FOX’s ratings juggernaut, American Idol, is heading into its ninth season. Almost from the beginning, people have been trying to figure out what makes the show so popular. Many believe that a key element is the judges with their very different personalities.
When Paula Abdul announced that she was leaving last year, some believed that her absence would cause viewership to tumble. Most don’t think it will have much of an impact — especially with popular Ellen DeGeneres set to take her place.
Most agree that Simon Cowell would be a much bigger loss and would potentially be a showkiller. We’ll get to see if that theory holds up because FOX and Cowell have now announced that this will be his last season on the show.
The cranky judge will be leaving Idol to launch an American version of his popular UK talent series, The X Factor. The British version is similar to Idol except that participants can be 14 years and up. Finalists are split into groups and mentored by one of the judges.
The two series will both be on FOX and will air at different times of the year so they won’t be in direct competition. X Factor is expected to start next fall and Idol will stay in its traditional mid-season spot. (So You Think You Can Dance will return to the summer schedule after an unimpressive trial run last fall.)
Cowell said that FOX execs tried to find a way so that he could do both Idol and X Factor but, because he’s also committed to the UK’s X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, it just wasn’t possible.
It’s possible that Cowell’s fellow judges from the British X Factor, Louis Walsh and Cheryl Cole, may be invited to join him in the states. There’s also a strong possibility that Abdul may join the team as well.
Of Abdul, Cowell said, “I adore Paula, and whatever happens, I will be working with her in some capacity because I miss her.” Abdul twittered a message that seemed to indicate that talks were going on behind the scenes. She wrote, “Hey Guys! I’m not ignoring all of your tweets regarding me, X Factor and Simon leaving AI. I look forward to being able to answer all your questions very soon!’
Idol host Ryan Seacrest and judges Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi were publicly supportive of Cowell’s move. DeGeneres joked, “He announced he’s leaving on my first day. I’m trying not to take it personally. He wanted a change and I wish him all the luck in the world hosting The Tonight Show.
All joking aside, the question remains how much of an impact will Cowell’s departure have on Idol? While the reality show is still very popular, the ratings have dropped over the past couple years. Will this latest shakeup cause the audience to erode further and faster?
What do you think? Will Cowell leaving hurt or even kill American Idol? Will X Factor succeed? Can they both succeed or will it be too much?