By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jan 19, 2011 at 1:01 PM

I've been writing about "American Idol" since the show launched as a summer replacement show back in 2002.

It wasn't a blockbuster at first, but grew over the seasons to become an anomaly in modern television: a show that united younger and older viewers, pulling in not only big numbers -- like ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" -- but younger demographics that made it especially attractive to advertisers.

One of its two weekly installments has been No. 1 for the season every year since 2004. That's an amazing record.

But the audience has been declining over the past few seasons., and with the launch of the 10th season tonight at 7 on Channel 6, all signs point to the show dipping out of first.

The show's not dead. It has too much gas simply to go away.

But I can't see how it can thrive following the departure of Simon Cowell, who's putting together his own talent competition, "X Factor," for Fox this fall.

Record exec Cowell was the meat of the show. His honesty is rare in TV (and while he was sometimes over the top, he knew what made a pop star). Over the years, I've heard from countless viewers complaining about how the best singers didn't win the singing competition.

The fact is that this isn't a search for the best singer. It is a popularity contest, since it's all about who gets the most votes. And from the judge's point of view, the search is for the most marketable singer.

That's what pop music is all about; it's show business with an accent on the word business.

I've previewed some of the auditions that start airing tonight. Milwaukee's first "Idol" auditions" won't air until Jan. 26, but some of them were included in Fox's screener and the acts are pretty much what we've seen over the years.

What I was watching for was the interplay of the new team of judges, led by veteran Randy Jackson and featuring Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. Based on the sample I saw, Tyler's the funny guy, Lopez is the sensitive one and Randy Jackson is, well, Randy Jackson.

They seemed to lack disagreement or tension. Another bad sign. There's talk of this being a kinder, gentler, "Idol." Sorry, but kinder and gentler = boring.

Things may develop differently as the season unfolds. A surprising talent could emerge, or the chemistry between the judges could end up being more entertaining than the first few snippets. 

But I think it's safe to say that "American Idol" isn't what it was.

Planning for the big game: Channel 6 is doing some schedule shuffling in preparing for Sunday's big Packers-Bears NFC Championship game. A pre-game special will air at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, and a post-game show is planed for (roughly) 5:30 until 7 p.m.

That means episodes of "The Simpsons" and "American Dad," originally scheduled to run from 6 to 7 p.m., will start at 11:05 p.m. Sunday. The normal schedule should resume by 7.

On TV: Check out my OnMilwaukee.comrade Andrew Wagner talking Packers-Bears on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" today at 2 p.m.

  • NBC has pulled "Law & Order: Los Angeles" off its schedule, meaning "Parenthood," which was supposed to take a month off in March, will stay where it is.
  • The first night of Piers Morgan's new CNN show brought in nearly 2.1 million viewers, second to Fox News' 2.4 million for Sean Hannity's interview with Sarah Palin, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers. It's twice the average for Larry King's old show, but, of course, the premiere was heavily hyped.
  • As long as we're talking ratings, Sunday's series finale of Miley Cyrus' "Hannah Montana" brought in the Disney Channel's biggest audience ever: 6.2 million.
  • Syfy has ordered a fourth season of "Sanctuary." The 13-episode season will air in the fall.

Pass the relish tray: Filmmaker Ron Faiola, who brought us the appetizing "Fish Fry Night Milwaukee," has been turning his attention to another Dairyland culinary institution in his new "Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience."

The new documentary is in post-production, but Faiola is still trying to raise money to get it finished.

Here's a sample:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.