When Ellen DeGeneres was announced last fall as the new permanent judge on American Idol, replacing spacey, perpetually upbeat Paula Abdul, the cry went out that Ellen (a) wasn’t a singing expert and (b) would be an even softer touch than Paula. That has turned out not to be true.
Last week when Ellen had to make cuts during “Hollywood Week,” she showed she could be harsh, but that could have been because she really needed to parse the finalists by 70 percent. Surely once the live performances began, with the judges not making any decisions but only offering opinions, she would be perky.
Not so much. Over two days this week — first 12 women, then 12 men — Ellen seemed to agree most often with Simon. She wasn’t afraid to express her disappointment with a performance and point out pitch problems or colorless stage presence.
She had good reason. Most of the performances this week were listless, deer-in-the-headlights failures that tried too hard to mimic current pop artists. (Randy continued to prove himself useless with advice that criticized both too MANY chances or NOT ENOUGH. He and Kara also seemed preoccupied with their ability to sell a singer’s style more than their substance.)
But ultimately, the week proved that Ellen has her own style and has added a dimension to this nine-year-old series.