WASHINGTON, March 7, 2013 — There was a time when any programs unfortunate enough to share a time slot with “American Idol” were doomed to certain extinction. But those days are clearly in the past, thank God. Whether audiences are experiencing Idol Fatigue, or whether competitors of the show have simply gotten better is still uncertain. But one fact is clear: American Idol has watched its numbers continue to slide—quite alarmingly, no doubt, to advertisers and FOX bigwigs alike.
In its peak year of 2007, “American Idol” averaged an astounding 37 million viewers. So far this season’s average is less than half of that, hovering at just under 18 million viewers per episode.
Even more telling is the fact that the CBS Thursday night lineup that competes with “American Idol” has made beating the talent show in the Nielsens a routine occurrence. “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men” are two of the strongest shows on TV, and just part of the competition eating away at “Idol’s” ratings. Both shows routinely finish in the top five, and even repeat episodes of the two sitcoms give “Idol” a good run for the ratings money.
Add to this the growing popularity of “Person of Interest,” which follows these two CBS powerhouse comedies, and it becomes even more obvious that “American Idol” is no longer the ratings darling it was in its earlier years. Two weeks ago when “Person of Interest” aired a new episode, that crime techno-thriller actually pulled enough viewers away from the second hour of “Idol” to beat the onetime FOX ratings king in the ratings.
What does this mean for the future of TV and the music industry in general? If you ask stars like LeAnn Rimes, Elton John, Sheryl Crow and Usher, it’s a very good thing. Elton John had this to say about “American Idol:” “There have been some good acts but the only way to sustain a career is to pay your dues in small clubs.”
Usher stated that shows like “American Idol” make it seem “so easy that everyone can do it, and that it can happen overnight,” adding, tellingly, that “television is a lie.” .” Karla Peterson of The San Diego Union-Tribune charged that “American Idol” is “a conniving multimedia monster” that has “absorbed the sin of our debauched culture and spit them out in a lump of reconstituted evil.” Whoo! Take that, FOX!
Strong words from Peterson, but accurate nonetheless.
As Elton John and Usher broadly suggest, “American Idol” is an insult to the old school method of playing dives and paying dues. It actually robs fans of the thrilling and still-rare experience of being a part of a musical act’s rise to success. Candidly, I wouldn’t cross a busy street to see Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood perform, because all I know about them has been fed to me from a distance by the media. I suspect that’s true for a considerable number of music and entertainment fans as well.
But if a friend invited me take a two hour drive on a week night to see one of their favorite garage bands perform in a dive, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the effort. And if the performance was any good at all, I would continue to follow that band from dive to dive until my face was familiar and my love of their music was obvious. They would appreciate my effort as much as I appreciated theirs.
No matter how successful that band might later become, they would remember the core of loyal, grassroots fans that sustained them during their slow, tortuous climb to the top. In addition, I’d benefit as well by possessing an intimate, insider knowledge of their secret origins that would forever make me a fan—and, later on, a noted authority as well.
That kind of experience will never be replaced by pushing a button to choose a winner from a pre-sorted pack of manufactured wannabes. And that’s the reason I hope “American Idol” will finally fade away to be quietly buried in the potter’s field of worn-out and over-used TV concepts.
All times are EST:
ABC: Shark Tank: (Repeat) Professional football player Brandon Jacobs hopes to help a woman find success with her protein-infused energy drink; a lobster roll food truck; eco-friendly cleaning products; colorful drink insulators; follow-up on a lip balm idea.
CBS: The Big Bang Theory: (New) Leonard, Sheldon and Wolowitz speak to junior high girls about careers in science. Meanwhile, Koothrappali plans a date with Lucy.
FOX: American Idol: (Live) The finalists will be revealed in the first elimination show.
NBC: Community: (New) With an unwelcome push from Britta, Jeff finally meets his father. James Brolin and Adam DeVine guest star!
