American Idol

TV review by
Pam Gelman, Common Sense Media
American Idol TV Poster Image
Popular with kids
Long-running music competition is consistently entertaining.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 57 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 144 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The audition phase of the show can sometimes be highly critical (and in earlier seasons mean-spirited), but later episodes are enthusiastic and exciting.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some judges are very positive and encouraging, while others can be negative and belittling. In the contestant pool, some are clearly dedicated, hardworking performers who just want their chance to succeed -- while others just want their 15 minutes (or even seconds) of fame.

Violence
Sex

Sexy clothes (one woman memorably appeared in just a bikini), talk of appearing sexy, flirtations with judges. Lyrics can be suggestive in nature. 

Language

Audible swearing/negative language used by both judges and contestants includes words/phrases like "you are an ass," "that sucked," and "crap!"

Consumerism

Product placement and sponsorship is everywhere, and there are lots of branded tie-in products on the market, too.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Idol has spawned countless other similar series. The judges' rapport and comments are as big a part of the show as the singing. Their feedback, primarily Simon Cowell's (who left the show in 2010), can be severe and hurtful ("you remind me of a wasp," "that was terrible," "that was the worst one yet"), though the new judges take a gentler approach. People of all backgrounds and body types try out for the show, if only to get a few minutes to meet the judges and/or get their 10 seconds of fame. Contestants have been mocked for cross-dressing, lack of talent, strange attire, dressing/acting sexy, and general physical appearance. The camera lingers on contestants who respond to the judges with joy or bleeped obscenities, hand gestures, and tears. Parents should also know that the show is a walking advertisement, with commercial products embedded throughout.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4 and 9-year-old Written bySammytricky1245 August 18, 2019

It should be same age

I do believe that Lionel Richie is my mom's favorite singer but, My daugther loves it she can't wait for season 18!
Adult Written byL B April 2, 2018

Not a family show anymore

We loved this in 2016. ABC has turned it into a politically correct version I guess. I can't watch it with my children now because of age innapropriate wor... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byDogcat December 3, 2019

Love this show!!!!!

I love this show it is one of my favorite shows!!!! My mom and I both think Katy is halarious !!!!!
Teen, 16 years old Written bysamantha19 June 15, 2018

What's the story?

Every season, the AMERICAN IDOL judges -- including Simon Cowell (2002-2010), Paula Abdul (2002-2009), Randy Jackson, briefly Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, Luke Tyler -- and host Ryan Seacrest visit cities across the United States, judging thousands of hopeful singers. Performers at both ends of the spectrum are showcased, but only the top ones make it to the main competition in order to sing their way to Idol stardom. 

Is it any good?

The hugely popular series, which has been on the air for over 14 years on two different networks, has become a staple in reality competition entertainment. Some of judges' often over-the-top personalities have become infamous, as well as reality-show benchmarks. Meanwhile, the contestants' emotional, sometimes astounding performances grab those watching at home, who also feel involved in the process, since their votes determine the show's outcome.

Many contestants are clearly looking for their moment in the spotlight. But plenty of the Idol wannabes are in it because they're truly talented singers who are dreaming of a big break. Many winners and runners-up have also gone on to become true pop stars. Like it or not, American Idol's show formula -- as unforgiving as it can sometimes be-- really does work.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the audition process. Are the contestants who clearly have no singing ability auditioning for real or for fame? How can critiques be helpful to those who take the competition seriously? What's the difference between constructive and destructive criticism?

  • What is talent, and what talents do your kids feel they have? Does American Idol inspire them? If so, in what way?

  • How is the show making money by having consumer products obvious at every turn?

TV details

For kids who love music

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