American Idol: How Fox Failed Its Golden Goose — and Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Pull the Plug


If you cheered Monday’s news that Fox will pull the plug on American Idol after it wraps Season 15 next spring, I get it. But as a longtime and still fervent member of the Church of the Six Soul-Sisters (Kelly, Carrie, ‘Tasia, Melinda, Haley and Candice, of course), that response would be as unthinkable to me as LOLing after Travis puts a bullet into his loyal pal at the end of Old Yeller.

Nevertheless, my reference to Disney’s golden-haired pooch is not accidental: For a show that once pulled an average audience of 30 million viewers, last Wednesday’s 6.9 million and 1.5 demo rating looked as dire as Yeller’s frothy saliva, high fever and sudden aggression.

Add to those sagging ratings the show’s recent struggle to catapult its winners to post-show success — it pains me to say this, but several “songs” by Real Housewives messes have captured the zeitgeist moreso than anything by Idol‘s last two champs, Candice Glover and Caleb Johnson — and it’s fair to wonder if Fox should’ve swung the axe even sooner.

Still, while my inner Idoloonie is slowly moving toward the acceptance stage of grief, there’s also a little bit of anger, too. Why didn’t Fox, Fremantle and 19 Entertainment get Yeller Idol to the doctor sooner? Why did producers attempt only surface-level changes and fail to examine which parts of the show had become outmoded, repetitive and a drain on viewer enthusiasm — especially as The Voice and The X Factor emerged as serious competitors?

Below, the five biggest reasons Idol‘s powers-that-be contributed to the death of its golden retriever (sorry, I’ll let the Yeller metaphor die here) goose:

FM2_5156_hires1THEY FORGOT WHAT MADE THE SHOW GREAT | I’ve complained many times in the past few years about how former executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and especially current boss Per Blankens have lavished too much time and attention and too many loving close-ups on the judges — from Nicki-vs.-Mariah to “Look! It’s an extended J.Lo reaction shot!” But as it became increasingly obsessed with its “superstar judges” — a direct reaction to The Voice‘s coach-centric format — Idol forgot that its central charm was always in watching super-talented waitresses, farm girls and high-school students survive grueling musical challenges and emerge just a few months later as bona-fide chart-toppers.

I’m not saying Fox’s reality granddaddy needed to amp up the sob stories, but the near total absence the last few seasons of contestant interviews — and any genuine revelations about their lives and loves — has made it vastly easier to detach from the Idol process. Think back to the glory days of Season 8 — when Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta and their cohorts garnered the lion’s share of water-cooler chatter, capturing our hearts just as much as our ears. To paraphrase an old Phil Spector tune, “to know know know them, was to love love love them.” And alas, over Seasons 12, 13 and 14 — through no fault of the contestants — that just hasn’t happened.

THEY GOT CHEAP (OR MAYBE JUST LAZY) ABOUT THE MUSIC | In my Idol exit interviews over the last two years, several contestants (Jessica Meuse and Tyanna Jones, to name a couple) have come right out and admitted that producers frequently offer up paltry lists of just 20 or 30 songs for any given theme week — sometimes resulting in “hat-draw” battles for the most coveted tunes. This inexplicable boneheadedness in relying on the same damn songs — “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “I’ll Be,” “Piece of My Heart” — over and over and over again has contributed to the stagnation of the Idol format, at the exact time that The Voice has served up a comparably fresher menu of music.

Think about this: If you paid 50 Idol fans or employees to each cook up lists of 100 great tracks that’ve never been performed during live voting rounds, you’d conceivably wind up with 5,000 ditties that producers could’ve attempted to clear between June and January (aka the Idol off-season). For a show that gives J.Lo an eight-figure salary, you can never convince me that the expense of such a music-clearance onslaught would’ve bankrupted the House That Kelly Clarkson Built.

MLB_1378_hires1THEY PRETENDED IT WAS STILL 2003 | OK, Season 14 found Idol essentially stealing The Voice‘s “Twitter Save”/Sing-Off between the two lowest vote-getters in an effort to bring added drama to the elimination process. But aside from that, Idol failed miserably at livening up the proceedings with genuine social-media interaction among contestants, mentors, judges and fans.

Mr. Blankens & Co. might point to theme weeks like “American Classics” — in which the show purported to put together a set list based on fan suggestions — but there was never authentic back-and-forth on Facebook or Twitter to make the “innovation” feel like anything more than a ruse. Fox should’ve armed the Top 12 with iPhones and encouraged/insisted they leak video and photos of song ideas, rehearsal footage, wardrobe debates and assorted other never-before-seen insights into the Idol process. Instead, it fumbled with an embarrassing assortment of hashtags while younger viewers jumped ship in droves.

THEY FORGOT TO INVEST IN THEIR WINNERS | Idol‘s one unwavering advantage over The Voice was the fact that it had multiple graduates achieve enormous (or at least pretty solid) post-show success. (Heck, even the all-too-often maligned Ruben Studdard, Kris Allen and David Cook scored sizable hits on the Billboard’s Hot 100.) Debut discs by Candice and Caleb, however, (both released in 2014) received the promotional equivalent of being strapped to a rickety canoe and dumped in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. OK, so maybe Interscope didn’t truly believe in the Season 12 and 13 victors, but 19 Entertainment’s failure to champion its champions was another signal to the Idoloonie Nation that
committing to the time-consuming Idol process wouldn’t result in any real payoff.

THEIR FORMAT TWEAKS WERE CONSISTENTLY ATROCIOUS | Sending Season 13’s Hollywood Week hopefuls to an airplane hangar — and eliminating dozens of ’em within hours of arriving in Los Angeles? Forcing Season 14’s finalists to wait through up to two hours of live TV to learn how they’d done in last week’s vote — and then asking them to overcome all that fear and adrenaline and give their best performances? Continuing the bleak tradition of introducing fans to terrific audition-round singers only to cut them with little (or often no) explanation before the live shows? You can’t say Blankens & Co. didn’t try to freshen up the proceedings, but you can’t exactly say they succeeded, either.

