Wow, "American Idol" producers nearly blew it this week.
After much speculation that the sagging show could never continue without Simon Cowell, "Idol" hit TV paydirt this year with brave new judge Steven Tyler, aka The Only Real Reason To Watch The Show Anymore. But only five episodes in to what could well be "Idol's" big comeback season, it seemed Fox was already kowtowing to parental watchdogs and handwringing ad execs, trying to muzzle its star mouthpiece.
Readers, if you haven't been watching "Idol" Season X, here's the background: During the first four compulsively watchable "Idol" episodes, loose-lipped loose cannon Steven has sworn like a scurvy-crazed sailor, flirted with female contestants one-fourth his age, sang over almost every auditioner, and barked out bizarre one-liners about spanking babies and performing unspeakable acts with ducks. This, of course, has made for some very awesome TV, even if some oversensitive viewers don't seem to get the (dirty) joke.
So anyhoo, on Wednesday morning Ryan Seacrest announced on his radio show that Fox would be issuing a "formal apology" for S.Ty's controversial antics. And sure enough, an ominous black card appeared onscreen at the start of that night's Austin auditions show, killjoyously reading: "'American Idol' would like to apologize for last week's outrageous behavior by Steven Tyler."
Um...apologize for what? For being frickin' hilarious? For actually making "Idol" fun again? For bringing a much-needed rock 'n' roll edge to this squeaky-clean pop program? Or for upstaging diva judge J.Lo (who, according to rumors, is none too thrilled that she's been taking a [curvaceous] backseat to Steven's shenanigans)? Oh, puh-leeze. Only if being awesome is a crime is Tyler guilty as charged.
Luckily, it was all a BIG JOKE. Not as funny as one of Tyler's jokes, but still. Really now, "Idol" would've never actually staged a move as lame and cowardly as this. Sure, in the short run it may have placated a few conservative gray-haired viewers in the flyover states, or the same advertisers who've shied away from booking airtime during MTV's "Skins." But in the long run it would've only a) alienated new viewers drawn to the show because of Steven; b) annihilated whatever cool credibility "Idol" is starting to gain this year; and c) worst of all, possibly silenced Steven before the live episodes (and REAL fun) even starts in March.
And option C would've been the worst consequence of all. C'mon, no one wants to see S.Ty put on his bifocals and obediently read PG, PC lines off a teleprompter. Fox might as well bring the harmless Ellen DeGeneres back, if that's what they're really looking for.
So go on with your bad self, Steven Tyler. Feel free to utter as many four-letter words and weird water-foul metaphors, and make as many goo-goo eyes at Miss Teen USA contestants, as your little tattooed heart desires. After all, that's what the five-second delay is for.