It’s almost laughable to call a show a ratings loser when it wins its timeslot. But analysts can’t help but notice the big drop in the ratings of the once unstoppable American Idol. Is the show simply running its course, is the genre too diluted, or could the emphasis on the judges be to blame?
Again, to be clear, it’s unfair to say the show is completely ‘tanking’ as one Boston columnist. It’s Wednesday night viewership, just over 14 million people, is mightily winning its timeslot. Modern Family was next at just shy of 11 million. And yet – folks behind the scenes are still devastated by the drop compared to years past. Winning the night is a victory, but it also happened to be the lowest Wednesday demo rating since 2002. And last week, Idol was actually beaten out by CBS Comedies.
It’s not a stretch to say that the pool of Talent shows are starting to blend together. Somewhere in Hollywood there is a set designer trying to make a judges table look uniquely different than the last one they designed. The Voice has those spinning chairs, nice touch. America’s Got Talent has the fancy X’s to milk for all they’re worth. X Factor, well, that might have had a cool pencil holder. I’m not sure.
Idol’s new judges, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban haven’t seemed to generate the excitement they had hoped for. Early in the series’ life, judge banter and bickering was seemingly innocent and cute. When Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul (whom Fox has reportedly considered trying to bring back next year for a big showstopping final season) seemed to genuinely like each other, their commentary on the singers was peppered with minor snipes, but it still kept the focus squarely on honoring the best performances. With Minaj and Carey, it seems the focus is suddenly one of petty disagreements for the sake of ego.
And yet, it may be unfair to blame the judges alone. The genre itself needs to be shaken up. Rip up the show rundown yuo’ve used for the past twelve years (yes, its been that long) and shake it up a little. Try something different. Change the structure. Lose the ridiculously bad ‘how did they get in here they’re so awful’ character auditions, and leave us wondering what unexpected twist could come this week.
Or, accept that until less attention is paid to circus act judging panels and phoning in the ‘same show different day’ structure, the numbers will continue to slide.