American Idol has set a standard for musical competition shows, and we expected the same of the judges on The Next Great American Band. To a certain extent, the American judges exceed the standard. I used to dread Sheila E. so much I was in a state of consternation when I found out she was coming to San Jose to play in her father’s new nightclub a few years ago. The nightclub and Sheila E. went away, but now she’s a judge on this show, and it turns out she’s a legitimate musician and an astute critic. I’d completely forgotten about the Goo Goo Dolls, but John Rzeznik’s a judge now, and he has good comments, too, even though the audience seems to feel a need to boo the good advice he’s giving the bands.
My problem is with the token foreign judge. In this case, it’s Dick O, supposedly the “mean” judge from Australia’s version of Pop Idol. Sure, he’s witty: his quip describing the lead of Dot Dot Dot as “a hyperactive emo leprechaun” was brilliant. But he also confirms our impression that Australians are crazy. For instance, he seems to like Rocket, and he thought Dot Dot Dot should have been voted off. That’s ok: I couldn’t really expect otherwise from the kind of country that gave us Kylie Minogue and The Crocodile Hunter. But what’s he doing wasting our time as a judge, when there are unemployed British people willing to share their unqualified opinions with the world?
It should be obvious that every American talent show needs a self-absorbed Brit. Just by national character, he (or she) is guaranteed to be mean and bitchy, as well as gifted in florid insults that wither their target and amuse bystanders. And a healthy dose of narcissism makes such a judge capable of addressing Light of Doom with a snarky comment like “Hm, lyrics by Bernie Poppin, as performed by Light of Dumb,” and when the 12-year-old starts shaking, snarl “I’m just being honest.”
A real villain (not a well-meaning musical colleague like Rzeznik) would make the show more exciting. And when such a judge gives praise, it’s all the more golden and precious for whence it came.