Like an old man carrying a package who waves away your help by saying "No, no I've got it, dammit" or Mariah Carey, American Idol refuses to recognize its age. The juggernaut talent show's ratings have been less than record breaking this season, last week's elimination episode bringing in the lowest numbers in five years. There are three obvious reasons for this: 1) General Idol fatigue, 2) There's no one this season who's worth watching all the way to a win, and 3) America's Next Top Model. Well, OK. ANTM isn't to blame for Idol's long, incurable illness, but it's a good example of where the show is headed. In the first season or two, ANTM was a moderate success because the outcome was unknown. Those models really could have become successful! Of course, they absolutely did not, and as it plodded along through endlessly more useless "cycles," the show tumbled further and further down the rabbit hole to become the masochistic freak show that it is today. American Idol, while ridiculously more successful than ANTM, hasn't had a certified smash hit since season 4's Carrie Underwood, and the more the Taylor HIckses and Jordin Sparkses of the world flounder (along with Ruben and Fantasia) the show continues to lose whatever cred it established with Kelly Clarkson. An old argument sure, but one that Idol producers don't want to acknowledge. Instead of kindly putting the thing to bed before it becomes an irrelevant joke, producers are thinking up silly new ideas to get that old ha-cha-cha back.
One of their big ideas is to streamline the show's early episodes, by beginning in Hollywood and having the long, arduous circus of human meanness and misery that is the audition process only exist in flashback form. While I like the idea of devoting less time to the tedious auditions on principle, I think the show would lose something by not laying the season's narrative out completely linearly. The most exciting thing to watch (think Melinda Doolittle) is someone go from that first audition room all the way to the big stage. Plopping us down in Hollywood right away would feel like cheating.
An online survey is also asking viewers how they feel about host Ryan Seacrest (do you want more or less? more! more!), the judges (again, more or less? less! less!). It all seems a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the (admittedly very slow sinking) Titantic, but Fox executive Preston Beckman tells the Post, "we're not in denial. It's still the biggest show on TV, but that doesn't mean there are things we can't do."
Like cancel it.