Sigh. So many preventable maladies, so little emphasis on diagnosis and treatment. Would it have made a difference had Lauren Alaina’s doctor (#NeverForget) swept in at the 11th hour to save the day — or would Idol ennui have set in anyhow once The Voice and The X Factor entered the marketplace? It’s hard to say for sure, but I can’t shake the belief that the franchise could’ve (or should’ve) lasted a few more seasons.

Regardless, next January will give us one last hurrah, give one more talented kid a chance at upending the depressing major-label system and becoming a household name in the process. I could list all the things I’d like to see happen in Season 15 — and at some point in the next few days, I probably, foolishly will. The realist in me knows, however, that the old dog probably won’t be learning any new tricks. Better to keep it comfortable in its waning days — and keep hope alive that a little puppy named Reboot will wander into Fox’s life in a few years’ time.

Your turn. Will you miss Idol when it’s gone? Do you think that a more proactive approach could’ve helped extend its life? And given that that didn’t happen, is now the right time to end the show’s run? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. thisismenow says:

    I couldn’t agree more.

    • PL says:

      Aren’t talent competition shows this generation version of the variety show? There’s never been so much singing, dancing, etc., in a variety shows on the neworks. But nowdays they seem to have to make them competitions. I bet NPH show will be good, but won’t succeed, because it’s not how the current generation accepts variety shows..

    • Shazay says:

      Michael, I love you for mentioning Haley! She is my winner from that season, and no one else I know was a fan – so happy she’s making a bigger name for herself than the winner and runner up.

    • Shazay says:

      Also…..NBC might want to pick idol up…..anything would fix how abysmal their lineup has been.

    • Debbie says:

      I was so very sad to see idol come to an end forever I have watched idol from the first season I Truely believe that Harry Jlo and Keith were by far the best judges idol had I don’t know what could be done differently to make it stay but I will definately miss it rip American idol.

  2. I’d rather bring The X Factor back.

  3. KN says:

    RIP AI. For now. Just like and evil twin on a soap opera, I’m sure we’ll see another version of Idol on Fox within the next decade.

    • Sally McLinn says:

      Agree^^. Everything is “rebootable”.

    • Erin says:

      Darcy, would you like to comment on this evil twin theory?? Actually I will miss Michael, Melinda and this board more than the show itself. This is the only board I write on (yes, I’m old) so I will need suggestions for a replacement.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      LOL I am flattered you thought of me, Erin. My twin, Darcy, went to the insane asylum the night Katelyn Epperle, Lily Scott, Todrick Hall, and Alex Lambert were sent home at the same time. It was awful!
      I will sure miss this program and I hope KN is correct!

      • Var says:

        That was the Thursday Night Massacre. Equally as bad to me was the night Michael Johns got eliminated (way too early in the competition).

      • Jasper says:

        That was a complete tragedy. Four extremely talented and creative artists going home on the same night was heartbreaking to me. Adding that to Tori Kelly’s being cut before the Top 24 and Crystal Bowersox losing to Lee Dewyze, and Season 9 was easily the worst season in terms of eliminations. Now American Idol can’t even claim to spring-boarding people like Tori and Todrick into stardom. They got it based off of hard work and dedication. For me, sending home potential stars like them while promoting far less promising people sealed the deal. I watched Season 10 sporadically and a bit of Season 11 (mostly because of Jessica Sanchez), but Idol lost the spark that season. And it’s sad.

    • deedee says:

      But it will never be the phenomenon that Idol was for its first 8 seasons.

  4. JJ says:

    IMO. If next seasons American Idol, has a group of contestants who grab the attention of the viewers and the ratings soar, I bet they’d change their minds and renew it for another season.
    With this being the last chance for all those who are employed by this show, perhaps they’ll double and redouble their efforts in presenting the best contestants and show possible.

    • dan says:

      The show has to be very expensive to produce thanks to the huge salaries paid to the judges and Ryan. The ad rates probably can’t support the show anymore with its dwindling ratings. Even if next year’s “last hurrah” season goes up in the ratings, the production costs will also increase if they have to re-negotiate with JoLo, Harry, Keith and Ryan. It should’ve ended on a high note (pun intended) a few years ago.

    • Ben says:

      Michael is right. The problem (this season being a great example) is not that the contestants don’t grab the attention of the viewers. The problem is that the contestants are no longer given the opportunity to. It takes more than a good singing voice to do that – people have to feel they are getting to know you.

  5. Hayder B. Hayden says:

    Michael raises several points, all of which are valid. However, several things happened that were partially or completely outside the control of the network. The single biggest factor leading to the death of AI was the splintering of the audience. Too much competition from The Voice, X Factor, and AGT, and a host of other talent/singing competition shows shaved slices of the audience of varying sizes. Some viewers came back, but others found something they liked better and never came returned. At the same time, network television viewership shrunk across the board. More cable channels and better programming resulted in viewers fleeing the networks in droves. A viewer missing AI can catch up in 20 minutes by watching clips of the performances on the internet. That didn’t happen in the beginning.
    Also, the loss of Simon Cowell can’t be overstated. Love him or hate him, he was the only judge in the history of the show that viewers specifically tuned in to see. His snarky honesty has never been replaced. Viewers started leaving in droves once he checked out (and I’m including his final season where his body was at the table but his mind was working on X Factor). Attempts to stock the bench with celebrities failed miserably, driving away viewers. Simon helped make the show, and then he tore it down by leaving and erecting an inferior challenger.
    Also, the inept scripting of season long story lines by Nigel was insulting to viewers. Dubious casting decisions, such as baby Bieber this year, Lazaro, and others based upon reasons other than singing talent offended viewers who could hear the ineptitude flowing from the TV.

  6. jake says:

    There is honestly nothing that can be done — the year jessica sanchez lost was the beginning of the end. Too many voters felt that their voice didn’t matter. Mariah and nikki manaj sealed the deal. Also, in past years, they seemed to have decided to do away with phone calls altogether — making it incredibly difficult for viewers to vote — making phone numbers like a last resort.

    • neaorlean says:

      And yet Phillip Phillips is their most successful alum since Adam Lambert. If Jessica had won, she’d be Candice Glover before there even was Candice Glover.

