Lately, we’ve heard plenty of ex- "American Idol" viewers complain that the 10-year-old singing competition show has jumped the shark. Today, we're hearing that same sentiment from a distinguished “American Idol" alumna. Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson recently suggested to Celebuzz.com that “Idol” should consider bringing down the final curtain.
“Everything has its time," Celebuzz quotes Hudson as saying. "I think [‘Idol’] should just allow itself to go out on top… and gracefully." While it may be shocking to hear Hudson call for an end to the show that first brought her to national prominence, she’s not alone in suggesting that "American Idol’s" best days are behind it. Though it remains a hit show, “Idol” has been hemorrhaging viewers; ratings for last week’s premiere episode were 19% lower than the 2012 premiere, continuing its trend of year-to-year ratings drops. And “Idol” ended last season by losing its longtime title as TV’s #1 show to NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”
As if the ratings situation weren't troubling enough, "American Idol" has been rather light on the "idols" lately. While last season’s winner, Phillip Phillips, is having a promising debut with his album, “The World From the Side of the Moon,” it’s way too soon to tell whether he’s the next “Idol” superstar à la Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, or the next “Idol” disappointment à la Taylor Hicks and Lee DeWyze. In fact, it's been at least five years since any "Idol" winner or contestant has made a lasting impact on the music scene.
This week's Presidential inauguration festivities gave us at HLN’s Showbiz Tonight a stark reminder of how far "Idol" has fallen. As we watched Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson sing before President Obama in front of a national audience, we asked ourselves an interesting question: what are the odds of us seeing any recent "American Idol" contestant get such a prime role at a future inauguration? Our answer: about the same as us seeing Scotty McCreery serenade President Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2017. When you consider “Idol’s” superstar drought, Hudson’s "end ‘Idol’ gracefully” suggestion starts to make sense. After all, what's the point of a national talent show if it doesn't turn out any real talent?
At this point, after years of declining ratings, middling talent, and multiple changes at the judge's table, predictions of "Idol's" demise are starting to sound like a broken William Hung record. But this season, we're seeing what may be the final sign that it’s time to put “Idol” out to pasture: namely, the feud between new “Idol” judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. For weeks, Hollywood’s been buzzing with reports that these two stars don't get along (Mariah’s even accused Nicki of threatening to shoot her during an on-set argument. Nicki says that’s not true). Granted, "American Idol's" producers probably can’t do much about the Mariah vs. Nicki feud; managing a pair of indulged, multi-millionaire egomaniacs does present a daunting HR challenge. But while they can’t control that feud, "Idol's" producers can control their response to it, and what they’ve opted for is a gleeful, "let's-milk-this-for-all-it's worth" strategy that represents the worst of reality TV. This week, a commercial for "American Idol" promoted the Nicki-Mariah feud as if it were a WWE wrestling match: "Witness the moment it all went down!" intones a breathless announcer, followed by a shot of an angry Nicki storming off the set. All that was missing was the sound of a bell and Michael Buffer’s "LET’S GET READY TO RUMMMBBLE!!!”
So forget about slumping ratings or a dry spell in platinum-selling contestants; "Idol’s" degeneration into a musical version of "Basketball Wives" is a crushing low point for what was once the gold standard in reality TV. And if those are the kind of antics "American Idol" must now resort to, maybe it is time for “Idol” to take Jennifer Hudson's advice and bow out gracefully. Problem is, it may already be too late for the "gracefully" part