We were hesitant to jump on board the “‘American Idol‘ is a sinking ship” bandwagon a few weeks ago, if for no other reason than that there was no real reason to actually believe the show was in real trouble. Even though the numbers were down, it was still easy the top show on TV and looked like it probably would be all season. Plus, there was the standard excuse that most shows are always down compared to the year before.
Then, a little show called “The Voice” came around. Even if you take away the bloated post-Super Bowl premiere, the numbers for Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, and company are actually rising above “Idol.” This past week, “The Voice” scored a whopping 6.0 rating in the all-important 18-49 demographic for its two hour episode Monday — meanwhile, the two-hour “Idol” on Wednesday drew a 5.1. What was even worse for “Idol” was that Thursday’s hour-long installment scored only a 4.4 rating, and if you average the three hours of this show out it is behind “The Voice” both in total viewers in addition to the demo (and this one is by a wide margin).
So why is “Idol” plummeting while the newcomer is faring so well? There’s really a few simple reasons for it.
1. Age and familiarity
“American Idol” is an old show at this point. It’s a natural tendency for viewers to take advantage of something when it has been around for so long, and eventually these sort of things tend to fall out of conversation since they are not particularly new or exciting. Outside of Heejun Han and Steven Tyler taking his clothes off, what is there to talk about?
Meanwhile, “The Voice,” despite being on last year, still feels like a shiny new car. You have four artists as judges who are extremely relevant and making top radio hits to this day, and they all have a fun rapport with each where there is obviously a feel of competition, but also a sense of love and understanding. (Meanwhile, the “Idol” panel is largely just a procedure in shouting out soundbytes.)
When the ratings were up last season for “Idol,” much of the reason for it had solely to do with the presence of new faces (including Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez), some format twists (Jimmy Iovine), and a show desperate to prove something without Simon Cowell. What do they have to prove now?
2. The talent pool
For the second straight season, “Idol” is dipping into the “America’s Got Talent” pool for a contestant (this time in Jessica Sanchez) — and earlier this season they took on seasoned musician Jane Carrey even if she didn’t make it far. While they claim to find “undiscovered talent,” the lack of it out there shows why they are having to resort to breaking their own mantra. In this day and age, having a record deal is not the only way for you to have major experience. In addition to these facts, look at how much “Idol” is dipping into its own past — of the top 24 this season, a quarter of them have auditioned for the show before.
We certainly have no problem with a show using familiar faces, but we much prefer it when they actually own up to doing so. The reason “The Voice” works so well is because we see singers who are on the cusp of stardom and have been looking to make the leap for some time, and the show knows how to promote them and get excited to see what they do. By and large, the talent is better on NBC this year — and it’s certainly more diverse than the top 12 woman on “Idol,” which contain no African-American singers, three country singers, and at least seven or eight singers who are fairly indistinguishable from each other in appearance. (At least the men on “Idol” have a little bit more variety — and we think this could help a man win this season yet again.)
3. We’re all getting tired of singing
In between “Idol,” “The Voice,” “The Sing-Off,” “The X Factor,” and “America’s Got Talent,” 48 out of the 52 weeks of the year contain some sort of singing show. At a certain point, this just gets boring — especially when “The X Factor” contained two former “Idol” judges and many other similarities.
We know that some out there are going to just say “well ‘The Voice’ is actually up this season,” and here’s why it is able to do well — the changes that are there are substantial. The audition rounds have a nice twist, and we really see the power places into the artists’ hands early rather than just being put at the mercy of the judges right away. However, once we get to the live shows later this spring we think there could be some trouble on the creativity front. Even if there is a fancy stage and some interesting song choices, “The Voice” live shows are pretty much the same as any other out there.
Do you think “Idol” needs a major revamp over the summer to turn things around?