      • Gailer says:

        Agreed! Saw not much in her

      • Owen says:

        Adam Lambert wasn’t exactly a “success”. Certainly compared to Phillip Phillips. I love fans’ revisionist Idol history…

        • DancyGeorgia says:

          Adam has made at least $1 million a year since idol, usually more, and in the last 12 months he has made somewhere in the $10-20 million range. I’d say that’s rather successful. Selling lots of albums and/or singles is not the only way that idol contestants have become successful. Some have made good money in careers that include movies (Jennifer Hudson, Jordon Sparks), TV (Kathrine McPhee, Adam Lambert), Broadway (Melinda Dolittle, Taylor Hicks), Vegas shows (Taylor Hicks), concert touring (all the top Idol contestants), and/or endorsement deals! In Adam’s case, concert touring has been his biggest money maker, especially his tour fronting QUEEN! But he has also done TV shows (5 episodes of Glee), had lucrative endorsement deals in China and other Asian countries, and his US album/single sales need to be doubled to include his international sales.

        • Pam Hart says:

          He’s worth $12 million, and this is before being paid for the Queen world tour, so it is probably closer to $18-20 million. He has the fourth highest net worth, after Carrie, Kelly, and Jennifer Hudson. He just bought a 3 million dollar home in cash and a $200K Bentley. I’d say that’s pretty successful.

        • atomom says:

          “Not exactly a success” must take a dim view of Adam’s string of accomplishments and sources of pride: To wit: Adam is heaped the respect and love of legendary Queen members who anointed him to revive rock history’s greatest band with a voice to match the glory of rock’s greatest frontman in a tour of sold out arenas at 67 cities worldwide. Adam is the “worldwide star” Simon talked about finding as the purpose of Idol done. His singer/songwriting skills garnered him critical acclaim for his first two impressive albums. He is poised to drop a hotly anticipated third album kicked off by an impressive first single, Ghost Town.. His exquisite, stunning voice is hailed for its beauty of tone, control, range, power, technique, sensitivity,and maturity. He is considered a mesmerizing, charismatic performer whose stage presence, interpretive skills, vocal technique and prowess describes a “one in a billion voice” of a “gift from God”. Confident without being conceited, Adam possesses the physical assets of a gene pool winner whose beauty inspires adoration ranging from fervor of the hormonal kind to all kinds of fan art, essays, vocal analyses, friendships, fan groups and communities, undying devotion, penury, insomnia, and new leases on life. I could go on and on, about his quick wit, intelligence, humor, humbleness, integrity, courage, kindness, charity, but now must stop lest I lose credibility. Dear Owen, if your concept of success is based on your appreciation of the massive success of “Home”, yes, I don’t detract that from Phillip’s accomplishments, but even he may want to disabuse you of your misguided assessment of Adam’s success, as comparison with a widely beloved and uber-talented man, even if you were Phillip, would not be fair.

    • Suzie says:

      I wish they would ditch the judges they have now and call back Simon, Paula, and Randy (yes, I said Randy) for this final season. I would love to see the originals along with Ryan and Brian Dunkelman. I still remember that first season and how much fun it was. C’mon Fox, make that happen!!

      • dan says:

        I know more about Kelly Clarkson, Tamyra Gray, Nikki McKibbon, Justin Guarini and some of the early contestants than any of the most recent contestants. The last year that I cared was Adam vs. Kris. Michael is right that they took away the emotional aspect of the show years ago.

        • Gailer says:

          Exactly!! We know nothing About them really. One of the biggest downfalls of the show was when the got rid of the american idol website boards!! Things were wild there and like a big family, it definitely got people to vote and watch and care.

          • karenb says:

            Yes Gailer! I loved those Idol boards too. I miss them! It felt like a community on there. I don’t know why they had to go take them down.

        • who-dat says:

          Yes, but the Voice doesn’t tell us much about the contestants either. They don’t show them living together, doing things together, etc. Heck, the Voice don’t even tell us what city,state they are from.

    • Trent says:

      agree, that dropping the “phone call” voting option, then the “text” voting option, was the beginning of the end of “american idol”. ” America’s got talent” doesn’t really count as “viewers” competition, since it starts after, “american idol” ends. prefer “America’s got talent”, has more ” variety” in the talent, than just singing. also the friendly/sarcastic banter between the “America’s got talent” judges is entertaining to watch. the “rotating” judges comments on “american idol” is boring, panned, if not irritating to endure.
      best to put it out of it’s misery and let “american idol” r.I.p.
      do like the idea for their “farewell” season, next year, for “american idol” to bring back the “original” judges of Simon, Paula, and Randy.
      that would be a “farewell season” well worth watching, and a great way to bid farewell to the flagship, pioneer, and the birthing mother to many singers careers, “american idol”.

    • tealeaves says:

      Jessica Sanchez is a contestant that was voted out Top 7 and saved by the judges. She was pushed by the judges al season. She is NOT an example of a contestant that was robbed of a win. She got support from the label and released a single which was a duet with a very popular artist. It did not take off. There are many contestants that people can say were robbed in some way or another. Jessica is not one of them.

  7. Hayder B. Hayden says:

    I wish someone would fix this comment board!

  8. S says:

    Its the contestants that they pick that have been the problem.. too often the winners are unmarketable… Its not a coincidence that the relatively attractive and charismatic Kelly and Carrie became the two breakout stars… but the producers/judges often dropped the more telegenic contestants at the early stages and the legions of teenage girls that vote for the live rounds often went for some bland cute guy with zero charisma… its a shame

    • GH says:

      When Carrie was on Idol, she was nickname for her lack of personality, stage charisma. She and Kelly were at the right place at the right time. Their careers would be very different if they had to compete in current day Idol.

  9. neaorlean says:

    I think they also started to save money from the sound of the show, which is really bad for a show, that’s all about sound. That’s why we’ve rarely had any moments these last three seasons. The music’s been quieter and the emotion is not the same. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe we’ve had any standing O’s in the live rounds this season, not even from just JLo or Keith. Maybe there was one. Even the songs that are supposed to be loud… Are not. Do this, go on YouTube and find Lee DeWyze’s Beautiful Day and Clark Beckam’s… I know Lee’s was the final, and they made it more spectacular, but even without them the difference would’ve been huge… Clark’s version sounds like it’s a cheap karaoke machine with ancient .midi tracks. I know the band’s the same and is very good, so that’s not it, I think they just decided to save from what made Idol what I got to love – the big, spectacular musical numbers.

