So Jennifer Lopez has been whining in the press about how it may be time to leave American Idol; it’s sooo much work, it’s preventing her from taking on other projects, it’s such a huge time commitment, blah, blah, blahbedly blah.
Don’t believe it for a second.
This is standard television operating procedure whenever contract-negotiation time comes around: act like you’re ready to move on when what you really want is to stay right where you are but for way more money.
This can work wonderfully — just ask all six Friends — but can also backfire, like the time CSI’s George Eads played sick while demanding a raise and wound up crawling back with his tail between their legs.
J-Lo, however, is in a somewhat unique position. On one hand, she was recently named “the world’s most beautiful woman” by People magazine and the “world’s most powerful celebrity” by Forbes, while her last album was a blockbuster and she reportedly earned more than US$50 million last year. On the other hand, would any of that have happened without American Idol?
Sure, Lopez reportedly got a salary bump from $12 mil in her first season to $20 mil this season, but it seems unlikely she’ll see that kind of raise again. If she stands her ground and holds out for big bucks that Idol doesn’t want to pay, she’ll be forced to either suck it up and take what’s offered or save face by walking away — ask Paula Abdul how well that worked out for her.
Here are five reasons why J-Lo leaving Idol would be the dumbest career move since Shelley Long left Cheers to make it big in the movies.
1. The show is bigger than she is
Idol has been TV’s No. 1 show for a decade; it was big before J-Lo, and it will stay big after she’s gone.
2. Ratings are slipping
A number of factors — competition from The Voice, viewer fatigue with singing shows, The X Factor stealing Idol’s thunder — have combined to make this the lowest-rated season of AI to date. The odds of a ratings resurgence are slim to none. Some fresh blood at the judging table, however, might be the one thing that could provide a ratings boost — just like it did when Steven Tyler and J-Lo joined up.
3. They’ve played musical judges before, and survived
J-Lo’s posturing is reminiscent of Paula Abdul’s failed Idol contract negotiation when she held out for a raise, Fox balked, she walked and Ellen DeGeneres strolled in. True, Ellen was a disaster as a judge, but the show kept right on chugging. Losing Simon Cowell was an even bigger litmus test, and the fact that the show remained strong after losing the single person most responsible for its success should tell you something. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Idol showrunner Nigel Lythgoe noted that “I went through all this with Simon [Cowell] leaving, where people said it would be the end of the show. It’s not at the end of the show because it’s not about the judges, it’s all about young talent.”
4. J-Lo needs Idol more than Idol needs J-Lo
Let’s not forget that before Lopez hopped aboard the Idol gravy train, her movie career was in the toilet, her record label had dumped her and she was well on her way to has-been-ville. American Idol revitalized her career; do I really need to mention Paula Abdul again?
5. ¡Q’Viva!: The Chosen
This Latin-themed reality contest, featuring J-Lo and ex-husband Marc Anthony, sought out talented singers, dancers and acrobats throughout South America. Although the show had a worldwide audience of 30 million (primarily in Latin America), U.S. ratings were dismal, and the show finished the season at 151st place out of 156 shows. This should give “the world’s most powerful celebrity” a preview of what a non-Idol future could look like if she walks away from the best thing to happen to her since becoming a Fly Girl on In Living Color.