April 11 will forever be known as the day American Idol viewers, judges and contestants could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that our national nightmare was over: Lazaro Arbos, one of the least talented singers ever to grace the Idol stage, was eliminated. But it was the day before, on April 10, that he delivered what many have called the worst performance in the history of the show.

We’re only five weeks away from the finale. At this stage in the competition, we should be left with the most talented singers. The keyword is should. But as we know from the past 12 seasons, that doesn’t always happen. (Sanjaya Malakar, Tim Urban, I’m looking at you.) Is there anything producers can do to remedy this tragic situation when there’s a contestant who goes further than he or she should and ends up dragging everything down, and leaving viewers frustrated and willing to turn off the TV?

American Idol Results: Suffrage Begins (and Ends) with Lazaro >>>

Well, the first thing is to look at the judges. They’re the ones who advanced Lazaro to the live shows. They only did so on the basis on his story, that he stutters when he talks but not when he sings. And the producers were happy to let that happen because to them, showcasing these back-stories are what creates great TV moments. But at some point, it’s time to forget all that and focus only on the talent. Can they sing? But not only that, are they great singers? Could you picture yourself buying their records, going to their concerts, following their career long after Idol? If the answer is no, then why bother? Because I doubt the people who have been voting for Lazaro these past several weeks are going to be rushing out to buy his debut album, if he ever releases one.

So it really comes down to the judges and producers to find the right balance of showcasing their life and the struggles they’ve overcome, but knowing that talent still needs to come first, not the other way around. Maybe seeing the outrage that Lazaro’s sixth place finish has caused (when he probably shouldn’t have made it to the live shows in the first place) will be a wake-up call to American Idol to change its focus slightly for season 13. In case someone does slip through the cracks and we end up with another Sanjaya or Lazaro, should the judges have a little more power to make sure that talent comes first once the viewers are in charge of deciding the contestants’ fates?

Back in season 8, Idol introduced the Judges’ Save, in which the judges would have one opportunity per season to save an eliminated contestant. This way, if there’s a shocking exit, it can be quickly remedied. But they have only that one opportunity to get it right. We all knew the judges would not save Lazaro; that was a given. But there may be another way to fix the situation. It’s called the Judges’ Veto. It would replace the Save, and the rules are the same — they only get one shot in the entire season to use it. But instead of keeping around an eliminated contestant for at least one more week, the Veto would allow the judges to replace that booted singer with someone else who really should have been in his or her place to begin with.

Take any of the past few weeks as an example, whether it’s with Burnell Taylor, Devin Velez or any of the others. If the judges had used their Save on them, fine. But the problem hasn’t been fixed because the one who should go home — Lazaro — is still here. The Veto would take care of that. When Devin was in danger two weeks ago, that was the week that we witnessed that trainwreck of a group performance where Lazaro didn’t know what he was doing and forgot the lyrics. Of all the weeks, he should have been eliminated then. The judges could have talked among themselves, decided it’s time to end this disaster and, with the Veto, said, “We’re going to veto this decision and send Lazaro home instead.” It works just like the Save, only the power the judges have is slightly altered.

Now, there could be some backlash from the voters; they might think the judges are overstepping their bounds above and beyond just saving someone. As a result, viewers might not be as willing or eager to participate. (Not to mention the fact that the other singers already think they’re safe, but now have an added worry of possibly having that metaphorical rug pulled from underneath them.)

Once the live shows begin, the power shifts to us; it’s out of the judges’ control. But that changed slightly when Idol introduced the Save. So why not continue to improve upon that and make sure the experience of watching American Idol stays fun and exciting? After Lazaro’s Top 6 performances, the judges were fed up with him, with Nicki Minaj even going so far as to pass and not even comment. That’s not fun for the judges. And it’s uncomfortable for us the viewers.

Fortunately, Lazaro has been eliminated. Finally, right? But he stayed on way too long. With him gone, the real competition now begins, as all six girls can now have a deserved fight to the finish, as the way it should be.

What do you think? Should they replace the Judges’ Save with a Judges’ Veto? Should the judges be allowed to use both? Or should all power be stripped from the panel altogether during the live shows and we have to end up living with the consequences like in the early days of Idol?

American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm on FOX.

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(Image courtesy of FOX)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.