  10. I love The Voice. Love love love The Voice!
    But at least AI gave us Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson.
    Another terrific article by Michael. RIP American Idol.

  11. This year was the first year since the second season that I didn’t watch Idol (the first one didn’t air here). Did that kill it? lol

  12. Smigglesby says:

    This is most likely the single best article BAR NONE (like of anything posted ever) that TVline has posted. Incisive, smart, and relevant. There was no headline baiting, no ruining plots or twists mere moments after they air, just thought provoking commentary, the kind I’d hoped TVline would give me since it’s inception. I used to read Idolatry on EW and followed your column (minus the great name – Idolatry) to tvline. Knowing your history with the franchise, I was waiting (and hoping) that you’d post your feelings. Thanks for all your hard work, Slezak.

    I actively look forward to your commentary on the final season (which I will likely watch after not watching since Mama Sox went up against Lee DeWyze)

  13. Tom says:

    Also the refusal to have judges or othe qualified people mentor. Another would be not adapting to a wider age range of talent. I also think America should have voted to eliminate and not for until the last show.

    • Reasonable says:

      Some I know that used to faithfully watch Idol, turned-away for many of the reasons Michael stated above. It seems the producers and revolving chairs of highly paid Judges have no clue as to how to save this show, so down it goes.

  14. Reasonable says:

    Yes, Michael named a good number of things that have eaten-away at the popularity of the show. And I believe that , as some mentioned, that the show was progressively taken-over by special big money interests, which includes the Celebrity Judges line-up the past few years, their agents and affiliated interests. …………………

    It became a cash-cow to milk for multi-millions for their own gains rather than a vehicle for talented young artists to expand and grow with. It has become such an expensive platform to continue through the huge salaries of the host, Judges and agents,, that Fox had to drop it altogether and develop a plan for something else for the time-slot after next year.

    • The Beach says:

      I think you have made a very valid point. Having read of the outrageous demands that entitled celebs include in their contracts I can just imagine some of the ones Mariah, Nikki, J-Lo et al. have come up with to judge Idol. Plus I can’t think of a celebrity in the world that I think is worth tens of millions of dollars for their judging expertise.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Excellent points, Reasonable.

  15. scott says:

    Season 12 killed the show. Not Candice. She was great. But, the judges were terrible (save Keith) and the gross manipulation to assure a female champion alienated viewers. Idol lost 2/3 of its audience in the 18-49 demo over the course of that season, and never recovered. How could it?

    • karenb says:

      Exactly. A top 5 with all female contestants screamed RIGGED.

    • tealeaves says:

      I agree about season 12. I still watch the show because of the promise of new amazing performances like so many from past seasons. But since season 12 I am nowhere near as enthusiastic or hopeful. I am more fearful of what might be done to ruin the show next.

    • Ann says:

      I’m so in the minority about Season 13. I didn’t care that it was an all girl Top 5 , and enjoyed those final weeks immensely. Candice rules!!! That glorious voice. Thank God we had that, and all the rest. Maybe I just appreciated a rest from WGs, WGs, or not.
      As Jax’s unceremonious boot tonight, it’s more WGs. There is no shortage.
      I think AI’s biggest failure over the years was tossing off talented black males. Maybe that’s America’s fault?

    • voice heard says:

      Harry Connick brought the show to nought. To each person there…to each one who builds the show. Too very bad
      Now it will end…thanks for all your head “knowledge”. Too bad you did not have a heart….cause knowing stuff and not enabled wIth ability oneself was most evident and now we all will not have American Idol. Thanks, great job, not.

  16. EB says:


    • Michael Slezak says:

      And yet it’s happening – check out her work with Postmodern Jukebox… topping the itunes jazz charts for weeks now. ;)

      • steelers121 says:

        I’m an HR fan too, so I don’t mind at all if you do that. I’m not sure if she wanted or was ready for the “traditional industry career” – or maybe she just didn’t get good people to start with. IDK as I don’t follow her much now, but I did support her by buying her initial records.

      • Erika says:

        BYE EB. BYE.

      • karenb says:

        You tell ’em!

      • Macy says:

        Hi Michael!

      • Linds says:

        Benny! Benny! Can’t you still see her waving that arm high in the air? Sheer exuberance. Ranks up there with a Summertime (Fantasia), Cook’s Billie Jean, Mad World, Heartless, Free Ride, Takin it to the Streets, Natural Woman,…. sigh…. Ima gonna miss that AI. You know, when people were in it to win it. Lol – just couldn’t stop it.

  17. lbc says:

    The root of the problem is that the producers thought they had to compete with The Voice by replacing high salary exiting judges with higher salary celebrity judges. Then they had to give more screen time to the judges to justify the expense, but didn’t give tham an active roll in mentoring the contestants. So we watch the judges watch the contestants, flip their hair, and make lame jokes, and there is little budget left to groom the contestants to become idols. The contestants are hung out to dry while the judges make bundles criticizing them. I find it painful to watch.

    • steelers121 says:

      Agree 100%. Especially re: J-Lo. The fawning sickens me anymore.

    • Linds says:

      Yes. This. Plus, they over saturated – filling in with stupid group numbers everyone hated, and then stretching a 15 minute results show into an hour or even more.

      Meanwhile, Simon left and the judges’ comments became worthless platitudes or inexplicably harsh critiques that pandered to their own ego & agenda.

  18. I definitely agree with Michael on what he said about repeating songs over and over and a list of only 25 songs. It doesnt take that much to call an artist and get permission to perform a song. LA Reid did it for Astro on x factor. He called Eminem to see if Astro could perform Lose Yourself and he said yes! As Well, Sawyer on his “Shine On” performance on The Voice, they had to get a hold of the artist and they did get permission and that was just a LOCAL FOLK SONG in the Michigan area! Kind of an UNKNOWN song. Is it that American Idol is too lazy to get permission for some different music? I swear, if I was to hear one more Ed Sheeran or Jason Muraz song I would die! Or also Sam Smith. I like all of those artists but dont want to hear them over, and over and over! Well I looked it up and May Erlwine calls herself an independant folk (Earthworks) artist and she was worried the show would not ok the song for Sawyer because of that! But they did!

