For those of you who don’t watch and know about American Idol (there are still a couple of you) here’s the perfunctory description of American Idol from Wikipedia: American Idol is a reality television competition to find new solo singing talent. Part of the Idol franchise, it was created by Simon Fuller as a spin-off from the British show Pop Idol, of which two series were broadcast between 2001 and 2003. Debuting on June 11, 2002, as American Idol: The Search for a Superstar on the Fox network, the show has since become one of the most popular in the history of American television.
What we are wondering in today's MayoSeitz Media Monitor is whether Idol has lost its mojo, and is it running on fumes? Idol fans all know Lee beat Crystal in season 9 finale last week. The finale was watched by 24.2 Million viewers, down 16% in viewers from last year, and the lowest finale since year one which was broadcast during the summer. In fact finale viewers are down about 1/3 since the finale peaked in 2006 with around 36 Million viewers. Still big numbers, but a bad trend.
To give Idol its credit, it took a well-worn historical TV format—talent competition (see Ted Mack & the Original Amateur Hour, Star Search etc.) and burst on the scene in 2002 with a brilliantly orchestrated contemporary package. It also took a page out of the NCAA basketball tournament and understood the process is as important as the outcome. It created some stars in its judges and host—Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, a revived “where has she been” Paula (Straight Up) Abdul, and Ryan Seacrest. The show’s winners have sometimes been brilliant, some who are having great careers, Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson are two major successes, while the careers of other winners, such as Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard, have sputtered to date. Time will tell whether Lee and Crystal will be in the former or latter category (though cynics say they are not likely mega-stars)
Clearly Idol will be back in 2011 with new contestants as well as Simon’s replacement. Simon's departure will be a loss since his famous caustic remarks have always been an important part of the glue. From our perspective, Idol still has some ratings steam but will never recapture its earlier glory. It still delivers big audiences for now, albeit lesser ones than previously. So perhaps the answer is that while their mojo has not been fully lost, it surely is waning. We suspect after another year or two it’ll be lost forever. All shows come to an end (even Law & Order recently met its “untimely death” at age 20). Idol won’t last that long. It’s on the back nine already and we can see the clubhouse down the fairway.
PS We did like seeing Alice Cooper in the finale. Alice will never lose his mojo.