CW: The Vampire Diaries: (Repeat) Matt’s life is put in danger, while Damon prepares Jeremy to battle Klaus’ new vampires. Later, Shane is questioned about the Founders’ Council deaths.
CBS: Two and a Half Men: (New) Following a fight with Walden, Alan moves in with Herb.
NBC: Parks and Recreation: (Repeat) Councilman Jamm inserts himself into the bachelorette party Ann has planned for Leslie; at the same time, Chris throws a game night with the guys in honor of Ben’s last days as a single man.
ABC: Grey’s Anatomy: (Repeat) Derek, Meredith, Arizona and Cristina receive news about the plane crash lawsuit; Richard avoids Catherine’s advances; Jackson takes on one of Mark Sloane’s former patients.
CBS: Person of Interest: (New) After the machine gives Reese and Finch six numbers at once, their search for clues leads them to a coastal town where they are forced to ride out a storm with a group of locals in a police station. However, as the weather rages outside, a sinister situation arises inside when they realize there is an unidentified killer hiding among them.
NBC: The Office: (Repeat) Dwight tries to stop Darryl from moving to Jim’s start-up company. Elsewhere, Jim misses his daughter’s first recital, to Pam’s dismay; Nellie spills the beans about Pete and Erin. Also: A behind-the-scenes look at the documentary comes into view.
CW: Beauty and the Beast: (New) Vincent (Jay Ryan) is torn between his new feelings for Cat (Kristin Kreuk) and his old memories with Alex (guest star Bridget Regan). J.T. (Austin Basis) learns that Evan (Max Brown) is planning to propose a task force to catch the beast and must figure out how to stop him.
FOX: Glee: (New) Glee club members sing their favorite songs from movies.
NBC: 1600 Penn: (New) Skip makes a heartbreaking discovery about his dad. Tim Bagley guest stars.
ABC: Scandal: (Repeat) David learns the truth about the Cytron case; Olivia, Cyrus, Mellie, Hollis and Verna go to extremes to protect themselves.
CBS: Elementary: (Repeat) Holmes investigates a college professor’s murder. Meanwhile, Watson gets a call from a former lover who asks for her help.
NBC: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: (Repeat) The detectives try to expose a sex-trafficking ring, but they run into interference from Lt. Eames who worries that their case is compromising her terrorism investigation. Not backing down, Benson finds a creative way to proceed.
New episodes of:
Highway Thru Hell at 8 p.m. on NGC
Comic Book Men at 9 p.m. on AMC
Mysteries at the Museum at 9 p.m. on Travel Channel
Swamp People at 9 p.m. on History Channel
Auction Kings at 9 and 9:30 p.m. on DSC
Anger Management at 9:30 p.m. on FX
Freak Show at 9:30 p.m. on AMC
The First 48 at 9 and 10 p.m. on A&E
Immortalized at 10 p.m. on AMC
North Woods Law at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet
Property Wars: Boom or Bust at 10 and 10:30 p.m. on DSC
Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell at 10 p.m. on Food Channel
Archer at 10 p.m. on FX
Big Rig Bounty Hunters at 10 p.m. on History Channel
Mudcats: Down and Dirty at 10 p.m. on NGC
King of the Nerds at 10 p.m. on TBS
What Not to Wear at 10 p.m. on TLC
House Hunters International at 10:30 p.m. on HGTV
For movie lovers:
National Security on BET
Meet the Fockers on CINEMAX
Under the Tuscan Sun on ENC
The School of Rock on FLIX
The Lucky One on HBO
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on IFC
Can-Can on TCM
The Iron Lady on TMC
Charlie St. Cloud on ABCFAM
Clear and Present Danger on CMT
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Thrones on HBO
Safe House on MOMAX
Friends with Benefits at 9:05 p.m. on STARZ
Volcano at 10 p.m. on CINEMAX
Camp at 10 p.m. on FLIX
Sucker Punch at 10 p.m. on HBO
The Omen at 10:15 p.m. on IFC
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