    • karenb says:

      Funny…my first thought when you mentioned Astro was Kris Kross’ Jump. Still love it.

      • KarenB He was one of my absolute favorites! He is a great actor also! Watch “A Walk Among The Tombstones” with Liam Neeson! Astro was excellent in it! Criss Cross! Loved It. He was so cute, but now is pretty grown up!

        • karenb says:

          Did you see him in Red Band Society? He had one of the smaller parts. But it was kinda neat to see him on the show. It’s cancelled now. Bummer.

          • KarenB Yes I did! Always love Astro! Did you watch the movie ” A Walk Among The Tombstones”? He has a BIG part in this. Him and Liam Neeson are what most of the movie is about! Based on a Novel, Its kind of a crime, mystery. Just a great movie and Astro was sssooooo good.

    • Maybe Michael Slezak and Melinda Doolittle should start their own talent singing show. They could be the mentors. Could you imagine all the great song choices they would give contestants?

  19. cb says:

    As I’ve said before, they should have let Michael revamp the show.

  20. jr says:

    The answer is really simple. Season 12. The Judge’s panel was beyond pathetic. Except Keith. And the manipulation to crown a female champion alienated 2/3 of the audience during the course of that season. Go look at the ratings slide that season. It is shocking. Idol could not recover. It was too great a loss, too fast.

    • voice heard says:

      Harry Connick brought the show to nought. To each person there…to each one who builds the show. Too very bad
      Now it will end…thanks for all your head “knowledge”. Too bad you did not have a heart….cause knowing stuff and not enabled wIth ability oneself was most evident and now we all will not have American Idol. Thanks, great job, not.

  21. steelers121 says:

    Michael, I really agree fully with your second point. The song selection just gets worse all the time. And here’s another key thing IMO. AI keeps the singing length so short in most of the rounds, there is no time to let a song play out and build into itself. Maybe that is why some artists don’t like to clear their songs? Contrast to The Voice where you get much fuller renditions of songs and it’s not like two bars and 10 seconds before launching into all-out-assault mode for some songs.

    Sometimes I wonder if the producers are deaf as well as not too smart. Do they just think it is some individual critics who are complaining and offering up suggestions? No, a lot of fans want ed to see change too.

    It just seems like amateur hour over there anymore. My wife has commented every week since The Voice came on with performances that the singers are put together so much better than the usually uninspiring outfits seen on AI (Jax, Quentin excepting). Just the past two weeks or so, it’s gotten a bit better, but my what nothingness was on display earlier. Voice makes them look like stars out there.

    And yes I agree there should have been more focus on the contestants. We saw very little of the preparation and discussion and mentoring for the songs.

    We should just call it dead now, because next winter/spring, they are just going to be self-indulgent about the past contestants and personalities that worked on the show that the new band of contestants and there musical journey will likely be overrun in the process.

  22. J.Norman says:

    I got interested in Idol from the Carrie Underwood season (4th) through the 7th or 8th, I forget now.
    Perhaps that could be considered normal, but there are 3 things that I remember driving me away from the show to the point of not watching any episodes at all for the past several seasons.
    1) The relentless pimping of certain candidates to the detriment of many of the other (candidates) and the obvious attempts to get a certain type singer (or genre) to win.

    2) The massive power voting that began to overwhelm the voting process. It got way out of hand and discouraged many viewers.

    3) The bringing in of the additional judges starting with Kara DioGuardi.
    I had (have) nothing against her, but Why was she needed? The show wasn’t broken.

    It seems that the producers (19 Entertainment) decided to pimp one of their own songwriters to get her recognition.
    This began the major slide towards what eventually became an effort to make the show about the judges (like the Voice) rather than about the contestants.

  23. Amanda says:

    They should’ve hired you to help them with the ratings! All of your ideas were genius. Sadly now we’ll never know what could’ve been. I stopped watching a couple of years ago (but I suffered through that horrible season with Ellen as a judge. Love Ellen but she just wasn’t a good fit and that whole season was awkward.) I was obsessed with AI back in the day. I went to the concerts and even went to the actual show twice. It’s sad that it’s come to this and they couldn’t save themselves. I am planning on watching the finale because even with the seasons I didn’t watch I still made time for the finales. And I’ll probably even watch the finale season. I hope it gets the send off it deserves and makes people wish it wasn’t getting canceled.

  24. Tahoe Mike says:

    I largely blame the obsession with finding the next Tween Idol. I was always more interested in finding the talent that had fallen through the cracks and needed a second chance. Idol became the path of first resort to too many. I’d like to have seen them raise the minimum age and have no max age.

  25. Angie_Overrated says:

    As a former superfan of Idol, I am sad to see it go. I myself gave up last year for many of the reasons Michael stated. But I’d add one more reason to the list: the talent has not been so talented in recent seasons. This year is clearly better than the previous two, but how did Lazaro Arbos get through the process? Or basically all of the finalists on last season? The show started to feel like a high school talent show, whereas The Voice was giving us many professional caliber performances. I wish Idol the best in its remaining season and hope it goes out with a bang instead of a Old Yeller-like whimper.

    • Katie Killjoy says:

      I still have nightmares and horrid flashbacks of that night where Lazaro decided to not change key with the rest of the band…

      • My Alter Ego says:

        But, but Katie .. the key change was sooo hard!

        (SMH — what kind of musician can’t make a simple key change. BTW, that was a rhetorical question…)

    • Lazaro was the last male contestant left with 5 females and then he FINALLY got sent home. I loved Burnell and one other guy that was kind of blonde, clean cut, cant remeber his name! I remember Nikki yelled at them because they completely screwed up the group number on the live shows (the Guys) and she yelled “This is not Hollywood Week!

      • My Alter Ego says:

        “one other guy that was kind of blonde, clean cut, cant remeber his name”

        Devin Velez?

        • MY Alter Ego Yesss! Thats him! Him and Burnell I thought were great!

          • Some Dude says:

            I liked Devin, too (I still remember his farewell song when he sang for the save). But in all honesty, he was the least weak out of a /really/ weak group of guys.

            That season probably was the turning point for the show as others have said. Merely the fact that Lazaro didn’t get cut in Hollywood made it ridiculous.

