LOS ANGELES – Last week, a giddy Jennifer Lopez caused a stir after she declared that Joshua Ledet, the 20-year old soul singer from Westlake, Louisiana, was "one of the best singers (she’s) seen in 50 years."
While Ledet has unquestionable talent, many fans thought Lopez’s hyperbole epitomized the problems with the kinder, gentler version of “American Idol” since cranky British judge Simon Cowell left the series two years ago (not even addressing the fact JLo is only 43!).
“This season, I only made it through the top 12 before I stopped watching–I just got tired of it,” longtime “American Idol” fan Anne Colacarro of East Hampton, Massachusetts, told Fox411.com. “The judges aren’t giving a whole lot of constructive criticism, they’re just saying ‘everybody’s great,’ and that got boring. The most interesting thing about the show is to see what JLo is wearing. Phooey! I have better things to do with three hours every week.”
Fellow “Idol” fan Susan Sandberg agrees.
“I'm tired of them all saying that Joshua and Jessica (Sanchez) are the best singers they'd ever had in 11 years of ‘American Idol,’” declared the Medford, Massachusetts resident. “They are talented, but they seriously bore me.”
But recently revived “Idol” fan Kim Steward says she only started watching again after the departure of resident meanie Cowell.
“Before this year, I skipped all the previous seasons, except for the first one,” explained the Jackson, New Hampshire resident. “I like that the judges have been a lot nicer. I think they’ve been very positive. They’ll critique people if necessary, but they’re more about building up people’s self-esteem.”
The Parents Television Council, which keeps a watchful eye on prime time television for potentially offensive content, thinks “American Idol” is moving in the right direction.
“I think the (nicer tone) is an improvement, and I think generally people are pleased with those changes,” rep Melissa Henson of told Fox411.com. “Many families watch ‘American Idol’ because it tends to be one of the more family-friendly viewing options on TV right now. But we had often heard complaints over the years about the harsh tone, primarily coming from Simon Cowell. His comments were not always constructive and sometimes downright mean. There was a really nasty edge to ‘American Idol’ for a lot of years, despite the fact that it became a huge success with family audiences.”
But one pop culture expert thinks “American Idol” has lost its spark since Cowell left.
“Simon was very unpredictable as a judge. You never knew if he was going to tear someone down, or give them huge praise. There actually was a good amount of suspense in that,” Ben Mandelker, editor of BSideBlog.com told FoxNews.com. “Now that Simon’s left, there’s no suspense. It’s just a variation on the same three comments from each of the judges. There’s nothing to look forward to. There’s no intrigue. It made me appreciate how much I used to look forward to what Simon had to say.”
Last year, the effusive praise from “American Idol” judges Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson inspired Mandelker to write a post on his blog that went viral: “10 Things the American Idol Judges Might As Well Be Judging Instead.”
“I think it resonated with people,” explained Mandelker. “As a viewer at home, it’s really frustrating to see a performance that’s not great and then hear a judge lavish them with praise.”
While many Internet pundits decry the loss of Simon’s sharp critiques on “Idol,” it hasn’t demonstrated a significant decrease in ratings. While ratings for “Idol” are down from previous years, it still dominates the competition.
According to Nielsen ratings, recent episodes of “Idol” have averaged about 17 million viewers, while NBC’s reality competition show, “The Voice,” has fewer than 11 million. At its peak, 38 million viewers tuned in to watch the second season’s finale of “American Idol.”
“Last season, after Simon Cowell departed, there was the expectation that the ratings would collapse,” explained Richard Rushfield, author of “American Idol: The Untold Story.” “But after they went to this new model, the ratings actually went up. So, they probably felt – with some justification – that they had discovered a winning formula. In retrospect, one wonders if that was more about the curiosity factor of the new judges instead of anything that they were particularly doing. When you had Simon there, his combativeness kept the show interesting even with the performances were not terribly interesting. Once you’ve gotten over JLo looking beautiful and Steven Tyler acting like a wacky old man, there’s not a lot that they’re really giving you.”
Fox declined to comment, but clearly some fans are happy with the show’s changes.
“I just never cared for Simon,” said Steward. “He was too rough on people.”