FOX announced on Monday (May 11) morning that “American Idol” has been renewed for the 2015-16 season, but that next year's installment will be its last.
Per the official FOX release, host Ryan Seacrest and all three current judges — Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr — will return to “search for the final 'Idol' superstar and pay tribute to the past 14 seasons of amazingly talented contestants and the millions of fans who tweeted, texted and championed their Idols.”
Whether you've watched “American Idol” from the beginning and still tune in on a weekly basis or you've looked down your nose at “Idol” for its role in reality-izing network television, it would be foolish not to look at this as the end of a rather major era.
Adapted from the British “Pop Idol” format, “American Idol” premiered in the summer of 2002 and developed into a burgeoning sensation, culminating with the crowning of Kelly Clarkson as the show's first winner and the subsequent “From Justin to Kelly” movie, a mistake that was never repeated.
From the 2003-04 season through the 2010-11 season, “American Idol” was TV's top show in all measures, either its performance show or its results show or, often, both. “American Idol” single-handedly lifted FOX to a streak of seasonal 18-49 ratings championships, an entirely unprecedented level of success for the network.
“American Idol” turned Ryan Seacrest into a media kingpin (even if it did nothing for Seacrest's original co-host Brian Dunkleman) and turned original judge Simon Cowell into a star, rekindled Paula Abdul's prominence and educated millions of viewers on Randy Jackson's contributions to Journey.
And the show produced genuine superstars, beginning with Kelly Clarkson, but also including platinum artists like Carrie Underwood, Clay Aiken, Chris Daughtry and, most recently, Phillip Phillips. Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar. Katherine McPhee has starred in multiple television shows including CBS' current hit “Scorpion.” And “American Idol” alums have been in regular circulation on Broadway.
During Season 6, 7 and 9, “Idol” did a charity special called “Idol Gives Back,” raising nearly $185 million for charity.
But yes, “American Idol” has fallen hard in the past few years. A show that averaged more than 30 million viewers per night in its fifth and sixth installments has been drawing closer to 7 or 8 million viewers (or fewer). Not only has “American Idol” regularly been beaten by shows like “Modern Family” and “Criminal Minds” and “Survivor,” but extending into Live+3 figures, “Idol” has often been finishing fourth in the key demo for certain hours.
After retreating to one night per week for most of the spring, “American Idol” will stretch back to two nights this week for its finale. On Tuesday, Jax, Clark Beckham and Nick Fradiani will perform and find out which two singers will be facing off in the two-hour finale on Wednesday.
I've suggested in Twitter, recap and podcast form that Kelly Clarkson should play a major role in a 15th and finale “American Idol” season, so at least I predicted part of this. I also suggested that with Simon Cowell in tow, “American Idol” should be ready for a rebirth in five years.
End of an era.