      • Angie_Overrated says:

        The men that season weren’t that bad. I mean, they weren’t the best male Idol contestants I’d ever seen, but gay country kid, gay gospel singer, gay latino kid with a single mom (Delvin?), and straight Burnell (yes, there was ONE straight contestant) were all pretty good. Burnell I’d actually say was a lot better than good, as was gay gospel singer. [side note: was that the most gay cast the show had ever had? Not that I care one way or the other, but asking more out of curiosity.]
        Lazaro however… oh boy. He was something.

        • ANGIEOVERRATED I just loved Burnell so much and Amber Holcomb too. Devin also! Some good guys went home and Lazaro stayed! Did you ever notice that it always looked like Lazaro stuffed his pants with a roll of socks! Im not even kidding. It was so yucky! Ughh! If you dont remember watch him on u tube. Well I actually had a crush on Burnell! When Burnell did John Legends “This Time” that did it. I wonder what he is up to now? Oh and I knew Lazaro and Devin were gay, but didnt Know the country kid was gay! LOL

  26. Once again, Slezak got it right. I think listening the same old songs year after year after year, was just too much. Most of them from 1950s, 1960s!

    Then, the judges. Ellen? Mariah vs. Nicki? JLo? Don’t get me wrong with JLo, but come on, voice expertise? She can’t sing… Remember “i luh ya papi”?

    Another thing: that atrocious weeks in Hollywood and the cutoffs. Cruel. Innecessary. Brutal.

  27. RichCD says:

    Anyone who thinks that ‘Idol’ won’t be back within 3-4 years hasn’t been paying attention.

  28. ABox says:

    I’m so very sad about the cancellation of American. Alas, popularity never last forever. That’s been true for every #1 juggernaut from the start of TV history. Phenomenal hits like, I Love Lucy, M.A.S.H, The Cosby Show, Friends, etc., all had to come to an end eventually. But Idol had a longer & more successful run than any of them. It created more superstars than any of its imitators, or predecessors. And almost single handedly, it revived a then struggling music industry.
    If the time has come to end the show, then so be it. But its accomplishments & its legacy will never end. Job well done & good luck to all who’ve ever been a part of this historic journey. There will never be another “Moment Like This.”
    …”Karen, dim the lights.”

    • Riana says:

      It’s Kieran

    • voice heard says:

      Harry Connick brought the show to nought. To each person there…to each one who builds the show. Too very bad
      Now it will end…thanks for all your head “knowledge”. Too bad you did not have a heart….cause knowing stuff and not enabled wIth ability oneself was most evident and now we all will not have American Idol. Thanks, great job, not.

  29. bos4ny3 says:

    Part of the problem – and the primary thing that drove me away – was that they stopped being “super-talented waitresses, farm girls and high-school students “. They were professional performers who just hadn’t been “discovered” yet. That was what ruined it for me.

  30. Riana says:

    Season 11 was where it started going downhill between the endless praise of Joshua Ledet and Phillip Phillips winning, creating five straight white (mostly but Scotty’s Hispanic didn’t show) males, most people were over it. They should have rigged the votes to create more diverisity.

    • Jenna says:

      Did you watch Season 12? Producers were all about a female winner. And the awful, awful lack of male talent was not any random occurrence.

    • The Beach says:

      There were a ridiculous number of standing ovations that season.

    • GH says:

      Phillip Phillips became the most successful winner to come from any TV singing show competition since 2012. He also gave Idol its biggest selling song.

  31. RTW says:

    I get that Idol was slowly hemorrhaging viewers after Season 7, but in my opinion Season 10 marked the absolute turning point toward a downhill trend. I went into 10 feeling excited with this new judging panel, but left with a very, very nasty taste in my mouth. True, Season 9 was a new low for Idol (hey, it happens!), but 10 should’ve been the recovery.

    I think it was top 10 week when I realized the judges had nothing but platitudes; unable to articulate anything or be sincere…basically it felt like an unsupervised recess. Then I began to think the judges were just puppets on the producer’s strings and my disappointments, specifically with Randy and JLO, turned to a form of anger I never thought I’d experience from a reality show. I remember reading how Uncle Nigel said Idol was going to be more encouraging or go in a more supportive direction or something like that, but in the end it felt manipulative with the pimping of certain contestants – an experience I never wanted to go through again! I continued to watch the following seasons from time to time, but I was never as invested as the camera cutaways continued to focus on the judges and not the contestants. Nails, nails in the coffin!

    Anyways, I’ve loved Idol for a long time. To me, it was the epitome of what the American Dream could be to those who wanted it bad enough. But the magic’s gone now.

  32. Dan says:

    not a big idol fan but how about doing idol once every four years like the Olympics, thus letting talent pool grow a little. Also they could use the build up a few months ahead of time when announcing new judges who only have to give up one year of their time. New judges every installment

    • girl_3 says:

      I like this idea. It’s not like there’ll never be openings in the schedule with the way shows are canceled. More talent, and more anticipation.

  33. Terry says:

    It’s funny that you say part of idol’s downfall has been the detachment from the contestants because I actually stopped watching idol when I became way too attached to a particular contestant, namely Haley Reinhart in season 10. That was last season I watched after being a huge fan of the show for 10 years straight. I was so disgusted by the outcome of that season and so infuriated by the treatment she received that I never watched another episode. I know lots of people say “I’m never watching this bleeping show again” for various reasons and it’s usually just heat of the moment, but I really never did watch another episode. I was so angry at the time of the blatant manipulation of TPTB and just needed to take a break from the show but after not watching the next year I found that I didn’t miss it at all and never went back to it. I don’t think I’ll be tuning in for the final season either, unless I hear some of my favorites from seasons 1-10 are going to be on, we’ll see.

  34. Nancy Crawford says:

    I almost stopped watching when manage and Carey were judges. They were awful. Too much focus on stage settings, laser light shows, stupid interviews and poor song choices have helped keep people from watching. Harry Connick Jr. was the best thing that ever happened to the show. More qualified judges and mentors would have helped. It used to be a really good entertaining show. I hope they’ll breathe new life into it next year and hopefully save it. It’s become an American tradition. Get to work xFox.

