Finally putting the rumors and speculation to rest, ABC announced that it has reached a deal to bring Idol back perhaps as soon as March 2018. As always, my primary interest in this development is about the business of Idol as a zero-to-hero star-making vehicle. Its entertainment value to me is based on how good they are at this business. And that’s why my initial reaction – subject to change, of course – is that this move has a whiff of desperation.
To understand why, let’s look at this from ABC’s perspective. Even in its lowest rated year, Idol would be equal or better than Dancing With The Stars as the second-highest rated ABC show behind The Bachelor. Remember that even when it was cancelled by Fox, Idol was still a Top 20 show.
Moreover, ABC has been desperate to air a successful reality singing show. Since 2002 when Idol aired as a summer show on Fox, their history in this field has been one long tragicomedy series:
- 2006 The One: Making a Music Star. Cancelled mid-competition after four weeks.
- 2007 The Next Best Thing, a competition dedicated to finding the world’s greatest celebrity impersonator. Yes, you read that correctly. An Elvis impersonator won which you likely would’ve guessed without watching the show. Which nobody did.
- 2008 High School Musical: Get in the Picture, a singing competition for a recording contract with Disney and a music video to be shown during the credits of the movie High School Musical 3: Senior Year. In their wisdom, ABC aired it against the Summer Olympics. Ooops.
- 2011 X Factor and The Voice are launched on Fox and NBC.
- 2012 Duets, which followed The Voice’s judge-centric model and got John Legend, Robin Thicke, Jennifer Nettles and Kelly Clarkson as mentors. It failed badly, anyway.
- 2014 Rising Star. Hosted by Josh Groban and included a panel of celebrity experts (Kesha, Ludacris and Brad Paisley) to influence some convoluted voting process. And nobody watched.
A proposal of “Please marry me because I’ve never been able to make it work out with anybody else” hardly makes ABC a worthy suitor. How good of a steward of the Idol franchise are they capable of being? And what about the idol of their affection? There are many questions to be answered as to how good a partner Idol will be:
- Is Kelly Ripa’s new Live with Kelly & Ryan co-host Ryan Seacrest part of the deal?
- Who will the judges be given that one of the reasons for Fox’s cancellation was the cost of the big-name judges?
- Will the show be judge-centric (like The Voice) or contestant-centric (like Idol was when it was at its best)?
- Most important, is this only about ABC buying ratings or will it also be about what Idol was best at – by a wide margin – discovering talent that becomes successful recording artists?
With a “final” season dominated, though not won by, the fabulous La’Porsha Renae who has graduated to commercial success, Idol came to a satisfying end for me. So, short of Adam Lambert being named one of the judges, this Muser will await more meaningful material to muse on before making up my mind how much this matters for me.
 See how I did that?
 Yes, the chemistry between Ryan, Randy, Paula, and Simon was a massive contributor to the entertainment value and ratings but it didn’t detract from the fact that one (or more) of the contestants were on their way to becoming successful music artists.
 As you are able to ascertain, I adore alliteration.