American idle: Stagnant ratings means it's time to retool or rethink show

03/28/14 by Rennie Detore

What once was a show that sported ratings that were worth singing and dancing over, "American Idol" is starting to sound a bit hoarse to the viewing audience.
More specifically, the long standing FOX television, singing reality show is starting to see its ratings tumble significantly this season, a trend that it was hoping to reverse with new judge Harry Connick Jr., the returning Keith Urban and one time judge and the always likeable Jennifer Lopez.
That trio has failed to turn around the show's popularity, and the latest ratings information suggests that "American Idol" and its once long standing connection with the masses has waned to the point that show creators and all parties involved need to take a long, hard look at the future and true viability of the show.

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Now, between eight and nine million viewers for a show might not sound bad but for a show that once drew 25-30 million, it's a huge disappointment. It also probably doesn't help the ego of "American Idol" that NBC's "The Voice" is now more culturally approved and critically lauded as the new number one reality television singing show.
With ratings dropping every year for the better part of the last eight seasons, the show either needs to have the plug pulled or implement drastic changes across the board. Show producers have talked about a original judges reunion with Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, and one has to wonder if Ryan Seacrest isn't starting to grate on everyone's nerves just a bit.
Even FOX is telling anyone who will listen that longevity of a show like "Idol" probably contributes to its sagging ratings.
While the judges and the number of seasons may come into play, the once mighty "American Idol" suffers mostly from a lack of talent in recent seasons, especially this year's offerings, and a premise that is tired and formulaic.
Auditions, tryouts, live shows, viewer voting, and then repeat accordingly. Even the always pertinent human interest stores that the producers find within the auditions can only do so much for the show.
And why does "American Idol" need to be on two nights per week? Granted, "The Voice" follows that same formula but comparing the talent of those performing on the "Voice" versus that of "Idol" easily and quickly answers that question.
This season, the actual singing and performing ability of the contestants, even the ones that are the so called "top 10," isn't all that impressive, not nearly reminiscent of the show that gave us Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry, Carrie Underwood or Jennifer Hudson.
That list of "Idol" participants set the bar incredibly high with heaping helpings of success within the music industry, and not much has been mirrored by more recent show contestants. "The Voice" has adopted a less strict policy when it comes to fielding hopefuls: the NBC show allows those who have had past experience in the music business to compete; "Idol" doesn't.
"Idol" probably isn't interested so much retooling its format, and that's probably for the best. That move will only seem like a desperate attempt at reinvention, when all that really needs to happen is a simple case of admission.
The show is losing steam, and that isn't necessarily negative but rather the same path most programs follow. Not everything can stay at the core of popular culture forever, and "Idol" is no exception.
"American Idol" deserves credit for its longevity to this point, and just because the masses aren't turning out in droves to watch doesn't mean the legacy of the program will be tattered or tarnished. That only will happen if the show drags on further and thus becomes a repetitive, shell of its former self.

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