Is ‘American Idol’s “Live Voting” Method Fair?
Since its move to ABC last year, American Idol has started doing several things a little differently than when it was a FOX series. And one of the most notable – and controversial – changes has been the “live vote” which entails having the audience vote and resulting elimination(s) all in the same episode.
When this concept was introduced last year, it also came along with another change that was pretty special as far as American television goes: the episodes on weeks this method was in use were broadcast on the east and west coasts simultaneously, allowing fans from all over the country to watch and have their say before voting closed and the results were announced during the same telecast.
This season it’s a different story. For the past two week’s they’ve held a live vote during the show to determine the eliminations, but the show has only been aired live in the Eastern and Central time zones. The voting website is accessible all over the country, but fans in the Mountain and Pacific time zones haven’t been able to actually see the performances before the results have already been determined. So only about half the country gets to determine who stays and goes.
But even when the whole nation was able to have their say in things, there was still the issue of lack of time to make an educated decision. For these episodes featuring both performances and results, voting opens at the start of the show and closes very shortly after the final contestant has performed. This means viewers who prefer to see every performance before making their decision on who to support for have a very brief window of time to get their votes in.
Last season’s Ada Vox – who competed and was eliminated while this voting method was in use – makes and excellent point here. The lack of voting time encourages fans to vote for their sentimental favorites they’ve grown attached to over the course of the season, and how a contestant does the night of becomes less of a factor in whether they stay or go. (To be clear, this happens on every fan-voted reality show, but it becomes even more prominent when a system like this is in place.)
But if ABC is only allowing American Idol one episode a week during the live rounds, is there any way around this? There actually is! On other talent shows with only one episode a week such as So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars, results carry over to the next episode. That means if voting opens after episode 1 finishes and closes the next morning, the results are revealed the following week at the end of episode 2. Nothing that happens in episode 2 can change the results (though in the case of Idol the episode 2 performances could be weighted in the judges’ decision to use their save or not) and the results of episode 2 are announced at the end of episode 3. Assuming there is a results show for the finale, the final two weeks’s worth of votes are combined to determine the winner.
This method isn’t perfect – it’s definitely tough to explain on-air and has been known to confuse viewers – but it allows people from all over the country to have their say, and for voters to have the opportunity to make more informed decisions should they so choose.
How do you think American Idol should handle once-per-week live shows? Let us know in the comments below!