Closer to the exits: “American Idol” preparing to say goodbye

American Idol: Host Ryan Seacrest (l.) and current judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban.
American Idol: Host Ryan Seacrest (l.) and current judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban.

In an indication of how quick Fox wants to get rid of the show, American Idol is ending its fifteen-season run on Thursday, April 7, rather than dragging it out through the May sweeps, which the show usually wrapped up on the final night of the TV season. While yours truly was never a fan of the show (“loathed” is more appropriate), Idol made a name for the Fox network – drawing 30 million viewers a week at one point, making household names of talent for the better (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtery, etc.) and for worse (William Hung, Sanjaya.) Fox affiliates should really be grateful, as Idol’s lead-outs boosted their late newscasts for years (WFLD’s a notable exception to this rule.)

Surprisingly, Idol was never as popular in Chicago as it was in the rest of the country – especially after 2004 when Hudson – a hometown favorite – was eliminated in a controversial manner. Still, another Chicagoan (Lee DeWyze) did win Idol in 2010 and Hudson went on to greater success as an R&B artist and an Oscar-winning actress.

But Idol also contributed to the rise of host Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul’s career resurrection (and ditziness) and of course, Simon Cowell. Then came Kara Gioulardi and Ellen DeGeneres. And it would get much worse with the “jump the shark” season when Mariah Carey and Nicki Manaj were added as judges and sent viewers toward for the exits – with the notable exception of African-Americans. But when Carey and Manaj departed after one season, black viewers also left.

Before long, Idol not only started losing to competitor The Voice and The Big Bang Theory in the ratings, but also started losing to Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune – two syndicated game shows who’ve been on twice as long as Idol (Wheel’s run stretches back to 1975, if you count NBC’s daytime airings.) If you want any proof how Idol has fallen off the pop-culture radar, this summer’s tour featuring contestants from the show was canceled.

Ratings for Idol have been consistent this season, averaging around a 2.4 adults demo rating – a respectable number in this current environment.

While Idol is saying goodbye (or good riddance in yours truly’s point of view), don’t be surprised if it get rebooted down the road, as that seems to be the current mantra these days in Hollywood. See you in 2019? Anything can happen in this business. After all, the next Carrie Underwood is still out there.

Or the next Chris Martin, who fronts Coldplay. Oh wait, he didn’t compete on American Idol?