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The judges have complete control over who goes from the nationwide auditions to Hollywood. In the past, they also had complete control over who from the Hollywood rounds go to the final 24.
Once the final 24 were chosen, the judges gave feedback after each performance, but that’s it.
Would it be better if American Idol was judged like Dancing With the Stars / Strictly Come Dancing? In other words, the viewers calls would count for only 50% of each contestants score, while the judges would also give a numeric score for each contestant.
The upside is that there is a better chance that people with more talent will win. Unfortunately, many people with little or no talent have advanced pretty far in this competition because they appealed to a particular group (i.e. Sanjaya and pre-teen and teenage girls) or that they had strong support in a particular region (i.e. Taylor Hicks in the South).