It’s the end of an era at Fox: American Idol, the network’s once-impregnable reality competition, will end in 2016. The move comes as no surprise, given Idol’s dramatic ratings decline over its 14 seasons. In a display of faux-mercy similar to those granted to tone-deaf Idol hopefuls in the audition rounds, Fox is allowing Idol a final 15th season to show that’s it’s really, really good, it just got super-nervous with all the pressure and can do a much better job with a Katy Perry song.
Idol was once known as “the Death Star” in television industry circles, because its massive success meant any show scheduled against it was marked for death. The show hit a ratings low this season with just under 12 million viewers, which doesn’t sound bad until you consider its fifth season finale brought in three times that audience. The show’s ratings peaked when gray-haired oddball Taylor Hicks was crowned the winner only to essentially disappear from view, undermining the show’s reputation as a sure-fire launchpad to a successful singing career. Idol was also done in by its imitators: After years of failed attempts to duplicate the Idol formula, ABC finally made headway with Dancing With The Stars, as did NBC with The Voice, both of which pulled in enough viewers to eclipse the weakened Idol.
Idol’s current judging panel of Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr. will carry the show through its final season, scheduled to debut early next year. Fox executives said the final season will pay homage to seasons past, so expect appearances from such Idol royalty as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Hudson, as well as the conspicuous absence of Hicks. And a final season of Idol would be incomplete without an appearance from founding judge Simon Cowell, who judged Simon Fuller’s U.K. version of the show, Pop Idol, prior to joining its American counterpart. With any luck, an unusually sentimental Cowell will compare someone’s performance to “that moment at the end of a party where someone gets drunk and starts singing bad karaoke,” putting him at odds with former colleagues Paula “You Have An Inner Glow That Lights Up The World” Abdul and Randy “It Was Just Alright For Me Dawg, Kinda Pitchy All Over The Place” Jackson.