The countdown to selecting the final “American Idol” has started. Over the next few weeks, final eliminations will be held and the 15th winner will join the list that includes Nick Fradiani, Phillip Phillips, Taylor Hicks, Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson.
Ryan Seacrest is the only member still on the show of the original team of judges and hosts when “American Idol” debuted in 2002. Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul have been replaced by Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban at the judges desk.
Seacrest knew long before Clarkson was crowned that “American Idol” was more than just another entry in the booming world of reality television at that time.
“I think we knew midway through, not even midway, a fraction into the first season that it was resonating because we were getting feedback,” Seacrest says. “And, then, when we went out to do the auditions for the second season and we walked through airports and we went to dinners and went to a mall in different cities and you could see that fathers and sons and daughters and mothers, families, were watching the show. I think that’s when we realized this was having a significant impact, not just on an audience, but on a family audience.”
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The ratings for the first season of “American Idol” were good but not great. It averaged a 6.2 rating and 12.7 million viewers. That number grew until hitting a peak in Season 5 with a 12.6 rating and 28.4 million viewers.
Since then, the ratings have tumbled and hit a low of a 1.6 rating (7.7 million viewers) for the finale of the 14th season. The series, which had become a national sensation, was only the third-highest rated show among the networks that night.
The ratings are better this season, partially sparked by the finale year. Seacrest, who has gone on to be a busy producer since the start of his “Idol” days, isn’t sure if this is the right time to end or not.
“The network has been extremely supportive of this brand and franchise throughout the years. You know, it’s been such a blessing to have such great partners as Fox throughout all of these years,” Seacrest says. “The numbers look great this season. They look really good.”
I think that we are all pleased that people are watching and some are coming back to watch this show who maybe didn’t watch the show the last couple of years. So when you’ve got a franchise that has this kind of heritage and you’ve got a franchise that generates X amount of millions of people if it sustains, does that mean it’s the end? I’m not so sure.
Those who are putting together the final season say they aren’t looking at what led to the decision to end the show, or what life will be like after the final “Idol” is selected. The focus right now is producing the best final season possible.
Quite a few of the former “American Idol” contestants and winners will be back during the year to help this last batch of contestants. Clarkson is scheduled as a guest judge on the first live Top 10 show on Feb. 25.
This week, on the Thursday, Feb. 11show, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Caleb Johnson and Nick Fradiani will mentor and perform a duet with the 12 semifinalists. Then on Thursday, Feb. 18, Constantine Maroulis, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and Haley Reinhart return to perform duets with the second group of semifinalists.
Producers are not making any promises about who will be back for this final season, explaining that there are logistical and scheduling facts that might keep a few former “Idol” participants away. It wouldn’t be a proper send-off without Cowell, the man who gave “Idol” its brutal honesty that attracted so many fans.
Seacrest has talked with Cowell and seems confident that all of the original judges will make an appearance.
- 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays on Fox (KMPH, Channel 26.1)