American Idol ratings are down? Say it ain’t so, Ryan? Seacrest, Perry, Lopez, Jackson?? Anyone?
Oh there are going to be about six million people who have a theory as to why American Idol ratings are down this year. In fact, there are probably more people with theories than those people who actually watched during the first week of American Idol in 2011. Most of the American Idol ratings theories will consist of one topic. Simon Cowell. Sure, it’s a huge loss for the show not to have the ultimate critic on the show. But did Simon Cowell define the show? Or are the early American Idol 2011 ratings slipping for a different reason? According to EW.com, the ratings dropped 13 percent from the season opener last season.
There’s no doubt the loss of judge Simon Cowell serves as a certain blow to the American Idol brand. Just like people go to stock car races to see wrecks, they probably did tune in to American Idol to see people fail. And the perfect person to point out that failure is no longer a part of the show. Simon Cowell was beyond cruel at some points. And I hate to say it, but some people genuinely feel better about their own personal lives or singing abilities when they watch a guy like Simon Cowell relentlessly slam the hopes of a contestant. Call it a car or train wreck–but it was pretty visual, vocal and always loaded with plenty of Simonism’s. His cliches are gone. His tight shirts are also gone. His sparring with host Ryan Seacrest is gone. No longer will a judge probably flirt with another judge through put downs. Let’s just say the negative vibe has disappeared from American Idol in 2011.
But my theory goes beyond the loss of Simon Cowell. My theory also goes beyond the trending downward spiral of the ratings for American Idol. I have two theories why this season of American Idol has seen a drop.
First, I would say the talent pool chosen during last season wasn’t very exciting. Call me crazy, but I didn’t think Lee Dewyze or Crystal Bowersox offered enough to pull American Idol in a positive direction entering this season. Some critics have called the talent pool from last season the worst by far in terms of American Idol standards. Let’s just say the most interesting people were voted off earlier in favor of some very bland personalities. This isn’t saying that the finalists couldn’t sing or don’t belong on a record label–but they weren’t as interesting as Adam Lambert, Kris Allen or even David Archuleta. I think the downward spiral was well in effect well before Simon Cowell signaled the end of his error. So needless to say, there wasn’t much enthusiasm heading into a show that kind of appears to have run its course. The show needed rejuvenation-whether it was the re-shifting of the judge panel or a different set of rules and themes to get it back on track. What do you expect from a show that hasn’t truly evolved over a decade long run? New ingredients are needed-and with that the possibility of a new audience. Whether that audience will be younger considering the younger ages of contestants or not remains to be seen. But something needed to change to alter the course of a show that was doing well but stagnant in terms of ratings.
Secondly, I believe the first few shows of American Idol have become kind of throw aways. If you are truly an American Idol fan, you probably can’t wait until the actual competition begins. The tryouts are fun and filled with interesting stories and people-but how long does it need to drag out before we tune in and see people who are truly talented? Let’s just say you could miss the first four weeks of American Idol and pick up without having missed much but good theater(and not music) along the way. I think that might explain the reason why the actual premiere wasn’t “must-see” TV.
These theories I believe are compelling reasons why American Idol didn’t do as well during the new premiere in 2011. I hate to give an extra ego boost to Simon Cowell but I believe his absence is certainly a reason why some viewers have tuned out. His rudeness made for great television but I truly believe the other reasons above are also valid as to why the slippage has occurred in 2011 so far.
What needs to happen to regain that ratings stronghold for American Idol? There needs to be more buzz about the show generated from the young fans via social media. And that’s going to happen inevitably throughout the course of the season. American Idol might not draw the huge ratings in the short term–but I think the process will once again draw a new group of fans and regain some old fans as word gets out about some of the antics from Steven Tyler(who has been the absolute life of the show so far).
Tyler was a very unpredictable variable coming into 2011 American Idol–but my gut feeling is that he’ll stick in a big way with his off the wall comments and unpredictable nature. I believe that the social buzz about Tyler will pick up steam quickly and help the ratings in the long term. The major negativity is gone and has been replaced by more positive reinforcement. Does that mean viewers who tuned in weekly for the epic car crash are gone forever?
My guess is those people will tune in to sample the show and get hooked on story lines along the way and get back involved in the show. Sure, people will complain that the absence of Simon Cowell is the biggest factor why the show is losing steam-but I think those people will once again enjoy the process whether Simon is on board or not.
The American Idol ratings decline might also be a sign of the show running its course. Will producers of the show continue to retool it until the ratings get back to where they once were? Or are those types of numbers only indicative of a show that has reached its own climax? Only time will tell if American Idol can regain the steam it once had. It is still a ratings winner so there is no need for FOX to push the panic button anytime soon. If the show continues to slip, look for huge changes in the next few years. Can you imagine the criticism of the addition of Tyler and Lopez at such huge salaries if the American Idol ratings continue to dip over the 2011 season?
I don’t think FOX, Tyler or Lopez have anything to worry about. Simon Cowell is gone but the process will still hook plenty of people and sponsors along the way regardless of the 2011 changes. I have a feeling the ratings will reflect an upward trend as the season progresses and people start to appreciate the new aura that Tyler and Lopez present to the show. The Simon factor will quickly be put in the past and America will have to wonder about bigger issues like-what happens when the contract of Ryan Seacrest is soon up?!!