    • Susan says:

      Harry Connick Jr. is a buzzkill that’s paid to say what the producers tell him to say for a million or so bucks.

      • voice heard says:

        Harry Connick brought the show to nought. To each person there…to each one who builds the show. Too very bad
        Now it will end…thanks for all your head “knowledge”. Too bad you did not have a heart….cause knowing stuff and not enabled wIth ability oneself was most evident and now we all will not have American Idol. Thanks, great job, not.

    • voice heard says:

      Harry Connick brought the show to nought. To each person there…to each one who builds the show. Too very bad
      Now it will end…thanks for all your head “knowledge”. Too bad you did not have a heart….cause knowing stuff and not enabled wIth ability oneself was most evident and now we all will not have American Idol. Thanks, great job, not.

  35. Dylan Gold says:

    All of the issues listed here are probably part of the problem. But I see a bigger problem that no one else does. When Idol came on the air we were still in an era of “big voices” being the big news on the charts. The vocal fireworks that made a show like idol fun to watch no longer has much to do with what’s actually popular at the moment. Yes, someone like Joey Cook will do alright on the show for a while– and we may (or may not) love her– but the show was built on big voices. The glory note isn’t what’s selling at the moment (aside from performers who are STILL popular from when that kind of singing was what mattered).

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Interesting observation, Dylan Gold. Possibly the most “current” winner in recent years was Phillip Phillips – and I do NOT like that folk music sound. I didn’t like it the first time around back when JC was sitting next to me in homeroom in his sandals. I always liked a harder sound and I still miss those big voices and those screaming electric guitars. But that’s not what’s popular, now is it?

    • deedee says:

      Not sure I get your point. Idol winners have evolved over the years to reflect changes of the times. David Cook, while capable of a good glory note, was not all about vocal fireworks. Philip Philips, of course, was anything but a “big voice”. So, there’s no reason Idol couldn’t have produced current acts going forward.

  36. Lking says:

    I believe it’s a given that the outrageous millions paid to the judges was the main nail in the coffin. When they should have put the focus on the contestants, they continue yes to throw money at everything but them. Thus, this year there were few actual star mentors, guest stars, new songs, and Prifessor Harry. So they so obvioysly put the showboat on steroids and let it sink. I hope whoever wins this year gets a better deal than the last two. They have already made certain the interesting contestants won’t even tour. Another year will be redundant.

  37. JayNC says:

    The show is ending because it has simply run it’s course. Everything has a lifespan, including TV talent shows, and viewers are just moving on to other things. It lasted 15 years, an incredible run on TV, so we should be glad it lasted as long as it did.

  38. Ben says:

    Absolutely Michael. But I think number one was certainly the worst. I love idol, but the ‘voters save’ was an atrocious twist which reminded me that Idol is so focussed on the Voice, it forgot what it was. But the ‘lets get through 12 people in an hour’ episodes didn’t help either (perhaps more Fox’s doing than Per Blankens). Getting to know the contestants is what made the show great – I don’t feel any connection to them this year, and that is a real shame, because they are also a talented bunch.

  39. bj says:

    You forgot to mention that they’ve been putting too much emphasis on whether or not someone “looked” like a star or had a good back (sob) story, and not enough on their singing ability.

  40. karenb says:

    When Simon left the show the whole feel of AI changed. I remember the contestants nervously waiting to hear what Simon would say about their performances and how thrilled they were when he praised them. Now the judges read off of notes which are probably not even their own, but the opinions of the producers. No one is sitting on the edge of their seat to hear what the judges have to say. There is no suspense now.

    Back in the good old days, it seemed like the contestants were genuinely surprised when they were called safe. Today it seems like the contestants already know the scoop ahead of time. Again, no suspense.

    I loved voting over the years. It made me feel more engaged in the show. I so enjoyed watching my horse of that particular season progress through the competition. Now there are so many different ways to vote, with limitations on how many votes can be cast, and then extended hours/days of voting that only confuse people.So I feel disconnected to the show now. Now we add no passion to no suspense.

    To me S7 and S8 were the best. The picture above of Kris, Adam and Ryan brings back warm memories. And where would we be today without the Scream of Danny Gokey references (and Kristen with Glasses!) ??

    All that being said, I will miss Idol, Slezak and Ryan like crazy.

    • Ronnie says:

      Remember the time Paula started reading her notes and critiquing the contestants second song when he hadn’t even performed it yet?

    • KarenB You said you would miss Slezak, but isnt he still going to do reality check for the voice?

    • deedee says:

      I agree with everything you said, karenb. Simon added so much to the show. Everybody – viewers and contestants alike – waited to hear what he thought. It was a challenge to get Simon to give a positive critique. Once he left, that vital element disappeared and made the show less interesting.
      Results used to be cruel fun. Ryan was a master of torturing the contestants and creating suspense and drama. That, too, has been stripped away. Now, it’s all so perfunctory. How can we care if the production doesn’t even care?
      I loved when the contestants were in a “bubble” rather than everywhere on social media. Jax has engaged with all the commenters on her youtubes – *groan*. Something is lost when they make themselves so accessible, pandering for votes all over cyberCreation. It was a different feel when they were only focused on performances rather than making themselves twitter or facebook darlings. But that’s probably just me.

      *sigh* I’ll truly miss this show and all the Idoloonies who’ve been as passionate about it as I’ve been. No other show has captured me like this, and I don’t expect another one to come along any time soon. I agree with Michael — the show had a few good seasons left in it, but tptb messed it up by neglecting its soul. :-(

      • karenb says:

        No you’re not the only one deedee. The social media aspect is a bit annoying. I refuse to open a Facebook account (gasp! I’m one of those without a Facebook account!) just to vote. I remember in S7, Jason Castro’s fans had to wait to hear cryptic updates from a friend of his on what was going on with him. In those days things seemed to be top secret. I guess I’m a bit old school, but those days were more exciting. To me anyway. There’s something to be said for tmi. People are every where, all of the time. It gets kind of exhausting. Ok I’m done with my rant now.

