Here's what I think: American Idol What's Happening to You?

For the past nine seasons, American Idol has dominated the ratings and captured audiences around the world; but with the announcement of Simon Cowell's last season the show as a whole has taken a downward turn that looks to me like the end of the American Idol Era.

When Paula Abdul left the show after last season and it was announced that Ellen DeGeneres was going to be taking her place, I was excited! Ellen is a wonderful positive influence and a hilarious personality. True, she does not have music industry experience, but she has been up front with audiences from the start stating that she is judging based on what she would like to hear on the radio or what she would look for in an album as a consumer or fan.  She is judging on entertainment value. Her launch to the show in Hollywood week was promising, she seemed to really hold her own and Hollywood week appeared to result in amazing talent from the contestants!

As season nine progresses, the once promising cast of contenders has diminished, not living up to the expectations they set during Hollywood week. Going into the Top 12 we lost three of the contestants with the most potential (Lily Scott, Alex Lambert and Katelyn Epperly). The remaining hopefuls have lacked the kind of star quality that we come to expect from American Idol.

Now dwindling in ratings it's hard to see the show that has brought us such amazing talent as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, and David Cook, struggling to develop another "Idol". Despite the talent of the contestants, the judges' confusing, clashing "advice" appears to be draining competitors like Andrew Garcia who broke out with an inspiring version of "Straight Up" during Hollywood week and has been beaten down by judges over the past weeks with criticism of either doing too much with his arrangements or not enough.

With the future abandonment of Simon Cowell, it is my opinion that the other judges and in particular Ryan Seacrest have an attitude of "it's the end, so who cares." I love Ryan Seacrest, I think he is hardworking, precious and funny; but this season it seems like he's gone a little crazy. His contrived arrangements for announcing the bottom three are worse than ever and his constant down talking to judges comes off as arrogant.

While I think there is some good talent this season, particularly Lee Dewyze and Crystal Bowersox, the overall production of American Idol has taken a serious turn for the worse. I can't imagine the show lasting without Simon and I'm not sure they should even attempt it. No one cares about what Randy has to say (let's be honest, he doesn't say much), Ellen is funny but again lacks credibility as a music industry judge, and while Kara does have some good thoughts, comments and advice her likeability is lacking. Simon is the glue that holds the judges together and without him the pieces will fall apart.

As a parting note, I'd like to implore you to PLEASE PLEASE stop voting for Tim Urban. He is cute as a button and sweet as pie but others deserve to be there more than him. Don't let more talented contestants go just because you have a crush on Tim. Thank goodness the judges saved Big Mike last night, as much as he bothers me he deserves to be there a heck of a lot more than Tim. Because the judges used their save this week, two contestants will leave us next week - please let Tim be one of those two!

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