“American Idol” exits a winner

Trent Harmon wins “American Idol’s” final show. (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

As yours truly hinted before, American Idol’s “finale” may not be the finale after all – it’s going on a long hiatus.

Idol exited a winner Thursday night, finishing up with 13.3 million viewers from 8 p.m.-10:06 p.m. EST. In the adults 18-49 demo, the program earned a 3.0 rating. In Nielsen’s 56 overnight markets, Idol dominated with a 9.6 rating/15 share, peaking at a 10.5/16 in the final half-hour.

But despite the strong numbers, Idol was edged out by CBS’ Big Bang Theory for most-watched program of the night, earning 13.5 million viewers and a 3.1 adult 18-49 rating.

And, Idol’s finale obviously drew fewer viewers than it did in its heyday, with the 2003 finale registering a whopping 38 million viewers. Based on last year’s woeful numbers, Fox decided to rush Idol off this year, airing for approximately fourteen weeks.

Still, Idol dominated the ratings Thursday once Big Bang ended, and Idol did exact some revenge on the programming it was beaten by last year – Idol beat ABC’s once-hot Thursday night block, outdrawing Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy.

The finale drew acclaim from viewers and critics on social media, focusing mainly on past Idol winners and contestants. Performances included Kelly Clarkson (taped a few weeks earlier due to her pregnancy), Carrie Underwood, LaToya London, Fantasia, Taylor Hicks, Bo Bice, and others.

Chicago was well represented – Jennifer Hudson and season ten winner Lee DeWyze also performed. But in the end, it was Trent Harmon who triumphed to be crowned the final American Idol.

Most judges also were present – original trio of Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell reunited in a segment with host Ryan Seacrest, while former judges Ellen DeGeneres and Nicki Manaj gave taped testimonials and for some reason, Kara DioGaurdi sang.

The most notable absence from Idol (besides Adam Lambert, who was unable to make it due to other commitments) was former judge Mariah Carey, who didn’t appear in person or on video. She feuded with Manaj in season twelve and described being on the show “the worst experience in my life.” (yours truly rolls his eyes.)

Seacrest signed-off from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood saying “…as we say in Hollywood…good night America”. After a pause for a few seconds, he said “for now”, leaving the door open for a possible return. And given how many shows are being rebooted this days, don’t be surprised if Idol returns in a few years.