American Idol’ Announcement Marks End of “Mean British Judge”?

After today’s announcement that Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and “Last Man Standing” Randy Jackson would be the judges for American Idol Season 10, The Hartford Courant‘s Roger Catlin noted that the show will be one of the few reality panel series without a “mean British judge.” Dancing with the Stars has Len Goodman, Masterchef has Gordon Ramsay, America’s Got Talent has Piers Morgan, and So You Think You Can Dance has Nigel Lythgoe. (Although, this past season, Lythgoe seemed like a regular Pollyanna next to the increasingly tart-tongued Mia Michaels.) Even Top Chef brings on folks like Toby Young and Nigella Lawson from time to time for an extra bit of savagery at judges’ table. Truly, the “mean British judge” has become TV’s version of “The Accent of Evil.” Instead of Alan Rickman, we’ve had Simon Cowell at whom to hiss and boo.

But are we finally seeing this telly archetype meet its maker? Of course, Cowell’s absence from American TV will be short-lived: he’ll be back on Fox with his U.S. X Factor next fall. And before J. Lo and Tyler were brought on, Idol producers allegedly went after Englishman Sir Elton John for the designated hater role. So there’s clearly still life in the old villain – but maybe, just maybe, Idol‘s all-American panel means the end is near for a long-running TV cliché.

What do you think – is the “mean British reality TV judge” over?

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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