Film and TV

Pop Rocks: Let's Be Done with American Idol

Does anyone watch American Idol anymore? Better question, is anyone in charge of the production on that show or is it run by interns and toddlers? The singing competition -- once a juggernaut -- has been nothing more than a hot mess for the past several years, and I say let's stick a fork in it once and for all.

In the past month everyone has quit the show. Everyone! Longtime judge Randy Jackson, long-enough time judge Nicki Minaj and long time crazy Mariah Carey have all put in their two-weeks notice, leaving only Keith Urban and no one likes him, really. To add insult to injury, the two main producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick have just announced that they too are outie. Who is going to make the show? But moreover, who is watching the show because as of late, the answer has been nobody.

Let's first put it out there that the television landscape has drastically changed since AI's inception and agree that this has something to do with its massive decline in ratings and marketing logic. When American Idol hit the tube there was nothing like it. Now the market is inundated with similar singing competition shows and other competition shows that may have stolen viewers who always wished that the singers would just do the cha-cha or dive off into pools instead but put up with the vocals for lack of options.

In its heyday, 35 million people were tuning in; that's Super Bowl numbers. American Idol has not seen viewership like that since 2007. This past month's season finale only found 14 million people tuning in. Granted, this is still a large number but the old gray mare she ain't what she used to be. Isn't it time we put her to sleep?

Where did American Idol go wrong? When original AI nastyman Simon Cowell left in 2010 lots of people said the show would start to fizzle out, but when you closely examine the numbers, the show was already in a downward spiral. From Season 6 to Season 7 viewership dropped by roughly 4 million people. That's a lot of people tuning out, and each year it has gotten progressively worse.

The revolving lineup of celebrity judges has done nothing to improve this show save give it an initial boost in ratings. However, when we all found out that J-Lo and Steven Tyler were just regular old (Steven Tyler I'm saying old to you) people, the collective audience got over them quickly. Even when they brought on judges who are considered over the top, (Nicki Minaj? Come on, were letting HER judge other people?) it had no impact, just a few "leaked" YouTube videos of staged catfights that made some waves. That's not what this show is about. There have been so many different judges at this point, it may as well be the new Hollywood Squares.

In my opinion, competition from similar reality singing shows aside, American Idol lost its mojo when Paula Abdul left. The dynamic between Cowell and Abdul is what made the show watchable, as was trying to guess how many grams of oxycontin Abdul had ingested right before taping. That was drama! Who cares about who is going to win, what the hell is Paula talking about?

If American Idol closes its "pitchy" throat, it will be the beginning of the end for reality competitions and I, for one, think that would be just fine. These shows have had their day in the sun.

The last thing I will say about American Idol is how the name has always bugged me. An idol is someone you worship and revere, not a pop star that you forget between albums. Michael Jackson, Madonna, these are American idols. AI has turned out a few big stars, but would you consider any of them worship-worthy? Would anyone say that Ruben Stoddard's obvious lack of attention to diet and health is idyllic? Fantasia Barrino, Taylor Hicks, David Cook (who?), are these idols for future generations to hoist on pedestals? I don't think so. Let's call it a day and say this show has sang its last Motown cover.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig