MaHB / TV: The End Of The Road?

Esquire Malaysia + Esquire Singapore, May 2014

American Idol-Ryan Seacrest

The End Of The Road?
As former ratings juggernaut American Idol hits new lows, we can’t help but wonder if it’s time for everyone to pack up and go home.

By Sophia Goh

It’s been a tough season for American Idol. Despite a huge shakeup following last year’s ratings dip, the one-time juggernaut of singing reality shows is struggling to regain even some of its former glory. Viewer interest has noticeably waned in the past couple of years, so you could say the writing’s been on the wall for a while. But you have to give it to the show: it just won’t quit, especially not while it’s still relatively near the top of the heap. The fact that bosses had previously renewed Ryan Seacrest’s hosting contract until at least 2014 for a reported USD15 million per season might have something to do with it. It’s a celebrity’s fee, and Seacrest is worth it, because he’s pretty much the only star left on the show.

Music fans will be forever grateful to Idol for introducing the world to Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert and Jennifer Hudson, but I must admit I began to lose interest somewhere around 2012, the year Phillip Phillips won (still can’t quite believe that’s his real name). It wasn’t the calibre of the contestants; on the contrary, not only did they blow me away with the sheer magnitude of their talent, I was hard-pressed to remember a more gifted bunch. After that came Candice Glover, whose name I had to Google because I didn’t bother watching last year, and not even the prospect of Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey clawing each other’s faces off could lure me back.

Idol really pulled out all the stops this season, including trying out a (slightly) new format, replacing longtime producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, and recruiting Harry Connick Jr as a judge, alongside Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez, which counts as a major scoop to be sure. Unfortunately, as the programme’s lowest-ever premiere rating demonstrated, not even the touted charm of Connick Jr could work a miracle – or was it simply a case of too little too late? As the show plodded along, it hung on to its slowly dwindling viewership, eventually posting an all-time ratings low in February that surely raised more than a few eyebrows.

I might be jumping the gun here, but it would appear that Idol has overstayed its welcome. Its ridiculously drawn-out, unnecessarily tedious results show definitely has something to do with it, which not even a judging panel featuring some of entertainment’s biggest names has been able to assuage. It’s had an outstanding run, as indeed any show that lasts 13 seasons in the incredibly fickle world of television entertainment can claim, and it remains one of the highest-rated shows in the history of television. But as the saying goes, all good things…

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