  41. Bring back Simon, Paula and Randy for the last season. Started going downhill after they left.

  42. Ronnie says:

    Old Yeller spoilers! (yes, I’m kidding)

  43. Katie Killjoy says:

    They’re paying JLo 17 mmillion and Seacrest 15 million for this season alone.
    What kind of rich, stingy a-holes must those two be that they can’t even settle for lower wages if it enchances the show for the rest of viewers?
    What a disgusting amount of money for a show that doesn’t even have good ratings

    • Terry says:

      Knowing that JLow gets paid that much to do what she does on the show, i.e. promote herself, is what made the show unbearable for me to watch. Especially with the camera cutting away to her every 30 seconds. Ugh! I really wish she wasn’t going to be on the final season, I was considering watching for old times sake but I just can’t with her.

  44. Lemon says:

    I love the show, and will always follow it….but it was time. I’m one of the many “cord cutters” who just watch the free, available clips of performances on Youtube, etc… I simply have no interest in regular network TV, and if there’s an exception, it can usually be watched on the network’s website or Netflix…etc… at some point.

    Season 9 was the tipping point for me. The loss of Alex Lambert and Katelyn Epperly. Cranky, disengaged, “phoning it in” Simon. Annoying, “loved the sound of her own voice” Kara. Miscast Ellen. And once Simon left….the show just changed. It was something else. Still entertaining, but not the same. IMO, that’s when it started to circle the drain. Fox’s decision to stuff the show into one night was the final straw. I blame that decision for the lack of “moments,” which are essentially theatre combined with compelling vocals. “Moments” require rehearsal time, focus, and a mindset that is difficult to achieve when so many other things are there to distract.

    This season is just a bore for many of us. The top 3 all seem to lack charisma and the it factor. Maybe that will change once they’re out of the Idol world…who knows. But it was time.

    • Some Dude says:

      I’m a cord-cutter, too, though I do have a $60 digital antenna that can pick up the network channels in HD, though I still end up usually watching the show through Hulu, for which I do pay $6/month, but at least you end up watching fewer commercials that way (and I watch it on my TV).

  45. girl_3 says:

    Michael, I think I will miss you writing about Idol more than Idol itself. I actually read your recaps of other shows I don’t watch because of how much I enjoy your writing style, but your body of work writing about Idol is nothing short of genius. More often than not, my husband or I would make an observation about the previous night’s show, only to find you echoing the same sentiment the next morning. I didn’t always agree with you (always thought you were a bit hard on Casey J. in Season 9 though I suspect you would have been okay with a Crystal/Casey finale if BOW-ER-SOX got the confetti shower, which she absolutely deserved), but quite often I was right there with you.

    Thank you for validating my (in)sanity since Season 4. Thank you for “gospel hands” and “swaybots”, now both part of my regular vocabulary. Thank you for remembering talented contestants eliminated too soon. Mostly, thank you for loving this crazy show and pouring your heart out online every week.

    P.S. – Any chance of getting Annie Barrett and Kristin Baldwin (with or without glasses, I don’t care) to freelance with you one last time in next year’s Reality Check? Love your shows with Melinda, but the more the merrier I say!

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Yes, thank you for writing Mr. Slezak was hard on Casey James. The judges were also hard on him but he’s ended up number 3 and his CD is wonderful. What a talent.

      • girl_3 says:

        I think it irritated me that Michael seemed to buy into the “Casey was only there because Kara lusted after him” train of thought, but he is doing well for himself so I can’t complain. I did forgive Michael the following year when he championed Haley. Can’t hold a grudge against him ;-)

  46. Eurydice says:

    Sure, both cheap and lazy. Like slapping coats of paint on a house that needs major rehab. The show has been looking progressively shabby in recent years and it seems like the contestants have been left to fend for themselves. I mean, we’re told that there’s some kind of mentoring going on, but it’s not evident on the screen. I was struck by simething

  47. Moonchild says:

    Excellent piece. I think Mr. Slezak needs to be an executive producer for the farewell season.

  48. Laura says:

    I have heard better singers at my karaoke hangout -seriously. Besides Kelly and Carrie, the others were mediocre at best.

    • OhMy says:

      I don’t think they were the only good singers, but many, many were mediocre.

    • Laura have you heard Adam Lambert sing. You were just listening perhaps to Carrie and Kelly. You are blatantly wrong. I was a fan of Carrie until she changed her face, so I voted for her the whole night, I was a contributory to her winning the Idol. But I am no longer her fan today, because she was not anymore, the carrie I voted for. Before you hurled your comments in the internet, you should watch everyone who watched the American Idol, and then, that is when you compare. I am a fan of Adam Lambert since season 8 up to this writing because he is good person, even if he is gay. He has an octave that I haven’t heard from anyone yet. I like Clark Beckham, I am praying for him to become the 2015 American Idol. His singing is similar to Adam Lambert. By the way, Carrie Underwood missed up her singing during the football national anthem in 2013. Her voice is only cultured and rehearsed not a genuine gift of voice like Adam Lambert and Clark Beckham. Do not tell me that Jax is good a singer, because she is only rehearsed and not really a good quality vocal. Nick Fradiani, have been singing rock songs all the way, how can you vote for him? He never changed his style. If Simon Cowell was still the judge he had been out long time, since the start.

      • Mary says:

        I don’t even know how you can say Clark is like Adam. Adam had stage presence something Clark is lacking. Adam never had bump notes like Clark does. Before you hurled your comments maybe you should practice what you preach. You might not care for Carrie now, but to insinuate that she doesn’t have a natural gift for singing shows how little you know. Clark hasn’t changed his style one bit since day one so who are you to judge if someone likes Nick. The old saying different strokes for different folks.
        If throwback music is your thing fine, but don’t knock others because they find someone else more appealing.

  49. I think the last couple of seasons I’ve only paid attention to AI was so I could understand your wonderful sense of humor, Michael. I started reading your recaps back when I became a dreadhead ;) So, I’m looking forward to this one last hurrah!

  50. Kevin in Raleigh NC says:

    I have been a fan of American Idol since Day 1. Especially while all of North Carolina’s many talented contestants made their runs. From Clay Aiken to Caleb Johnson, I was glued to the TV. However, this year, I had to give it up. The (in my opinion) lack of overall talent and messed up format changes finally turned me away. I’m sad and disappointed to see it leave, but I hope it will go out with a true superstar bang, not another fizzled out bust.