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American Idol Needs a ‘Chinese Mother’

I've watched every episode of American Idolfrom day 1.

That makes me an expert.

I tuned in last night with trepidation, as Season 10 will lack the most consistently watchable element of the hit reality contest: Simon Cowell. Would the program be worth my time?

Only if it gets mean.

Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez of American Idol
Getty Images
Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez of American Idol

First, Fox and the producers have created a sharp new open for the program which includes past Idol contestants who did not win but who've still been successful, like Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry. Jennifer Hudson did not make the cut, even though her singing helped her win an Oscar. UPDATE: Wait, I think Jennifer Hudson IS in the open, but if you blink you'll miss her.

The best new hope for the show is judge Steven Tyler—both fun to look at and fun to listen to. A friend described him as Johnny Depp doing Keith Richards as Jack Sparrow but really as Steven Tyler. He is the only reason I will watch again.

Jennifer Lopezis Paula Abdul without the issues. The issues are why we loved Paula. Her nonsensical musings, the dolphin-fin clap, her weird sexual tension with Simon, all inspired weekly debates at our house over whether she'd had too much Botox or too much of something else. Lopez is, so far, beautiful but boring.

Randy is Randy. Ryan is Ryan. The contestants who've overcome great obstacles still pull at the heartstrings (note to would-be contestants—you'd better have a death-defying back story if you want to make it to Hollywood).

Still, after watching the first hour Wednesday night, I switched over to "Modern Family" on ABC. I was getting bored. "Modern Family" is not boring, a fact that may help ABC on nights when Idol runs two hours. However, I did go back and watch the rest of Idol on DVR.

I suddenly realized what the show needs.

Someone mean. Really mean.

Half the contestants who got through last night would never have gotten through in previous seasons. Fifty-one people given golden tickets in just the first city? Really? Judges, you've gotta get tough. Americans now expect it. Sure, we usually like our toughness handed down with a British accent (though Ricky Gervaisis learning there may be limits), but we are ready for someone, anyone, to "keep it real".

I nominate Amy Chua, author of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". It's not just for the good of the program. It's for the good of the country. This is much bigger than American Idol. This is about America. If we are ever going to stare down the Chinese, we need a Chinese mother. What better platform than America's top-rated show?

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