As we all know, American Idol has been a huge ratings hit for Fox, and they're not about to let that slip away. The producers of the show are in the process of making a few changes to make the show more appealing to the masses. This latest move is in response to the ratings for the season 3 finale. For most shows, being watched by 28 million people would be phenomenal, but for American Idol, it represents a significant drop from the 38 million who watched the season 2 finale.
The first (and most important) change is that the best part of the show has been expanded an additional week for a grand total of three glorious weeks. Of course, I'm talking about the recaps of the worst singers in the competition. Let's face it, once the competition heads into the finals, things really get dull and boring, so another week of terrible singers is a great idea. You can bet that with the tremendous success of William Hung, quite a few lousy singers will try to follow in his footsteps. In addition, the semi-finals will be only three weeks long instead of the usual five. Personally, I have always found the semi-finals much more interesting than the finals. I would rather see the awkward, tedious finals shortened. The number of semi-finalists will be 24 instead of 32 (and it will be an even split of men and women), and the finals will have 12 people (also an even split of men and women).
The other interesting development is that the maximum age for contestants has been raised by three years. In previous seasons, only contestants under age 25 were eligible to audition; this year, anyone under age 28 is eligible. (As you may recall, last season Matt Rogers auditioned just before he turned 25, so by the time he was in the finals, he had turned 25, which confused people who thought he was too old to qualify.) The minimum age will remain at 16, which means the next John Stevens and Diana DeGarmo should continue to polish their singing chops.
Also of interest is the fact that the celebrity judges will be essentially absent from the finals, but will show up more towards the audition phase. I think that's a great idea. Not only will that give the usual three judges a fresh new set of eyes and ears, but it will also do away with the awkward shows where the celebrity judges can't bring themselves to tell the finalists that they screwed up. The only celebrity judge who really stood out in my mind was Quentin Tarantino. He didn't always go easy on the singers, but he had the guts to say what the other judges didn't. It's easy to throw praise at a finalist, but I'll be interested to see how the celeb judges react to the auditions.
So what's not changing this year? Well, that infernal phone voting system, with its plentiful supply of busy signals, is staying right where it is. And Ryan Seacrest will still be flying solo as the host.
Season #4 of American Idol starts January 18.
Source: Reality Blurred