OnMedia: The beginning of the end for "Idol"?
Nobody thinks that the ninth season of Fox's "American Idol," which launches at 7 tonight on Channel 6, will be the final run for the "reality" talent competition.
But there's a fair chance that the biggest TV show of the 21st century could be dislodged from its commanding spot atop the ratings.
A series of events, starting with the loss last season of viewers at the younger end of the viewing spectrum, has weakened the "Idol" juggernaut.
A key change this season is the departure of Paula Abdul from the panel of judges. Yes, the one-time pop star frequently seemed to be on the verge of an on-camera breakdown. That's what made her a great TV character.
Her replacement, Ellen DeGeneres, is a proven draw, and adds a professional comedian to the cast. But many viewers will miss the uncertainty of a Paula meltdown.
Now, there's word of the departure of Simon Cowell at the end of this season. This one is a cut at the show's jugular vein. The snarky British judge is one of the most honest characters in "reality" TV.
Call him mean, call him snarky, but he understands that "Idol" is designed to create pop stars, not artists.
His coming departure is the biggest cloud hanging over this season.
"Idol" held the first place spot for half of the last decade. It has consistently done something other shows can't, by bringing together young and old viewers. The show's producers have shown a consistent ability to tinker with the show to keep it fresh.
But nothing lasts forever. And this could be the season where "Idol" becomes just another "reality" show.
"Idol" chatter: I'll be talking about "Idol," and other TV topics tonight at 11:15 with Steve King and Johnnie Putman on Chicago's WGN-AM (720).
I'll also join Dave Murphy and Meg McKenzie on WRIT-FM (95.7) shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday to talk about the new season of "Idol."
On TV: NBC's late-night problems got the David Letterman treatment last night. The CBS talker's "Top 10 Signs There's Trouble At NBC" opened with this No. 10: "Lineup has more holes than the Green Bay Packers defense."
- Palermo's Pizza pops up in Discovery Channel's "Factory Made" at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The segment, filmed at Villa Palermo in Milwaukee last summer, also airs at 7 p.m. Thursday on the Science Channel.
- Fox's most most buzzworthy show, "Glee," which is in reruns until April, will have a second season. That shouldn't come as a surprised to anybody. Producers are looking for a couple new characters to add to the cast.
- AMC's "Breaking Bad" will return for its third season on March 21.
- Word that David Hasselhoff is leaving NBC's "America's Got Talent" has been followed by talk that his departure from the the summer amateur competition wasn't voluntary.
- It looks like Sarah Palin will do something for Fox News Channel, but it's not quite clear yet what she'll be doing.
The ghost of "reality" past: Remember Susan Hawk? She's the trucker from Waukesha who was one of the first big "reality" TV characters to emerge after her memorable monologue in the finale of the first season of CBS' "Survivor" back in the summer of 2000.
The network held a reunion of past competitors on Saturday night to mark the 10th anniversary of "Survivor." The Los Angeles Times brought along a video camera to talk to the veterans.
Here's Susan Hawk, a decade after we got to know her on TV:
No more American Idol? I may just watch network TV again if that happens.
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