"American Idol" is dead to me.
I don't mean that in some vindictive way; truth be told, I haven't really cared enough to be outraged since probably 2009, when Kris Allen defeated Adam Lambert in a polarizing finale before disappearing from the face of the earth. And I'm not saying it out of frustration, either ... at this point, I've gotten used to the ill-advised shakeups at the judges' table, ridiculous "feuds," questionable Top 10s, and underwhelming champions that have sadly become this show's recurring themes.
I'm not bored by "Idol," or saddened by what it's turned into, or even really mad at this year's winner. All of those things would require me to have some sort of emotional connection to the show, and, quite frankly, my feelings for it rival those of the goldfish I won when I was 8. When that goldfish died, we flushed it down the toilet. Now, I'm flushing "American Idol."
It was probably inevitable; after all "Idol" has basically been on life support since Simon Cowell packed up his cashmere sweaters in 2010. Its viewership has been in a steady decline, and those still watching have gotten older and more conservative. This season's re-shuffling of the panel — adding Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey and Keith Urban — was a last-ditch effort by producers to stem the tide, to somehow inject some youth and relevance into the flagging show.
It didn't work, and now "Idol" gets beaten in the ratings by the younger, hipper "The Voice" and viewers kept around guys like Lazaro Arbos while voting off promising talent like Amber Holcomb and Angie Miller (and Burnell!) That left us with a finale that pitted Kree Harrison against Candice Glover, both talented singers, to be sure, but both undeniably, unspeakably bland, too. I wouldn't exactly call this latest bold reinvention a success ... instead; it gave us more of the same.
And, ultimately, that's why I have to say goodbye to the show. As I slogged through season 12, it dawned on me that "American Idol" is beyond repair ... no matter who the producers stick behind the Coke cups, they can't change the minds (or the ages) of those viewers. They're the ones who decide who survives each week, the ones who routinely vote for the boring and the beefy-chested, the ones who have turned the show into a shell of its former self. So, really, they're to blame for "Idol's" demise. It's the one problem Nigel Lythgoe and Co. just can't seem to fix, probably because it's impossible: You can only shake something up so many times before you realize the rattling inside means it's just broken.
Make no mistake about it; the "Idol" braintrust will certainly opt to perform yet another life-saving surgery for season 13: they will bring in more superstar judges, will try to capture lightning in a bottle once again. And they will fail. Luckily, I won't be there to witness the show's final demise. After a dozen seasons — some of them genuinely revelatory, and most of them thoroughly entertaining — I'm saying goodbye. I can no longer believe that this show can reclaim its old magic, can produce another superstar, no matter how hard I want to.
Is that sad? Maybe. Was it a foregone conclusion? Absolutely. "American Idol" was once a great show, a successful, important one, but it could not be saved from the whims of its viewers. "American Idol" is dead, to me, at least. Long live "American Idol."
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