Why a Judges Shakeup and a Little Makeup Could Save 'American Idol' Season 13

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In this Jan. 8, 2013 photo, from left, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj from "American Idol" attend the Fox Winter TCA Tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel, in Pasadena, Calif. "American Idol" returns Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, for season 12. All is not well in the once peaceful land of "American Idol," despite a shake-up at the beginning of this season that was supposed to rejuvenate the aging Fox talent competition. Instead, the behind-the-scenes-and-sometimes-in-front-of-the-scenes drama continues to cast a shadow over the series, right up to the Thursday, May 16, 2013, coronation of its 12th season champion. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision/AP, File)
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In this Jan. 8, 2013 photo, from left, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj from "American Idol" attend the Fox Winter TCA Tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel, in Pasadena, Calif. "American Idol" returns Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, for season 12. All is not well in the once peaceful land of "American Idol," despite a shake-up at the beginning of this season that was supposed to rejuvenate the aging Fox talent competition. Instead, the behind-the-scenes-and-sometimes-in-front-of-the-scenes drama continues to cast a shadow over the series, right up to the Thursday, May 16, 2013, coronation of its 12th season champion. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision/AP, File)

Fighting was up, ratings were down. And so it went for Season 12 of "American Idol," where the focus was more on the judges' tense relationships and less on the all-female finalists.

Yes, it was a boring season of "Idol," and after a while, fans even grew tired of the feud between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. (Although Nicki's Q-tip wielding quip that Mariah needed to clean her ears out was kind of funny.)

That said, the long-running TV talent competition is in need of a major overhaul, and we're not just talking about the judges' table. While that mess will likely take care of itself -- if not fired, the judges will surely all follow Randy Jackson's directive and fly the coop -- there's a few things the "Idol" powers-that-be need to do to save face and save Season 13.

Skip the gender stipulation

May the best man or woman make it to the Top 20! For next season, producers need to get rid of the gender stipulation and let the 20 best singers move on to the live shows, regardless of gender. Girls ruled with this season's clearly stacked deck, but there may have been room for even more; surely there were eliminated female contestants who had better singing voices than, say, Lazaro Arbos? Going forward, how about if each singer is judged individually and we bend the gender rules?

Ditch the dated themes

Nicki Minaj once called out Candice Glover as being at risk for being labeled "old fashioned," but it's no wonder. With themes like "Burt Bacharach and Hal David," do the contestants even have a chance? Of course, for these youngsters, almost any theme could be deemed old fashioned. Glover admitted she'd never heard the U2 song "One" -- not even Mary J. Blige's version. Still, if we can get through a season without a Rat Pack theme, it would be a beautiful thing indeed.

Encourage originals

The most highly touted performance this season? Angie Miller's original song "You Set Me Free." Unfortunately for the Top 3 finalist, she peaked with it early, and the judges kept clamoring for a repeat performance. Still, the best "Idol" alums write their own songs (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry), so why not showcase it -- and encourage it -- more? An entire theme week devoted to originals is in order, even if the judges have to help the contestants write! Heck, they could even bring back ousted former judge and prolific songwriter Kara DioGuardi for the gig. (OK, wishful thinking.)

Rotate guest judges

Speaking of judges, the four-panel mode is entirely too bloated. But if they insist on having four judges, why not change it up and bring in a different guest judge each week? "Idol" has done this in the past during the auditions, with pop stars like Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne swooping in to help out. A rotating, big-name guest would be a big draw, and it would bring a fresh perspective to the judges' table each and every week.

Make the judges' critiques count

And one more thing about the judges. On this show, their critiques are meant to help the contestants, but for the home viewer, it's time to take a bathroom break or get a snack. Seriously, if the judges must speak, why don't they put their money where their mouth is... or at least give some sort of score like they do on other TV competition shows.

The combo viewers' vote and judges' score would enable the judges to help push the most talented contestants forward, and it would virtually eliminate any more Sanjaya or Lazaro embarrassments. And it's a much better way to give the judges clout than the lame Judges' Save, which they didn't even use this year. At the very least, the judges should award each "round" to the most worthy contestant like they do during the finale. Otherwise, their critiques are just lip service.

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