By David Hiltbrand The Philadelphia Inquirer
The story line for the new season of “American Idol” was established almost immediately last Wednesday. Nicki Minaj was the last of the judges to make an appearance, emerging from her limo in a stunning drum majorette hat.
Pecking order established. Ain’t no party until Ms. Nicki arrives.
She then set about dominating the program, mugging endlessly for the camera, spewing nonsense phrases, monopolizing the conversation, drifting into a bizarrely posh English accent, making up crazy nicknames for everyone on the set, and visually fondling every good-looking male contestant.
She unleashed the full Minajerie right up front, like some techno-color Mae West.
Mariah Carey put up some token resistance, as any self-respecting diva would. But by the time of the second episode Thursday, despite some scratching and clawing, Carey had all but submitted. It appeared as if she wasn’t even wearing makeup in Chicago.
The fact that “American Idol” in its 12th season has mutated into Nicki’s show is an interesting development. She’s the most candid judge since Simon the Impaler. After two years of constant coddling from Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, Minaj’s frank assessments are a godsend. She will unapologetically reject a singer just because she doesn’t like the way they look.
Yes, she’s a real wild card. Unlike anyone else who has ever held the seat, you can see she genuinely relishes the freaks. In fact, she actively eggs on the lunatic fringe, like the guy from Sinking Springs, Pa., with the red vinyl outfit that squeaked loudly every time he moved. Maybe she just dug his lustrous wig.
Will the addition of Minaj help “Idol” reverse its steep ratings decline? Not a chance. That cast has died.
The constant shuffling of celebrity judges on these talent competitions, particularly “Idol,” is like putting new upholstery covers on an old sofa. It’s still saggy in all the same places.
Minaj is amping up the energy level on “Idol,” but I worry that she’ll quickly grow bored with the gig — like before the Hollywood rounds are over.
But even if she stays engaged, all Fox has done is hire someone with bigger and more outrageous hats to captain its Titanic.
8 p.m. Wednesday on Fox: auditions in Charlotte, N.C.
8 p.m. Thursday: auditions in Baton Rouge, La.