from which the judges must distill whether the performer has the ability to someday create (albeit with a team of producers) songs that might resonate with the public.

Nobody needs a judge to tell them whether they enjoyed Carrie Underwood or Adam Lambert’s interpretation of some should-have-been forgotten Neil Diamond song, they need the judges to tell them whether the person actually has talent.

At least three people I went to high school with sang excellent covers at various talent shows and I know I enjoyed their work.

I’m unsure, however, if they had any real talent and that’s when an actual judge like Simon Cowell steps in.

DeGeneres adds nothing to the judging process, as she clearly intends to not pass any judgment or risk offending any of the contestants.

She might get in a few good quips or even some genuinely funny remarks, but they will be as out of place as Dennis Miller on “Monday Night Football.”

“Idol” should have either not replaced Abdul, since four judges is overkill, or should have filled her chair with another washed-up performer.

The “Straight Up” singer actually was an over-produced semi-talent who survived based on teams of producers and outside songwriters.

Since that’s the destiny for most “Idol” winners, she at least had something to offer.

Ellen, however, brings little to the table beyond her inherent likability, which makes little sense for a show that is supposed to be about finding talent.

Daniel B. Kline’s work appears in over 100 papers weekly.
When he is not writing, Kline serves as general manager of Time Machine Hobby New England’s largest hobby and toy store, www.timemachinehobby.com.
He can be reached at dan@notastep.com or you can see his archive at DBKline.com or befriend him at facebook.com/dankline.

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